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Essay: A mother lands in the US

A mother's journey to the farm houses and orchards of Vermont โ€” not quite the cowboys of Western novels.


"We had a representative from each country — South Africa, Brazil, Peru," said Mom. "They train you for living in America."

The idea seems simple enough, but it was rather daunting. One of her assignments was called "The Drop-Off." This is an exercise developed by the school for international training. They dropped my mom in a small town in New Hampshire with a quarter and drove away.

"They just drop you! I was in sari at that time, you know," she said with her eyes wide. Mom was supposed to find out all about small town life — how people live, what they do. Yet she had no idea what to do, she felt just awkward and lost. Then she got an idea — everybody has to buy food, even in America. "The grocery store!" she whispers still excited by her cultural survival epiphany.

So she went into the corner grocery and walked up to the owner at the counter and said: "Listen, I don't know what to do, but I'm supposed to find out all about this — about you."

When the grocer found out she was from the School of International Training he got excited. "My wife loves that place," he said. He called up  his wife and she took my Mom to her house. To her first American home. When they walked in the door, my mother got a big shock. She asked her hostess, "Is that a TV?" It was 1971, and my mother had never seen a television. "I had heard about it, but I had never seen one," she said, "It was all fuzzy."

And that's when it hit me. There I was, moving to Argentina. I had never been there before, but I had read a million things about the country online. I had been in touch with people before I landed via email and Skype. I had craiglisted an apartment and could even get satellite images of the streets in my neighborhood-to-be from space. Yet when my mom landed in the U.S., it was like landing from space. Or in space for that matter.

People tell me it's brave to have moved to a different country, but in so many ways it's not. Not compared to how it used to be. Before the internet, before television even. Back when all you had was your imagination. My mom was so much braver than I imagined, long before she was my mom.

Julia Kumari Drapkin covers Argentina for GlobalPost.