Passing ports

Passing out from ports can be a bit tense and trying for one at times. It would be particularly so in a faraway foreign land after a long-haul flight, stretching for over eighteen hours, spanning a day and night. And getting away at the end of it all would be sort of a liberating experience for the jet-lagged traveller - weary and bleary-eyed.

Standing in a queue before the immigration counter in the dead of a night at the Liberty International Airport in Newark, I was feeling quite dizzy and dazed. Assailed by doubts: would my passport and the visa papers be found okay? Would I be able to catch and comprehend the words when the burly, blonde American official speaks to me?

Matter of fact is, the kind of edginess will be there right from the time when one makes a go for a passport. Jostling through a milling, motley crowd at a Passport Service Kendra. Posing for a photograph, submitting your fingerprints on the super sensitive electronic device there. And then, awaiting an “all-clear” signal from the neighbourhood police station. It’s like testing negative after going through anxious moments of a clinical diagnosis!

Now, getting back to English as it is spoken in foreign destinations. The prickly point on pronunciation while listening to American English could be like unravelling a riddle.

It’s a question of accents while speaking English. Conversing with the lady-officer during the visa interview at the American Consulate wasn’t that difficult for me, anyway. Being a Hollywood movie buff helped me a lot, perhaps. But even so, accosting an ordinary Joe on the streets in America or asking a wayfarer, walking on the sidewalks, for directions in  New York, Los Angeles and Dallas would leave me at my wit’s end.

Engaging in a conversation with a waiter in a restaurant or seeking information from a clerk at the library would intimidate me at times. It would be a two-way difficulty: getting me to understand what the others spoke, and getting them to understand what I spoke! Much of what was spoken by both flew over the heads many a time.

The US is a melting pot of diverse races, religions and languages. We find people with Spanish, Italian, French, German and Czech as their mother tongues. That has its bearing on  how they speak English. Then there is the almighty slang to reckon with! What they speak is extremely native and colloquial at times. They all tend to speak English differently but with versatility, stressing on some notes and slurring over others.

Again, people from different social milieu and strata, levels of education, occupations and professions speak English in a variety of ways.

After my airport adventures, I don’t know what passing out from seaports would be like. I harbour in my mind a desire of going on a sea-voyage one day.

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Passing ports

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