Niga, you have a dolar?

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Hello, hello my dear friends!!! Today we are publishing another Work and Travel excerpt from the Half-American book  – description of our first trip to US 🙂

First time in America – West Virginia

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”
A. Einstein

“Welcome to United States” – said smiling customs officer at New York City airport and stamped his passport.

“I am in America, unbelievable” – whispered Alex as he picked up the luggage.

Since the job offer was in Vest Virginia, he had to find a nearest bus station, air ticket was too expensive. At the third attempt Alex explained to the airport worker that he needed to buy a bus ticket. Before traveling he read about language barrier but never thought it would be so difficult to communicate. He could understand others but they had troubles getting his point. Especially it was hard to understand black people – those who he had to speak most often (cashiers and bus drivers). He finally somehow bought a Greyhound ticket and entered crowded waiting area. Lonely, hungry and little anxious he looked around the terminal.

Back home he also read about cultural shock but never expected to be the only white person in the entire bus station. His confidence and excitement was gradually disappearing and being replaced with anxiety. As he entered bus, he noticed people looking at him like he was from another planet or so. Alex quickly picked a seat close to the old lady hoping to travel with her all the way to the destination. He did not know however that he would have to change bus three times and spend long time on stations waiting for the transfer. In the next bus he happened to seat with a huge black guy who acted like Alex did not exist. He ate his burger and chips and listened to rap – all while cursing someone loudly over the phone.

“Niga, you have a dollar?” – he asked Alex in English but quite different from what Alex studied at school. The only word he understood from the question was a “dollar”.

“No English” – promptly responded Alex hoping to prevent any further questions. He began worrying about his safety and desperately looking for the empty seat to move. As he scanned through the bus he noticed that the rest of the passengers appeared not any better than his companion.

“Five more hours, please just leave me alone” – were praying Alex – “I just need to get over this bus and I will be alright”. It felt like riding a bus for five days when Alex finally arrived to the tourist city in the Vest Virginia. Tired and hungry but happy for the safe arrival, Alex thought that all challenges were in the past. 

“Ok, let’s see the address of my job, I am starting tomorrow, $8.65 per hour times forty, cool. I’ll have 340 per week, nice!” – joyfully and naively concluded Alex and headed to talk with a taxi driver.

Promising job offer

Alex arrived about 4 pm to the hotel where he, according to his job offer, was supposed to start working next day as a housekeeper. Office clerk said that manager already left and advised to come tomorrow. Slightly disappointed, Alex now had to find a place to live next three months. Preferably it had to be close to his job. He began searching groups in social networks and looking for a cheap motels and apartments nearby. Luckily he met two other students on the street apparently looking for the same. They quickly managed to find a room in a nearby shabby looking motel for $220 per week. Alex really exhausted, wanted just one thing – to sleep. He set alarm clock to be on time for the first day at work and peacefully fell asleep.

Next day at 7 am Alex was in the hotel office impatiently waiting to start his job.

“I have never seen or signed anything like that” – said genuinely surprised manager after reviewing the job offer. “Unfortunately we do not have a job for you. You may check with us next week” – she added.

Fake job offers are not uncommon in a W&T but most companies do honor their commitments. In this case apparently the job offer was not real. Alex got really upset and disappointed and had to look for another job.

In three following months Alex worked in seven different places with a pay varying from $4.50 to $9.50 per hour. Some were paid in cash and some with paycheck. Typical job positions were housekeeper, dishwasher, omelet station cook, janitor, busboy, pizza flyers guy and carousel operator in the family park. He lived in three different motels often with 4-5 people in the same room. Good thing is that he did not have to care much about the number of roommates. Alex often worked 14-16 hours a day and merely needed motel to rest and take a shower.

Sometimes he quit job because of the better position in another place. Sometimes he was fired for being late and falling asleep at work. Not surprising. Almost every day he rode a bike for 25 minutes to get to the first job by 6 am, then rode 40 minutes to get to the second and finally 30 minutes to get back home. Given such tight schedule he chronically lacked sleep and no wonder felt sometimes like a zombie. On one really hot day Alex fell asleep to the shoulder of his Afro-American supervisor and was immediately fired. At another job few times he took a nap in a big trash collection cart, the one that collects trash bags in amusement parks. That practice did not last long either – coworkers reported him and he was fired again.

Some moments were rather funny and memorable. One day Alex rode bicycle to bank to get cash for rent payment. When coming back heavy rain started. He got safely back home but needed to go to another job soon. With no other means to dry his wet clothes Alex decided to use motel’s microwave instead. He put quickly shorts in it and ran to take a shower. Few minutes later the fire alarm went on – $220 in the pockets of shorts were burned down and 25 hours of hard work with it. Another day rushing on bicycle to the second job, he did not stop on three consecutive red lights. He never thought he had to. To his big surprise cop was following him after the first one. Having passed third red light police car with siren and speakers on stopped him. The police officer demanded state driver license and insurance. He had neither one and soon was allowed to leave with the warning, not a big deal.

Foreign students visiting Walmart and other large supermarkets deserve a separate chat. It is funny and amusing to watch how inventive they get in the desire to steal something. Not that they desperately need that cheap CD or belt but do it rather to challenge themselves and brag who stole the most. If they are hungry supermarkets are here to help again. Students often go there to eat “free” donuts and cookies. This hilarious list can go on and on.

There were enough schitty people and those were usually some kind immigrants too. In one hotel Alex got a job as housekeeper through rather shady guy (Ohos). Ohos would find naive students like Alex, recruit them for large hotels and get a small percentage from their paychecks. So far so good. Soon Alex began noticing that not all of his working hours were paid. He raised a question with the Ohos but were cursed out for about twenty minutes. Alex did not know who to complain to protect his rights and continued working for him. As a bonus, at the end of summer he did not get his last paycheck. 

Contrary to Alex, some attractive female students received hefty extra payments for no work but having sex with Ohos. Well, maybe that counts as a work too, if so what is the job title? He liked to invite most appealing girls to his house near the beach on weekends to “celebrate America”. Then he would ask them to walk with naked top on high heels and serve drinks to guests and was rumored to “rent girls out” to hotel visitors. These girls would get their special event paychecks and most likely STD as a bonus. Smells like a lottery too.

But do not get a wrong impression – there were definitely a lot of bright moments and of course gloomy sometimes. Alex was on track to his earnings goal, explored new country and improved English. He also met many fellow W&T students from different parts of the world and fell in love with the Russian girl. You can see, hard working for Alex was not only a boring routine. He enjoyed it and was happy to be a part of that lively, young and international community.

As end of the summer approached the city was turning into the ghost town with only few tourists here and there. W&T students too had to start preparing for the departure. Guys were sharing how much each had earned . They realized that very few of them made $5k in profits as was promised when they signed into the program. But the experience was invaluable, especially for those like Alex. He proved once again that strong determination and clear goals set him apart from other students. Those students now were looking for all kind of excuses to justify their failures.

Want more details, tips and tricks about the program? Of course I want! Then why wait while others download ??? Go for the book !!

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