America, The Great!

September 30, 2016

 

 

As an immigrant who chose to claim this country mine many years ago the phrase 'Let us make America Great Again" resonates for many reasons. I have thought long and hard on what made me choose this country in the first place. I would like to share with you certain experiences of the America that greeted me when I first set foot in her soil as a college student.

Reminiscing...

It was the summer of 1972. I would miss my high school graduation ceremony because I was traveling to Columbus, Ohio to attend an intensive English course so I could be ready come September to start my first year of college at Ohio State University.

I could have crossed the border to El Centro, California, and taken a plane to Los Angeles where I would board another aircraft to my final destination, but my father feared I was still "too young to travel alone," and my English was not good enough to help me navigate a large airport by myself. Mortified, I accepted his decision to cross the border and have him drive me the four hours from my hometown to the Los Angeles airport, put me in the TWA plane himself and hope my older brother would pick me up in Columbus. 

Most of my friends paraded all morning through my house bidding me farewell and expressing their best wishes. I was going abroad, to America nonetheless, to study. They were excited for me.

I would make the drive with my father, my mom and my then youngest brother, who was only two years old. My goodbyes to my friends and the rest of my family took all morning and early afternoon. Crossing the border took another hour, and traffic first on highway 8 and later highway 5 slowed us down some more.

Few miles from the Los Angeles airport, my father began to speed. Soon after, we saw the flashing lights of a CHIPS officer signaling my Dad to pull over.

Coming from a country known even then for the corruption of its public servants, I wondered if my Dad would have to hand out money to avoid the fine and get me to the plane on time.

Dad asked me instead to hand him my plane ticket, my student visa and my college admission papers. Handing them out to the police officer, he explained about my plane soon departing from the airport and the reason he had been speeding.. The officer looked at the papers, calmy looked inside the car to where I sat in the backseat with my little brother, and instructed my father to follow him as he proceeded to walk to his motorcycle, light on his flashing lights again and lead us to the Los Angeles airport. We made it to the gate on time, and with a police escort to boot. The handsome young police officer helped Dad with my luggage, walked with us to the checking line and made sure we had my papers ready. Then, he shook Dad's hand, turned around with a broad smile on his handsome face, fixing on me the bluest eyes I had ever seen then, and with a small bow said to me, "Welcome to My Country."

To Be Continued...

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