When I came back for college at University of Iowa, from Suriname, it was reverse culture shock.

Indira Gandhi

I was in a room of three and the other two were from small towns in Iowa and were not very aware of the world. The one thing they knew about me was that I had been in South America. They were okay, they weren’t nasty to me or anything but very quickly we realized we weren’t going to get along with each other very well. They always played the radio in the morning and I hated it. I just didn’t really like their station, but one morning they were playing the radio and the announcer interrupted the program to say that Indira Gandhi had been assassinated and I sat straight up in my bed and was like “Oh my gosh you guys, did you just hear that” and they both looked at me really confused and they said, “oh is that near South America?” as if the only reason that I could possibly care about somebody getting assassinated was because it must have been near where I had been.

Members of the command group that staged a coup in February 1980

When I came back to the University of Iowa, I didn’t know they had a football team. I was in my dorm room and the Friday night before the first football game there were students like rioting in the streets. They were in the streets and they were yelling, and maybe there were fireworks, I don’t know what it was, but I said to my roommates, oh my gosh what is going on. I thought there was a coup.When I lived in Suriname there were two coup d’état, when somebody takes over the government. On those days we use to joke that in Iowa we had snow days but in Suriname we would have coups days because whenever the government got taken over by someone we couldn’t go to school for a couple of days. The military would be out in the street and it would be dangerous to go out. When that would happen there would be shooting in the street. We were never in danger, except for one ridiculous stupid time that my dad walked out and actually wanted to go watch the battle going on. It wasn’t like an all out battle but people did get killed. It was really dumb to do that. But otherwise nobody ever shot at our house so we would stay inside. There would be shooting and there would be gunfire and there would be people, like mobs in the street. It sounds dangerous, and it was for some people. Each time probably about fifteen or twenty people were killed.Since I didn’t know that the University had a football team that was the only thing I could relate the students rioting to. And my roommates were like “oh no its just a football game tomorrow”.

I didn’t know that people went out and drank in college. I actually thought, I had this very romantic image of college as being a place where people came and they studied and they learned things. When I got to Iowa City, I was still nerdy and not fitting in but now I could say that I was from South America. And so again, it was like “Oh that’s why she’s so different! That’s why she doesn’t know that TV show, that’s why she’s never heard that song, that’s why she wears such weird clothes. She’s from South America.” I was like, yes! I have an excuse!

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