It was on January 2006 when I first set my feet in USA, a day I will live to remember. I was eighteen years old then and had just graduated from high school. I was the best student in my previous school so I got a scholarship to further my studies. Since childhood ,I was fascinated by people especially their cultures, religions and other aspects of their lives but what really amazed me was the way they communicated and the different languages that they used.
My life had revolved around one language that was Arabic and therefore when this chance came I was very excited and without second thoughts took the opportunity to study English as my second language. I chose English because it was an international language and I knew it would help me communicate with many people from different parts of the World. More so, it was to be of great assistance to me especially in my stay in the USA. When this day came, I was amidst mixtures of feelings. Even though I was very excited, terror and confusion took the better part of me.
The thought of leaving my parents and my younger siblings really terrified me and all of a sudden, I felt lonely. Earlier on after waking up, prayers had been arranged for me and all people wished me a safe journey to America. I was escorted by my friends and family members to the airport where they bid me farewell. This was my first time to travel from my home country and the first to travel in an airplane. While in the plane many thoughts crossed my mind. I thought about the people I would meet and wondered how they would receive me.
I also thought about the college I would be enrolled to and my classmates to be . I wondered if there were people from my home place, how many will they be and above all how I would communicate since I was not familiar with English by then. I was in this state when suddenly an air hostess brought me some snacks . Tasty as they looked, I never took a bite. What I could not understand about the air hostess was that she appeared composed and friendly and completely unaware of my predicament. She was young, energetic and cheerful and nothing seemed to trouble her.
Contrary, I was deep in confusion and uncertainty . I lost my appetite something which seldom happens to me. In fact , I rarely choose food and anything edible is good to me provided it is not harmful . More so, being the first time to travel by plane I was really uncomfortable and the experience was horrifying. At one time a thought of the aeroplane crushing crossed my mind and it really got me scared. Sleep never crossed my eyes during the whole journey and it took exactly fourteen hours to reach my destination.
I arrived at the JFK airport in New York at around 10 pm . The night was chilly and many people wore heavy clothing to keep their bodies warm . I had carried a light jacket which I wore to protect myself from the cold . The environment was new and everything about this place seemed new to me. I was really getting more and more confused and thought it was even better when I was in the plane. My light jacket did not seem to be of much help to me because the cold weather was getting the better of me. Though out of place, a thought crossed my mind.
I wondered of how it used to be unusually hot at home and how I had adapted to that kind of climate. I wondered how long would it take for me to get used to this new environment. I do not know exactly how long I had been standing there but what I recall is that I found myself all alone, confused, scared and lost and attracting some policemen. I felt out of place and the way they were looking at me was scaring. Did they see me as a terrorist or something? I never got to answer that question because one of them came directly to where I was and asked whether I was Mr.
Mohammed. Though at first I could not understand what he was driving at, the mention of my name made me realize he was out to find me. Upon receiving my answer, he took my passport and asked me to follow him. They took me to one isolated room where they begun interrogating me. Little did they know that I could not understand whatever they were talking about. From their faces I could tell they were suspicious of something. One police officer who was taller than the rest and had a pointed nose with glaring eyes called the others and got outside of the room.
I heard them whispering but could not tell what they were discussing. I do not know exactly what transpired but the moment they came in I sensed danger. I was forced to take off my clothes which apart from being humiliating experience it really made me nervous. They might have thought that I had some atomic bomb with me. What made me extremely terrified was the way they were pointing guns at me. For a moment I thought I was going to die. Here I was, people back at home hoping the best for me but not having a clue of the deadly situation I was in at that particular time.
The thought of my mum losing me, made me collapse and when I came back to my senses, I was bed ridded in a hospital. At the hospital I got acquinted to the nurse who was taking care of me . She was a very caring and pleasant lady. She did not like it when I told her (she understood me inspite the language barrier) how the policemen had treated me . She failed to understand how people sometimes could be so inhumane. It was from her that I learnt of how I ended up in an hospital and she also told me that our embassy had been contacted.
All this she claimed was through the concerted effort of the management of the hospital . Through her kindness and assurance that all will be well, I was beginning to have hope that things would be better for me. I failed to understand how things could contradict themselves. It was simply not easy to relate the caring and treatment I received from the hospital with the ‘reception’ I received from the policemen. I had been at the hospital overnight and I got discharged at around 10 am in the morning. This happened when the Saudi Arabian embassy sent one of its agents to intervene .
All was set right and I could not believe it when one policeman was sent to apologize on the behalf of the others and he even offered us a ride to a hotel. The ride was short but I did not fail to notice how the roads were smooth and carefully constructed. If it were home the journey would have taken a little bit longer because most of them need to be tarmacked and they are dusty. When I arrived at the hotel, I took a bathe, had lunch and then slept after 28 good hours of unrest. I woke up at around 10 pm and realized I was all alone, the agent from the Saudi Arabian embassy had promised to drop by the following morning to pick me up.
He had informed me that he would take me to his house and where I would be staying for awhile while we sort matters out. I could not get sleep that night. All my thoughts directed to the kind of life I was to lead in the USA. Foremost, being an Arab and a Muslim I wondered where mosques could be found and whether I would learn to communicate in English. Also I thought about the encounter with the policemen and realized the matter had been made complex due to ineffective communications. All these and other thoughts ran across my mind through out the night.
In spite uncertainty facing me, I kept on hoping believing and having faith that everything will turn out right for me and I would enjoy my stay in the USA and eventually make it my home. It has been three years now since I arrived in the USA. A lot of things have changed mostly with me trying to catch up with the American way of life. I have made new friends from different backgrounds and we assist each other in times of troubles. Even though I am different in my culture, religion and way of thinking, I get along with others through their support and understanding.
Courtney from Study Moose
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