Friday, December 31, 2010

First Impressions Part 1

Along with a fleet of other passengers and my trusty little dog, I flew over in a chartered flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles via Winnipeg. It was a one way ticket and a one way trip. I had two suitcases, one larger one small, as I pioneered my way to the New World. At the time, I thought of it as my Promised Land. I didn't know the genesis of that expression but the words alone, known in France as well as here, were awe inspiring and I embraced them.

My life had been complex for most of its 17 years owing to my own active mind and emotions no doubt, coupled with my parents' unfortunate divorce when I was 4. It seemed I could not make this family relationship thing work on any level. Apparently I was very much wrapped up in myself and quite impossible. All I knew is that now I was saddled with being a teenager by no choice of my own - as if childhood hadn't been complex enough, now this? Whatever the case, my Promised Land awaited me as I leaned against the window, taking in the unknown, watching land give way to Sea, leaving behind all that complexity, that incomprehensible mess of human entanglement that had always had the upper hand in my life. I wouldn't miss it.

My mother had emigrated the year before along with her husband and they had rented a house in the Bernal Height district of San-Francisco. I would have place to land, a restful thought. My neighbor on the plane was a young man whose pants and shirt were tie dyed and therefore indistinguable: he was a mass of color and long hair but his manner was absolutely normal, he could have had short hair, a polo shirt and slacks. I marveled at how genuinely friendly he was.

As we approached LA, we flew over a blue lake. Look, he said pointing out the window, that's LA! I was dumbfounded. It's smog he explained. Smog? Air pollution he said lightly, which in itself amazed me. You're not worried about that? Yea, it's bad he said with a smile. He must really like his home I thought. I liked that but how on earth was our plane going to make it through that sludge? However land in it we did and I was relieved to see the sun on the other end. It was a beautiful bright Southern California Day.

I now needed to transfer to a different plane to get to San Francisco: I had been given $50 to make the trip. At customs with my student visa, I was pulled aside and had to part from my new friend. What was I doing in America, how much money did I have, would anyone support me, was I planning on staying? Despite my 6 years of High School English, I felt functionally illiterate. My interviewer however was completely reassuring: it's ok honey, it's ok, I remember her repeating. She seemed to mean it and I believed her. Besides, she called me Honey! I didn't even know her and even more to the point, she didn't know me but she liked me well enough to call me honey. What a wondrous land. I liked it right back.

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