I remember when, Part One: Coming to America
I didn’t understand what all the commotions on around me were about. But after going back and forth to the United States Embassy in Haiti for over a year, I got awarded a permanent visa to the United States of America.
All the sudden everyone was treating me like I was different. Everyone envied me because I was about to become a “diaspora,” everyone around me wanted to make me feel special. Most people’s dream in Haiti is to come to the United States. Whether it was luck, prayers or destiny, I was about to get a chance that very few people had, I was coming to America.
My cousins, whom I did not know it, were jealous of me. My aunts and uncles seemed very happy and already telling me “don’t forget about me,” and my grandmother was mostly scared.
Grandma kept it a secret until the end. Afraid that some people might put a voodoo curse on me to hurt me. If my grandma didn’t trust someone, she didn’t tell them.
A few days before I moved to the United States, my grandmother took me to go see her younger brother. I don’t remember much of what they were discussing, but I am pretty sure they were talking about me. I was eleven years old.
My great-uncle turned to me and said: “Judith, be careful in that country.” with a sound of nervousness in his voice. I didn’t respond as I didn’t know what to say.
He turned to my grandmother and talked a little more, then he looked back at me and proceeded to rant:
There are no such things as kids in that country, everybody is an adult and they can do whatever they want. If their parents touch (punish) their children, they call the police and the parents go to jail. At 15, the girls get pregnant and there is nothing that the parents can do about it.
My great-uncle said he knows all this about America based on what a friend, who lived in New York, told him. He kept going for a while longer, but I didn’t fully understand what he was talking about nor do I remember the rest.
My uncle was trying to prepare me for life in America in some ways. I knew that life in the U.S. would be much different from Haiti and I was very excited. He also wanted to warn me to not get pregnant too young; one of the greatest shame a child can bring to their Haitian families.
I wish I could remember what my grandmother has said to him but I can only imagine her wise response.
The day finally came. I felt sad, excited, happy and scared, all at the same time. Outside of the airport was loud and hot. Desperate people crowded the entrance. Inside the airport wasn’t any better. Luggage was everywhere, many people traveling for the first time seemed lost and confused and there were people speaking different languages that I had never heard before.
Now it was real, I was about to leave the only place I knew and I had no idea what kind of life was waiting for me in America.
This is the first part of a series where I recollect memories from my childhood. Click here to read for part two.
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