Wednesday, 5 October, 2022

One Month in Fargo, North Dakota

Nasih Ul Wadud Alam

When our plane had landed on the shores of Fargo, we felt a certain moment of excitement. On the one hand, the pain of leaving our hometown was raw, but on the other hand, the joy of living in a new place excited us tremendously. Our Bangladeshi neighbours picked us up, sheltered us, treated us with dinner and gave us a room for staying over the night. We will always be grateful to Shamima apu, Sadia bhabi, Daulat bhai and Fahad bhai for their wonderful treatment that night. After that we had moved into our rented unit on 5 August, a day after our arrival in Fargo. It was again a fresh start.

The first cultural shock that I faced after arriving in Fargo was the attire of people. Here, people are comfortable wearing whatever dresses they love putting on. Nobody is bothered about what others are wearing. While living here, one gets used to the idea of seeing people wearing half-pants.

The road in Fargo is pristine. We hardly see any dirt here. North Dakota State is almost the size of Bangladesh. However, population wise there is no comparison between North Dakota and Bangladesh. North Dakota is a state with hardly too many people. There are plenty of empty lands. Fargo, being the capital of North Dakota, has the highest number of people in comparison with other cities of North Dakota.

Right now, there is summer going on in Fargo. When it is the summer, it can get really hot but there are recurrent winds, so we do not feel tired. Although, I have not experienced it yet, many natives from Fargo remind us of the terrible winter that takes place here. Without a car, it is difficult but not impossible to survive in Fargo. There are Met bus services available, but the number of them is not as high as one would expect. The reason behind the shortage of buses is that not a lot of people use public transport. All of the bus drivers are kind and friendly. Students do not need to pay any fare for travelling by bus.

Although, the USA has an open society, it is wrong to think that people here are boozing and having sex before marriage. Overall, Fargo is a conservative place. Family values are given more priority. When I walk with my family, I receive a nod of welcome from the people of Fargo. They appreciate the idea of parents giving time to their children. Fargo is a white dominated city. I have not experienced explicit racism here. Here, many whites do greet you, and many do not. It happens everywhere. However, I have seen the whites doing the white-collar jobs, and the blacks and brows are labouring in menial labours. There are a very few coloured people in Fargo.

One day, I made an emergency call to police. Their behaviour was pin perfect. Within seconds, they allayed my concerns over a safety issue. The other day, I saw police forces surrounding a biker. When I went close, I soon found that the biker was badly injured in an accident. She called the emergency police. They rushed in for helping the injured biker and find the culprit who hit her vehicle and ran away.

Near our house, we have a couple of soccer fields. My kids love playing there in their spare time. They also go to a nearby children’s park which is free of cost. My kids love their school very much. The last school they attended in Bangladesh gave them a horrible experience. When I asked them about their experience of school in the USA so far, they shared their joy and enthusiasm for the lessons they learn and the fun they have at school. One of the reasons for their increasing enjoyment in learning is the fact that their teachers here at Horace Mann Public School never scold them for not doing something right. The same children, back in Bangladesh, were not interested in going to school because they were berated and judged upon. What our Bangladesh K-12 teachers need to have is lots of professional training and empathy for students.

No country is a safe country. Fargo is not safe either. I lost some of my valuables because somebody stole them from the perch of the outside door. When I need any help, I just ask for help from people. Here, people do everything possible to help you out only when you ask for it. Here, people do not touch children unless you ask them to. I like this practice very much. In Bangladesh, I had to repeatedly worry about people touching my children.

Despite all the facilities I do receive, I suffer from homesickness. Right now, I am studying hard to prepare myself for becoming a better writer. I find my volition in writing. Although, I work as a GTA, teaching does not interest me as much as writing does. I do feel safer in Bangladesh, my land of beauty. I will never stay permanently in the USA.

The people of Fargo are not as curious as they should be about getting to know about the oriental cultures and identities. Most of them do not know much about the geopolitical boundaries. They talk, comment but never ask questions about you.

In Fargo, smoking is frowned upon. My neighbours cannot smoke inside their units. It has to be done outside the apartment/cottage. Without valid ID card, such as a driving learner’s permit/ a driving license/ a passport, one cannot buy cigarettes and drinks. One needs to be above 21 before he is allowed to drink.

The USA is not a free country. Here, in institutions, you are allowed to exercise free speech, but there is a cancel culture. My white and brown American students said the other day that their schools did not allow them to think analytically and they were not allowed to touch on issues which they thought were important, but their institutions barred them from adding different ideas to the established doctrines. Moreover, there is a culture of separatism in Fargo. When someone is a person of colour, setting themselves up in the job market in Fargo is quite a tough job. Fargo claims to have diversity, but I do not totally agree. How can you have diversity when in every right, left and centre, you do see whites working in established positions?

I am an introvert. I avoid gatherings. I do not want to waste my time attending cultural events. I am here to study. I have one or two friends. I do not want to have many more. Among my friends, I enjoy spending time with a retired professor, my driving guru, Gary. He is the one who teaches me something new every day. When I meet him, our conversations are not about finding faults in others, unlike many of us do here. They are more about life and philosophy. He is my air freshener so far.


The writer lives in Fargo, North Dakota