We have come a Long Way

President Barack Obama has won a second term in office and this is a great testament to have far we have come as a people when it comes to acceptance and tolerance. It is very refreshing to note that this is the platform and the state of the world that we will be leaving for our children. I still believe that there are some areas where a lot more needs to be done, but all things considered it is a remarkable improvement.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Imagine we were brought to this country as slaves. In some parts of the world we elevated from slavery to work as indentured servants. Whatever the terminology, we were always considered to be the “underdogs” and should always be subservient.

There was a time when we could not eat in the same restaurant like everyone else. Had it not been for the likes of Rosa Parks, we may have still been delegated to the back of the bus. Those days are long gone and today we walk among each other, we socialize and laugh and cry at the same triumphs and tragedies in our lives.

What a long journey! But one we should all be proud of. We are now able to respect each other and recognize our similarities and our differences and yet be able to cohabit peacefully. We can be intellectuals together and be proud of each other’s accomplishments.

The fact that the people have voted not once, but twice; for President Barack Obama to head our governing body; speaks volumes to where we were and where we are now. Our people have set aside bigotry and pettiness and are making strides toward building a world where we socialize, be tolerant of our differences and recognize our strengths and weaknesses as a people, not because of color, religion, race, or creed, but based on our abilities to be open and accepting of each other.

All of this would not have been possible if we did not allow ourselves to dream big and to dream of an eventual world peace. In his speech Martin Luther King says:

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

I am so thankful that President Barack Obama was able to dream and dream BIG. If he had told someone when he was growing up that he had a dream to be the President of the United States of America, I am sure they would have laughed at him. BUT he did not give up on his dreams and so should we all. Hold dear to our dreams but work toward fulfilling them. Because: to dream without action is like a boat without a paddle – it will get us nowhere!

I am also glad that I did not give up on my dreams: Of becoming an American citizen and an author. It is a very gratifying feeling when we can accomplish our dreams. I am thrilled that my book “The Green Grass” was completed and published. So I encourage each one to “dare to dream” and follow your dreams, no matter how big or how small.

There are many parts of the world and even still amongst us where narrow minded individuals still hold on to these ignorant ways of thinking. Let us try to educate them and help them to see that we are all children of one universe, our mother earth and our faith should not be from any particular religion but based on “humanity”. To tie this in, please accept a humble quote from the “Desiderata – “You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

If we all think like this, and accept the fact that each of us are equal in the eyes of humanity and yet different in our own unique ways, then the world would be less violent and way more peaceful. A world: full of hope and appreciation for each and every one of her inhabitants.

And Then Comes The Culture Shock

Leaving a very sheltered life where I was surrounded by family and friends to come to America, ALONE was like uprooting a giant oak from its roots and leaving it to flounder at the mercy of the elements.

There was tremendous culture shock with regards to the weather – when I saw the sunshine, I assumed it would be warm only to realize that in that I was no longer in a tropical country. In America, during the winter time, it can be extremely cold even though the sun is shining.

As any immigrant I am sure that it is scary, but as a FEMALE immigrant, it is way more than scary. It is intimidating and downright horrifying. Not only do you have to worry about finding a job and sustaining yourself, you also have to worry about SAFETY… as a single female, who had never lived alone or even been away from home for more than a weekend in the hospital, it was OVERWHELMING.

Below you will find a small excerpt from “The Green Grass” which goes into detail about my first experience with a new culture upon arriving to the USA. 

———–

I was leaving everything that was familiar and safe; and venturing into a great vastness of uncertainties. I felt like a huge oak that was being uprooted and thrown out into a turbulent sea to go as it would wherever the waters took it. This was my mindset as we touched down at JFK International Airport.

There was no more time for moroseness of self-pity. It was time for action! I had to be alert and ready to answer questions from the Immigration Officer. Was I anxious? You bet. I retrieved my suitcase and stood in line to face the man or woman who determine my fate.

My officer was a middle aged, short, semi balding guy who seemed kind enough. He was actually smiling as I approached. He asked me some routine questions as to where I was going and to stay and so on. Did I have anything in my suitcase that I should not have?

“How long do you plan to stay?” He continued.

“One month,” I replied.

“Would you be able to stay away from your family for that long?

“That I am sure about, I may want to run back after a few days.”

I think these were tricky parts in the questioning process and I tried to answer as best as I could. I really felt like I wanted to turn around right there and run back home. Lo and behold, he stamped my passport– he had given me six months to stay in the USA.

I now had to be checked by the customs officer who opened up my suitcase and took away some of the fruit that I had brought. My brother had gone through a whole of trouble to get these special delicacies for his son, unfortunately it was not meant to be.

I was very happy to see my nephew waiting for me beyond the ropes for visitors and as I was walking towards him, I heard someone saying,

“Miss, Miss, wait!”

I looked around and stopped dead in my tracks. The officer who just interviewed me was running after me. Oh my God, what was going to happen now? Was he going to take back the Visa? Was I going to have to go back home and hang my head in shame? He caught up to me and said,

“Oh Miss, you left your $40.00 on my desk.”

You were allowed to bring $40.00 Guyana dollars with you. Phew!! What a relief! But, what a way to enter America. This was the first of many kindnesses that were bestowed on me in this great land of America. There were so many rumors of people being very unkind and rude; that was dispelled in my first day there. This officer was just coming off duty and he realized that I had left my money there. He did not have to, but he took the time and effort to return it to me.

———–

Have you ever experienced Culture Shock? What was it like for you?

Leaving, Me?

In light of a fairly serious family emergency, I have opted to utilize a piece of my book for this week’s blog post. Happy Reading.

——- 

Even if I live to be a hundred years old, I think this image would be as clear in my mind as it was today. It was a day filled with brilliant sunshine and I was standing in a big open playground, the wooden school building on my life, the sea dam on my right, and the leaves of lush, green trees blowing in the wind to the South.

I looked towards the fence and I saw my daughter, three years and 10 months old carefully making her way across an old log so that she could take the short cut to my school. Her brown uniform was smudged and her white shirt was no longer white as she has been cleaning furniture in preparation for Mashramani — Republic Celebrations in Guyana.

Suddenly she recognized me among the students who were playing in the field and she started to run towards me with her arms outreached, her face beaming! As I bent down to scoop her in my arms, I looked up to see my friend, Rachel, looking at me. With a tear running down her right cheek, she said, 

“I really do not know how you are able to do this.” before turning to walk back to the school building.

I picked up my little girl and I held her tight, savoring the moment, burying my head in her neck and fighting all inclinations to break down and weep.  As I looked toward the fence again, I saw my son running across the field also.

He was 10 years old and he was my little “man.” 

I bent down to hug him. He was too grown for me to pick him up, which is what I would really have liked to do. He looked at the way I was holding his sister and he said,

Have you told her yet, Ma?”

I could only answer with a shake of my head, as I was choking up with tears. He then said,

“Do not worry Ma, we will figure something out.” 

This picture was stamped in my brain and on my mind on Friday, February 19th, 1988. It was good that I could not see into the future and realize the numerous heartaches and turmoil that would engulf my family and me.

How do I explain the circumstances that led to this day?

I had a decent life — a husband, two kids and a good job teaching just a stone’s throw from where I lived. Being the youngest of eight siblings, with both my parents and five of my brothers living in the same village I was very sheltered. I was surrounded by a great network of family and friends who always looked out for me.

——- 

Living in Guyana, I did have a good life. But I wanted to make it better — not for myself but for my family. That is why I opted to move to the United States. It took guts, years of sacrifice and more courage than I even knew existed. That courage has made me who I am today.