Thursday, March 29, 2007

Silicon Valley: First Impressions

About two weeks ago, I moved to Mountain View, California from Boston, MA. I am starting a new job at a startup here. I live in an apartment complex in Mountain View with James, my new roommate. When I mentioned to a friend in Boston that James was Asian, the first thing he said was that James and I'd be like Harold and Kumar. James has a pet hamster, Dottie. Dottie, being nocturnal, spends hours at night going round and round the hamster wheel in his cage. It cracks me up every time he puts his head out of the wheel to see if he's actually gotten somewhere. I can almost see the disappointment when he realizes he's just where he started. He keeps doing it anyway.

I had barely reached California before I had my first run in with the law. James drove me to a bike shop on historic El Camino Real, where I bought a new road bike. With great enthusiasm, I started biking back to my apartment less than a mile away. I had hardly gone half-way, before I was stopped by a cop for running a red light. Fortunately, the man let me go without a ticket, but not before first verifying that the shiny new bike was indeed mine, and not stolen.

Everything is pretty much the same out here on the West Coast, but with little differences. You have the same stores, fast food chains, etc. I walked into a Target store that was so similar to the one in Somerville - down to the arrangement of the aisles - that I could walk around the store blind-folded. But instead of Stop & Shop on the East Coast, you have Safeway here. Thankfully, Trader Joe's is here too.

The one big bonus of moving to the Bay Area was an immediate and drastic positive change in the weather. I am still getting used to the fact that every day can be nice. I wake up to cloudless, blue skies every day. I am also getting used to zipping up and down US Highway 101, the backbone of Silicon Valley. Speaking of Silicon valley, I had a mini culture shock upon my arrival. Driving on Segways, playing volleyball at lunch, lava lamps on everyone's desk, free snacks and soda at the workplace -- all seem to be the norm here.

There are also many more immigrants of all stripes here. Driving a rental car on Sunday, I noticed groups of (illegal?) immigrants waiting around for work on El Camino Real. Oakland seems to have a noticeable black population (as opposed to Silicon valley, where I have seen none). But mostly, I was struck by the profusion of Indians here. Specialty Indian restaurants, Indian TV channels, dyed in the wool Punjabi cab drivers, middle-aged Indian men and women strolling down the streets in saris and dhotis, the sound of Indian-accented English, apartment complexes completely rented by Indians, etc. made me realize how much fewer Indians there are in Boston.


The Tobacconist said...

There's no real bright side to Boston is there? I can't think of any for Champaign, either. It is almost like I am doing time here. All a period of quarantine before sunny California. :)

The Tobacconist said...

Shaats, I am never going to jump in Champaign's defense. Amerika's Pilani it is.