Once Upon A Time In America

1982. I was all excited to go to America. My parents were not that joyful as another of their child will be leaving home. My sister was in Canada at that time. The night before my departure, it was so quiet, dead silence. As if the family was in mourning. I didn’t care actually, I was all too excited. The next day ayah fried me a few cuts of chicken. Eating rice with chicken was an honor in my household. And that’s all they could possibly offer to send me off to America. I did not finish up the chicken, I asked dad to wrap it up for the journey. My brother took me to the Subang airport by bus if I remember correctly and a group of students were already there. I felt awkward that day, being from Kelantan and all , that was my first long trip to KL. You know the feeling that you are all wrong…inferior that is…and everyone else seems so right. But later on I found that they were all nice and friendly and we had great time together.

There were about 40 of us about to embark on great journey of our lifetime. We made a stopover at Manila for a day; enough time to tour the city and Rizal memorial park. The most important thing was that we have started to know each other. It was my opportunity to make a new start and projected a new image……not the whimpy twinky image that haunted me all this while. The guys were great as they all accepted me as is…everyone was trying to cope with our new life so we were all at the same level. The next day we continued our flight to San Francisco with a brief stop at Honolulu. It was a long journey. We reached SF on a delayed flight from Honolulu; so we had to make a rush to catch another one to Denver. Because there were 40 of us, they waited for our arrival. This domestic flight was a bit small as we filled up almost half of the seats. The old mat salleh sitting next to me said that they have been waiting for over an hour and glad we were finally here. I didn’t know much of English at that time so I smiled and nodded a few times. We reached Denver early in the morning. The weather was a bit cool as we arrived there in August which was the end of summer and the start of Fall season. The leaves were turning yellow and they started to fall off the trees. A van was waiting to take us to a motel where we stayed for the night.

The next morning the sun was bright and I woke up to a new world…the land of freedom….America. I greeted “good morning” to the motel’s housekeeper, but didn’t get any response from her…I guess I said it wrongly.. kelantanese style. A guy from the school came over and took us to the place that we are going to study until end of the year. It was an old teaching college and we were going to study English before getting into the first year at a university. Then we were taken to the apartment where we lived through the fall and winter that year. It was very nice there in Denver; so beautiful but had one of the highest crime rate in America. But we had each other and we looked after each other…we really did. We went to the city (downtown) one day for sightseeing and did not realize that the day was getting late. There were no more bus going back to our place….we have to take other route which none of us had a clue. We ended up at a gas station and hanged around not knowing what to do. We were lost to be exact. Now with little English that we had, we tried to get help. It was so agonizing as people saw us like some shit from god knows where. One of us got hold of a man, in desperation, and told him that we were lost and asked if he could help us get to our apartment. we were so lucky as the man was not a psycho who has just escaped from prison…he was a policeman off duty. we finally arrived at our place around 8 pm, tired and exhausted.

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