Adonis Diaries

Trip to Paris and Oklahoma?

Posted on: April 7, 2020

Trip to Paris and Oklahoma?

Note: Re-edit of “Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (Part 1, June, 2004)”

It was May of 1975.  I had just graduated in Physics from the Lebanese university.

I secured a student visa to the United States of America. I was to study English for the summer at a university in Oklahoma.

I did not know then that there was more than one university in Oklahoma. It turned out there were several and the university I applied for graduate study was Not the one I landed for English summer schooling.

The trip was not that urgent, but the civil war in Lebanon started to look serious and I dreaded Not be doing anything for the duration..

My inborn stubbornness clenched the deal and off I left.

Logically, my destination should have been France for graduate studies, but I was tired of theoretical education.

I figured that the US educational system was more hands on, practical… with upgraded labs and “stage” at factories…

I was wrong. It was mostly of the theoretical stuff.

It was my first trip away from family and home. I learned later that my mother played the fundamental role of convincing my father that it is time that I learn to be on my own and fly with my own wings.

My mother told me that the night I flew away my father cried his eyes out in his bed.

My father offered me $5,000. Two Lebanese pounds at the time was worth one dollar (Now, a single dollar is worth 1,500 LP)

I stayed in Paris for a couple of weeks, supposedly to visiting a student cousin of mine. My cousin Nassif happened to be vacationing in England with a girlfriend.

At the airport, no one searched me or welcomed me.

Before I exited the airport, an agent asked to search my luggage. Why me? No, it was Not a random search. I had to rearrange everything in my beaten suitcase.

Even then, France pinpointed specific passengers to be searched.

I met my friends Ghassan and Moussa who helped me rent a room where they stayed at a university complex for foreign students.

I toured Paris alone in metro and mostly on foot. Paris was gorgeous.

Strong with maps of trains and buses routes, I crisscrossed Paris from Mont St. Michel to the Louvre, and almost everything in between. Alone, all alone.

I walked Champ Elysee, Quartier Latin, Pigale…When I get tired walking I would join the closest train station and hop to another destination.

Breakfasts were delicious at the university low-ceiling breakfast restaurant .

Breakfast was the time to see all the various international students. The smell of fresh coffee, milk, bacon, eggs and fresh bread was appetizing.

The buffet was scattered with many varieties of fruits and drinks.

( I still dream of waking up to such a breakfast environment)

There was another restaurant for lunch and dinner, but the menu was dismal and Not tasty.

I landed first at New York at Laguardia airport. We were flying over the Oklahoma Territory, 22 hours after leaving Paris. We still had one hour to land.

It was pitched dark outside and I might have been feeling cold in the plane. One stewardess might have realized my haggard quietness.

An angel, no more than twenty years old, blonde, blue eyed, beautiful with a refreshing smile, and compassion transparent in her welcoming face.

She brought me a blanket without any request on my part and suggested to bring me some orange juice.

I felt then that it is okay to live in America and to know Americans. I wished I told her that I was scared, terrified, and numb at the magnitude of the unknown waiting for me.

I wished I told her that I needed to throw myself at her mercy and be helped.

I was lacking conversational skills and lacking practice in English.

I was not basically a social guy, though I enjoyed being among crowds.

Friends suffered me on account of my quietness: I painfully resigned myself for their impression of my “aura of bookish knowledge“.

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adonis49

adonis49

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