Exploring America

The bus ride from Georgia to the Blue Grass State of Kentucky gave me another opportunity to see parts of the United States of America. It was much greener than I anticipated. Back in the days, we did not know much about the outside world; here, we are talking about pre-internet and social media era. So, physically seeing a place was almost a ‘must’ in order to learn about it.  As we passed the Tennessee state line, the driver announced that we are in Kentucky (not much different than Tennessee, I thought).  We stopped at a Rest Area for a quick break and got back on the road. Soon enough, we got to Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

“Cumberland College is situated in Williamsburg; a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Whitley County, on the southeastern border of Kentucky Although Williamsburg is small, the friendships, love, and community support coming from genuine, honest, and hard-working people is very large!  Williamsburg may be best known for the Kentucky Splash Water Park and Campground which brings countless visitors every summer.  Cumberland Falls State Resort Park has wonderful trails, beautiful waterfalls, and amazing vistas. At Cumberland Falls, one can see the very rare phenomenon called moonbow which occurs at night when light from the Moon illuminates falling water drops in the atmosphere. Sometimes the drops fall as rain, while in other cases the mist from a waterfall provides the necessary water.”

At the bus stop on campus, the Residential Assistants (RAs) – college students who worked in the dormitories as supervisors, welcomed us. I did not understand half the thing they were saying. I was not familiar with the southern vernacular and accent. I was, however, very pleased to know, via their facial expression, that they were excited to see the new comers. After I placed my belongings in my dorm room (very basic, I reckoned) I began walking around campus. The excitement was difficult to hide. As I went towards the back side, from where I imagined to be the central part of campus, I began to hear some “singing”. I went closer and closer to the building from which the strange sounds were coming. I finally located the auditorium and stood by the main entrance that was half wood, half glass. I stood there for few minutes with a jaw dropping amazement; ‘girls were jumping up and down, acting all silly, making weird sounds’. I could not help but crack up until tears literally dropped out of my eyes. I had to leave the scene in order to contain myself. ‘Why would anyone make such a fool out of themselves?’, I asked myself quietly as I continued my campus tour.

Word had gotten around that new-comers were on campus. I was happy to see a few familiar faces from Atlanta; Ethioipian students. About 15 of us (all Ethiopians) gathered at the Student Union and we began exchanging information and getting to know each other.  Some were ‘fresh’ like me while some were experienced sophomores and juniors who knew the ropes of campus life. Eagerly, I shared my experience about the funniest sounds and movements the white girls were making in the auditorium. I gave details. I literally showed them what they were doing. And when I was done, it was their turn to laugh at me. I was schooled that what these white girls were doing was cheer leading, and that they are called cheer leaders; they were in their practice session.

Well, I did not have a problem justifying my relative ignorance – I thought in my mind, how is a guy straight from Ethiopia in 1983 supposed to know what a college cheer leading practice session looks like?