However, so you know, I had gotten used to driving without GPS. By the time the car was taken away, I had gotten so used to the roads you would mistake me for an old time gringo always doing his thing around the city.
That is how I felt as I drove, without any skirmishes, to and from the Salvation Army Shopping center to do shopping for my apartment.
I had not fully opened my travel bags since arriving in the U.S. Hotel life makes you stick in the travel mode especially when you know you are supposed to have a final home.
That Wednesday was the day I was moving into my apartment. I was supposed to self-furnish it; therefore, I had to choose the items myself and with the precision of a grape picker.
Here is the truth about my apartment. It is beautiful and comfortable — a home away from home. Someone on TripAdvisor described it as a Stately Home.
Situated in the left corner of the fifth floor, Apartment 569 enjoys a steady supply of scented fresh air and stands over the area’s only waterfall Jacuzzi.
If you draw the window blinds, you will behold the green lush that is Manor’s artificial five-hole miniature golf course.
Space will not allow me elaborate on the private movie theatre, the free yoga and gym sessions, and even the gigantic swimming pool.
Outside, on the south side, Miller’s Doral Ale House is almost in an arm’s distance, just in case a need for a cold Pale Ale craft beer or some pasta arises. However, there will be less eating out and more of cooking while here.
The distance between the apartment and my place of work is exactly 10 minutes by foot.
That is how long it took the following day after moving in and for the first time, the answer to my mentor’s daily question, “Are you settled in now?” was going to be, “Yes.”
It would be a quiet day though.
I had spent the previous week shadowing a photographer, attending a two-day international conference and conferring with the social media team. I was to stay at office that day to observe how the editors put the paper together.
Senior photographer Al Diaz was the maiden journalist I shadowed.
Too awesome a guy — he even took me to meet his family that day after the assignment, and bought me my first Cuban sandwich.
The assignment was to photograph a couple that runs an online antiques market.
My duty was to observe a typical day in the life of a Miami Herald photojournalist, ask lessons and learn how stuff is done.
I got more than what I bargained for. The several trips we made around Coral Gables familiarized me with the area so much that it felt like I was in my backyard when I went back to the same town to attend the World Strategic Forum two days later.
“This is a kind of forum I want you to attend for the sake of meeting people and not necessarily for a story,” John Yearwood, the World Affairs editor, told me as I picked the invitation.
He indeed introduced me to people, and people who matter: Burkina Faso’s prime minister, the trade and economy minister for Chad, the outgoing secretary of the Organization of the American States, CEOs of several companies from Africa the U.S. and Europe, including Amadou Diallo, CEO of DHL Freight in Germany.
Nice as it was meeting and making acquaintances with these people, it got even more interesting when I returned home and ran into a family whose grandparents were victims of the expulsion of Indians from Uganda in 1975 by the president at the time, Idi Amin.
I was all by myself at the Pale Ale House enjoying my cold craft as my mind wandered into wishful thinking about the waitress across the counter. Just as I got up to leave, a gentleman waved at me and asked me to come over.
“Hello my friend, I have been observing you from across (the bar) and I was telling my wife here and son that I am sure you are from Africa — are you Kenyan,” he asked.
Responding in surprise but with the calmness of a disciplined newcomer, I said, “No sir, I am Ugandan.”
The man who turned out to be named John Rayit jumped out of his seat, hugged me, called me brother, assured me that I should feel free to call him up whenever I want something in Miami, and how I should always know that I have a family in Miami. He went on, and on, and on.
When John’s father, of Indian origin, and his family were forced to leave Uganda, the story goes, they settled in Kenya where they set up huge flower firms. His father eventually retired to Miami. John now runs the flower business and flies to Kenya at least twice a year. They still maintain relatives in Uganda.
“Do you speak Swahili?,” John asked. “I want you to meet my old man and my mother. They would be very happy meeting you. Please let’s have lunch on Sunday with my entire family.”
“Of course,” I replied.
Sunday lunch with my new Miami family. Isn’t that awesome?