Since I started my blog more than a month ago, everything has been about my motherland, Pakistan. I have been writing and posting about Pakistan because I spent my winter break there. In fact, that was the main reason I even started blogging… and don’t worry, there’s plenty more I still have to show everyone about Pakistan.
But today, I am posting about America. The United States of America.
January 16 not only marks the day of my birth, but also the day on which the USA decided to grant my family immigration visas to permanently reside in America.
January 30 marks the day that my family immigrated to the United States 11 years ago.
I can still remember vividly how sad and upset I was to leave my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, school, etc. I have never cried so much in my life as I did on that day 11 years ago (and unfortunately there’s photographic and video evidence to prove it).
I was a 9 year old girl who was going to sit on a plane and leave the only world she ever knew so that she could live a “better” life and get a “better” education.
I didn’t understand what any of that meant; how could leaving my home and people be any “better” for me? It’s not like I lived a terrible life in Pakistan; I was very privileged.
I thought my parents were being selfish; maybe it was their dream to live in a foreign country that was modern and had tall buildings and where it snowed and the roads were big and you could meet Cinderella and Big Bird… but it sure wasn’t mine.
I was quite the vocal child. I did everything I could to try to delay us moving to the US. I gave emotional speeches to my parents, I cried at the Embassy, I refused to have my medical done for immigration (I actually faked a panic attack and said I couldn’t breathe and was going to die if the doctor tried to give me one more shot, which caused the doctor to stress out and walk out on me. Since 4 nurses couldn’t control me, they had to have my mom and uncle hold me down as well back up nurses, not to mention that I was screaming and yelling so loud that the entire waiting room had their ears pressed to the door– did I mention I was also very dramatic? and have a huge fear of needles/shots?).
In fact, my picture on my permanent resident card is also of me crying. And no, I was not a cry baby.
Anyhow, despite my feeble yet brave attempts to delay the immigration process we made it to John F. Kennedy Airport, NY on January 30th, 2003. My first impression of America: intimidating. VERY intimidating. I don’t remember what the Customs officer who processed us looked like but I did not want to throw a tantrum or start crying to go back in front of this guy– nope, that would not work. Next, we went to a secondary spot where the atmosphere was completely different. The officer processing us was very nice, infact I remember her because she was very nice. I remember that she brought my sisters and I some of the McDonald’s kids meal toys and food too. (Good people always leave an impression and are hard to forget!)
So, at this point America was starting to be not so bad. When we left the airport and got in the car, I, for some reason, didn’t feel like I was in a foreign land. I felt like I had been in America for ages. Because it was late January, there was snow on the ground and that was the coolest thing ever (pun intended). My uncle was driving us from New York to our home in Virginia. The ride was so long so we stopped at a rest stop on the way back. Here I had my second impression of the USA: there’s a lot of food places and people like to eat.
Third impression: there’s a lot of different kind of people, different kinds of language, different kinds of dressing, etc.
Even though I was very reluctant to come to the United States because it is difficult to change homes, languages, cultures, and countries, I consider myself very lucky to be living here. It took me a while to finally accept that America was my new permanent home, but when I did I understood why my parents made the choice they did.
There is no doubt that living in America has given me better education and more opportunities that anywhere else in the world. There is no doubt that America has given me freedoms, as a citizen, as a woman, as a minority, and as a youth, that not many countries can give me. And because of that I am thankful to be living in the United States.
My parents always taught me one thing: to respect and be loyal to those who have been good to you and America has been good to me. Like my mom always says, America has given us a home, education, food, and jobs and we should never forget that. And that is why I took the oath to become a citizen of the United States.
Pakistan is where I was born and I will always have a connection to it. I will always love going there and love being Pakistani and I am very proud of my heritage. But now, 11 years later, I have spent more time in the US and am a Citizen and I am proud to be an American.
I am proud to be an American-Pakistani.
I think that I get the best of both worlds.
New York City Skyline, August 2012
Camera: iPhone 5
All photos shown were taken by me. All photos are the property of wanderingderwish.wordpress.com.