Exactly 9 years ago today, I landed at JFK Airport dazed and confused. I sat in the transit lounge waiting for our connection flight to Washington, D.C. around six o’clock in the evening. I saw my first U.S. coin – I think it was a dime – while sitting there. I don’t remember much during this brief period but I remember a lady who spoke Somali and perfect English helping us during the customs inspection where we also got our official United States documents. Soon after clearing up with the customs, we were rushed through JFK in the belief that our connection flight was ready to take off. We power-walked through JFK, sometimes jogging, to get to our gate. During this huff and puff, we left the terminal we landed in and walked outside to get to the terminal where our flight’s gate was located. Briefly walking outside that February evening, a ferocious wind and a cold temperature greeted us into this country. Also during this time, I had my first encounter with automatic doors – only if I knew the other “strange” things I was about to experience in this country.
We reached our gate finally but our flight was not taking off for another hour or so. I sat there in the lounge, thinking and wondering what my life will be like. How will I learn a new language and culture? How will people treat me? I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I was excited and scared equally. Our flight finally parked into the tarmac and so we started our journey to our final destination again. During this flight, we (as a group) started a conversation with a young American guy in his mid to late 20s. He was a nice fellow. Our broken, elementary English did not stop him or bothered him. We talked about basic stuff – not that we could engage in an advanced conversation anyway. He made a good impression on me about Americans. I thought if most Americans were like him, everything will be just fine.
Less than an hour later we landed on Dulles Airport. We drove through D.C., which to my tired eyes looked absolutely stunning at night, from the air and driving through. But most of the time I was trying to keep my eyelids open as the effects of nearly two day’s travel kicked in. After a brief hospitality in Springfield, VA at a relative’s house, we were once again on the road. I really don’t remember anything from this, though, because I was asleep until we reached NC.
Part II of this entry will come soon!