Cheese sandwiches help bridge distance to home in Zimbabwe


BY Dhruv Patel


Welcomed by a blizzard unlike any I had ever experienced before, I took my first steps into the United States of America.

In a winter that hadn’t been seen in decades, I learnt quickly after getting my ears frozen on the first day of school that the snow really does have a much more fierce bite than the soft and fluffy appearance would lead one to believe, and realized that I would have to transition to the Michigan way of life rather quickly.

 It was quite the transition from the warm and gentle African sun to the ferocious cut of the bleak wind as I tried to make way to across campus, taking one step at a time, fighting through the frost that slammed into my face.

However, as grim as the weather was I came to realize that the people of Detroit were just as comforting.

Obviously not every single face had the smile and joy of a carefree infant but there were those who were a beam of sunshine in a terribly icy land.

The lovely ladies who worked behind the grill made the most succulent grilled cheese sandwiches with sweet sautéed onions that took me straight back to the middle of Harare in my home and to the breakfast table alongside my family where I would enjoy one every other day.

Not only did they make these sandwiches but they did so with care and laughter as I told them about the life, land and people that make up the small corner of Africa I call home.

The more people I met the more I told my rather simple and humble story.

I enjoyed how my fellow students’ facial expressions changed from the initial confusion that came from hearing that this Indian-looking fellow with long locks of hair and scruffy beard came from Zimbabwe and wasn’t black in complexion.

Well, at least that was the case for those who knew Zimbabwe was a small country in southern Africa and not a city in Venezuela.

The confusion changed to curiosity as many wanted to know how and why a person from another corner of the world ended up in the middle of Detroit.

Then there was the odd case of shock as some learned that lions and elephants didn’t stroll through the streets at will.

However, on the most part I am glad to say people were filled with wonder as to what life would be like at the other end of the world: how the people are, what kinds of languages are spoken and how different cultures seem to integrate together to make a community.

In all honesty, though, I was just as confused and dazed by several aspect of American life as people were by certain aspects of the life that I represented.

More than once I had a phrase fly straight over me without a reaction from me, until the number of staring eyes grew enough for me to realize that I was supposed to have done something. What exactly still befuddled me.

All in all, though, I am adapting to the lifestyle here.

Slowly but surely I came to be a part of the UDM campus and way of living.

Joining the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity on campus led to the making of strong bonds of brotherhood through which several moments of blissful laughter, dedicated work and ever present confession have come to pass and will surely come again.

Today I stand as a Resident Advisor (RA) on campus ready to help the next soul who sets foot through the gates of the campus with the same look of amazement and jitter that I had when I first came.

Through various campus organizations, I have had the opportunity to give back to the city that has given me a chance to learn and grow.

I have been able to serve issues outside of myself, thereby leading me to be not only happy but thankful for the short time I have been here.