Sunday, 24 June 2012


I made it! A quiet, comfortable train ride through Sweden, flight to Chicago O'Hare, quick lunch at McDonald's where a man rushed to sit down in the seat opposite me and tell me he had difficulty eating his rice, then to Memphis, where no one from PFO greeted me. Was left to my own devices. Wondered if some mix-up had happened among all the paperwork and emails flying across the globe. After some initial hesitation--should I go? should I stay and wait?--I found cabby Haileselassie Getachew (real name), an Orthodox Christian, who looked at the address on the paper in confusion, called a friend, was mislead, stopped at a hospital, asked for directions, missed turn-off, asked me to read the map, called a friend to look up the address online, finally entered address into GPS, and found the place after an hour's driving. Still, he was a nice man.

All in all, things ran rather smoothly. Despite getting lost and being put in a room to answer questions about my visa and being pulled aside for a luggage check.
"You brought a lot of books," Officer 1 commented.
"Yes," I said. "I always overestimate the amount of time I will have for reading."
Officer 1 nodded. He must have known the feeling.
Officer 2 wasn't quiet convinced of my innocence. "Why are you here?"
"I'm taking a two-week course in Southaven, Mississippi."
"Are you planning to work here afterwards?" He eyed me cynically.
"Then why'd you bring all your diplomas with you?"
"I'm moving to Singapore, and I've made it a habit to carry all my paperwork in case I should need it."
I just can't get it right. Forget your I-20 and you're given a stern talking to. Bring it all with you and be questioned for suspect behavior. I'm just glad they didn't have me explain the bag of white (washing) powder stuffed among my knick-knacks.

Rose of the day goes to Customs Agent Sarillo who was very kind in dealing with my visa shortcomings. You've made America seem a little less imposing.

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