Diary of an Immigrant or Foreigner in the
United States of America –
(Immigrant Experience in America)
The Diary of an Immigrant in the United
States of America
Unemployment is a general problem in Africa especially in a country like Kenya. The rate of employment in Kenya continues to decrease day by day. The increasing number of University graduates on yearly basis left the private and the public sector with limited resources to absorb all the educated minds. Most of Kenya’s population finds itself educated because the government provides public education. I think this is the same reason as to why the quality of education is wanting and the rate of employment is low. Completing studies, left my friend Hazel in another world, fighting for survival in the labor market. Given the rate of Unemployment and underemployment among the Kenyan Youths, Hazel was forced to adopt to a new and limited scope of opportunities available both financially and academically. Those things that she lacked in her home country; clean water, jobs and enough money to sustain the basic needs of life.
Here's her story
On this Saturday, She narrated the story of how she considered migrating to USA.
is a country characterized with prolonged political seasons,
slow economic growth and cannot in general terms be able to provide
to all our needs. Even though my country (Kenya) is endowed with natural
resources, brilliant minds, gentle and lovely souls, a place
where a young woman like me considers a threat to her economic
uprising and pushed out to look for greener pastures - She said
a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and tourism management from a
renowned University in the country, she was forced to tarmac for three
years looking for a Job in the Kenyan private and Public sectors. For
the three years I was visiting every office giving out my CV with
hopes of being offered that lifelong opportunity. All
was in vain.
Since her life in High school, listening to Motivational speakers and friends talking about high rate of employability in the USA. Reading on the internet every day about the easy of life in the USA and the vast opportunities for the young people, Hazel didn’t wake up one day and thought of leaving Kenya to the USA. She was motivated by those movies she watched, the books she read and the news clips she listened to. People talking about their successes in the USA and how they made it out of their country to harvest the fruits of success in this foreign country.
State of her family in Kenya
oldest in a family of two sisters and one brothers, Hazel was the only
hope for her younger siblings. Her father died sometimes back and
hence every child in the family had to put up with the reality. Their
mum was the only father and mother that they knew. Working in a
supermarket to cater for all the expenses in the family; food, school
fees, accommodation and clothing. You will have to put down the
feelings of grief and depression before pretending everything is okay
leaving such a family behind. ‘’ When you leave your childhood
home, your native land or your country, you leave a piece of you
behind.’’ She said.
saw that it was especially hard for children of single parents not to
feel responsible over their parents, making them guilty about
asserting their independence. But her story was different. Hazel was
determined to go and seek her adult life away from home. ‘’ The
good thing is that I believed one day I will be back. But maybe the
act of leaving will have changed something in me. Maybe my selfish
nature’’ She said.
I hate it when people think getting up and moving to another country is a walk in the park. There are very many things that you first have to deal with. From psychological torture of leaving your family behind to the fear of where you are going. We leave our country in search of a future, but we definitely lose an important phrase of our past. I cried for the bit of my life that was lost, the one that I cannot reclaim in a day - she said.
thoughts of migrating
to another country to look for money needs a lot of
sacrifices. The reality is, you will have to leave your family behind,
not because you hate them but because you love them so much. Hazel
opened up to share this story, portraying how much she loved her
mother and siblings. ‘’ I had a lot of love for my siblings, I
loved them so much and cared about their wellbeing. I knew they cannot
make it to school if am not there to help my mom raise their
fees’’ She sobbed ‘’ You can have unilateral love for your
parents, friends, spouse, kids and your siblings, but let me tell you
my friend, this love will not feed them! You need to go an extra mile
to prove it through actions. This is what made me step out of my
comfort zone and look for a more stable life’’ She narrated
confidently. ‘’ I need money, money
to send to my younger brothers and sisters to college, money to help
my mother pay for rent, bills and feed. That is why am here now, at
least I can say I helped with one thing or the other’’.
As I sat
listening to Hazel’s bitter stories, I learnt a lesson. Not one but
several. I leant the importance of sacrifices. I realized the crucial
benefit of this story and so I thought it should be told. Hazel lost
her father when she was 18 years old. He was a very hardworking man
and at least they could afford the basic needs of clothing, food and
shelter without experiencing any troubles. When the father was now
gone, she had to struggle with this and that to raise her college
fees. By that time, her mother was jobless with nowhere to get money
from. She moved from one corner of the town to the other in search for
a job. When she landed on this supermarket that had a massive
recruitment of supermarket attendants, things didn’t get well as
fast as she expected. She had to convince the management that with her
old age she can still be able to work more than 15 hours a day. We
both know how supermarkets operate here. Opening at 7 am in the
morning and closing at 9 pm.
Now that she got the job and paid 3 dollars a day, she could at least smile knowing she can feed her family. Hazel gave a grimacing smile and after seeing my startled expression, stated ‘’ now you can see the reason why I had to be creative. I was the elder sister and when my younger ones approached me asking for an exercise book or a pen to go to school, they expected that I should respond swiftly. How else do you think I felt excusing myself...? I was guilty, guilty of not providing for my siblings. I love them, I think hypothetically speaking I love my sisters and brother too much.’’ She was talking from another world. I could clearly see this in her eyes. ‘’ The worst of all is when one of my sisters got sick and I was there doing nothing. My mother went to a chemist and bought some pain killers. That’s all she could do. The month was still young and in a country like this where you can only be paid at the end of the month, we could do nothing’’ She explained. ‘’ The drugs did not help her but she had to be tough. I became infuriated and so emotionally distraught, I threw my phone at the mirror and cried in agony! Shockingly, I took my sister to the hospital and sat down confidently waiting for the doctors to respond. I was too weak from emotional despair to even sit down and wait for their response. What if they ask me to pay the hospital bill?’’
is her situation. "That decision of leaving my family behind
for another country knowing that I will not be able to see them in a
couple of months, no! Just say years, I have always come back to it
and roll it back to my mind while I am sipping coffee or chatting with
my Friends in the USA’’… My family, friends and loved ones in my
native land are extra-nice. They were soothing me with all kinds of
nice things. Some telling me not to be sad about it and focus on those
good things that I have achieved before. In spite of all those kind
words and gestures, nothing changed. My heart was burdened with guilt
and sad feelings. Sad of all things thinking that I will not get that
warm hug from my mother any more. Maybe in very many years to come.
thing is critical, the decisions you make become yours and yours
alone. This is a life that forces you to trust yourself because
there’s no one else who is around on whom to fall back to. The place
you once called home will not be home anymore. It becomes more of a
feeling than a physical place. Home is now that emotional call you get
from your mother, sister, brother or grandparents. The memories you
have when you are sited alone in the house staring at the celling.
Many people cannot understand this before they start packing. The
thoughts of living 500 miles away from your parents becomes a reality.
‘’ The darkness had befallen me and the feeling of exhaustion came
over me. Fear gripped me as I packed everything in my bag knowing am
leaving the old roots to go and establish roots somewhere else. I just
sat there whimpering, praying to God that I get peace of mind. I later
gained my courage and structured a plan. A plan of being strong and
doing those things that will make me expel those thought from my
now had to leave. To leave all the beautiful things of my village
behind. The funny friends and my always loving family’’ She said
sisters and brothers were left in a less-resourceful state. Some of
them striving to complete their primary school education and others to
complete their technical studies. Guilt of all is knowing that my
mother will hardly raise their fees and maintain them in school.’’
She narrated this with tears rolling down her cheeks.
after all the things that you have achieved in life and all the new
things you now love and the new people you now interact with, your
heart will ever be longing. Longing for Home and the people that
contributed in one way or the other in your childhood life. ‘’
That time when I packed all the things that I needed for the journey
and I felt weakened, I wanted to give up and remain behind with my
family. But the issue of life, the economic independence that I knew I
cannot get from Kenya fueled me. Now everybody was watching me leave
the suburbs, my eyes blurry and face swollen with tears, my hands
shaking with grief and my mind was numb to everything else around me.
I just waved them goodbye and left the town. I didn’t know any other
way to make the pain go away’’
"The good thing after leaving is that the communication was still on. Thanks to the telecommunication technology, I kept in touch with my mom. She advised me on each and every thing that I wanted a word on and also communicated every single thing that happened back home’’.
The Journey to United
States of America
is a country that I heard many people praise. From the movies, songs,
the internet and our curriculum. I studied many things about the USA
in my History and Geography classes. The economic activities, the
social and the political side of this country gave me some hopes of
being a resident in this country’’ she said.
was now at the airport with my old school friend Vivian. She had
organized everything from my visa to the place of accommodation. What
made things more complicated is the fact that I was travelling alone,
with the hopes of getting in touch with one of her relatives once I
land’’ She narrated. ‘’The fear of the unknown overtook me and
I was shaking tremendously. What if something happened and I had
neither a friend nor a relative to get in touch with in this foreign
country. Just this one person that I had known for five years during
those school visiting. My classmate was lucky, the whole family came
to visit her and brought her all the nice things you can think of.
Being in a school far away from my home county, my mother couldn’t
make it to school. In fact, she only came to the school during my
admission day. Now I was part of this other family. The family that
welcomed me and shared everything they had for their daughter with
me’’ She explained.
Travelling for the
first time can be an unnerving experience if you have never sat on an
Airplane. You don’t know what to expect at the airport nor how to
feel in the airplane. Even the smallest occurrence can be confusing
and stressful at the same time. ‘’ I was a bit confused,
afraid-simply apprehensive of flying. This feeling got in my toes and
my whole body went weak. I read on a paper that when you are in a
plane you don’t even notice that it is moving. But this experience
was weird. When the plane took off everything got down and I was
experiencing something different’’ she said.
with all these rich people on the plane made me feel small. At one
time there is this man who was staring at me. At first I thought he
can notice anything about my state. The cheap clothes that I had on
and the expression of fear on my face.
There, I was puzzled when he asked me what I do. This seemed
rude at first. I took so long to reply this question but little did I
know it’s just a greeting.’’
"The facilities in the airplane were designed for everyone. I have never been close to an airplane except for those school tours that we went to the airport and watched them fly. The facilities for the disabled were something I really liked. The toilets had no drain hole like the ones am used to in my home and school. This made things hard for me to interact with any facility in there. The fear of doing things the wrong way.’’
Arriving in the United States
feeling of travelling to a country of promised economic career can be
overwhelming and confusing at the same time. Hazel was happy that she
will land and pass through the inspection process with no stress.
‘’ I will never forget the feeling. I was so excited to come to
the United States. I can still remember in acute detail the
anticipation I felt before we landed’’ She said. ‘’ Throughout
the journey, my mind was occupied with thoughts and worries. Thoughts
about how I will navigate the city of Los Angeles. The worries about
how I will make friends and how long it will take to make really good
friends in a foreign world. I was so nervous about this solo venture
in the world’s superpower country.
My anxiety outweighed my excitement and I had to put up with a
confused mind’’ She explained.
Sure you can read all the blogs about your destination overseas, you can research or even consult a friend who has been where you are going but no one will really tell you how things will be like for you. You will have your own individual experience. This is the reason why travelling to a foreign country holds such power over many of us. You have to withdraw all the confusing thoughts of how the place will be like so that you can experience how it really is. In fact, you will be surprised to discover that most of the things abroad are just like the ones you left at home. The toiletries, the stores, the roads and the traffic. Hazel had a different view of the things she experienced.’’ When I arrived in the United States, I was surprised to find dirty roads and farms surrounding the place where I lived. The grocery stores were just similar to the ones I left in Nairobi’’. She said confidently.
people describe going out as a journey to break stereotypes. To just
go and confirm all the things you hear people talking about in your
local areas. ‘’People talk too much about USA, some had to tell me
how people in the USA are, some rude, others good. I now know them
better than my friends at home. I know they aren’t as rude as they
have been made to sound. As a matter of fact, I have never experienced
any form of disrespect, rudeness or torture in my stay in the United
States. Just one of those bad days I was confronted by the security
man. I had carried my backpack and I didn’t remember put it at the
security scan on those shopping days’’. She said.
Landing on a new country for the first time is seemingly landing on another planet. You will have to put up with the things you are not used to. The congestion, made of people from all corners of the world will make you feel confused. Hazel had to look at things from another perspective when she landed at Los Angeles International airport. She had this to say. ‘’The most exciting bit of my life happened when I landed at the airport. I have never been in such a beautiful place before. It was so interesting being at the middle of so many people. Some of those I didn’t know where they came from. The only problem with such a population from mixed cultures and languages is the language. I didn’t know what to say, not even greetings to those Chinese that I first came into contact with’’ She said.
feeling can be overwhelming, especially if you have never interacted,
spoke to or seen people from all these regions. You will wonder how
they behave, their language and if they are friendly. ‘’ I was
just used to those Chinese constructing roads and buildings in Nairobi
but I have never had an opportunity to interact with any. The priests
from Italy that I saw stay at the churches in Kenya are the only
people I have ever spoken to. Being from a region characterized with
drought and food insecurity, they usually cooperated with the Kenya
Relief food and came to our villages. Of course I was one of the
people in our village who could communicate in English and hence I was
given the opportunity to interpret the language to my local residents
in Kenya’’ She explained.
Although people say it is always good to share a word with a stranger on anything, Hazel had a long day doing this. The question of whether they understand her language was an issue. ‘’ I had a tough day trying to get along with the people here. Most of them were so friendly and therefore I could get along with them in one way or the other. What should I say or even how to respond was an issue. It was devastating. These are the people who just wanted to talk to someone while waiting for the terms of visa verification. I found myself so ignorant and assuming. But that was not my intention, I had a hard time understanding their accent’’ Said Hazel. ‘’You know the people I was used to interacting with are just those with the same accent from my country. But here in the USA, everybody has a different accent’’ She explained.
people encounter numerous problems during the immigration
and custom checks. Some lack enough time to connect flights from the
airport to their destination. Hazel didn’t expect the checkups at
the entry point to be that confusing and time consuming. She had to
put up with the tough and comprehensive procedures before being
allowed to proceed. ‘’ The first thing I encountered upon landing
is the intense security checks you have to go through before being
cleared to proceed. However, my case was a little bit more complicated
as I had to go through some extra checks. My visa had some
authorization problems and therefore the security had to impose me to
a thorough document verification process’’ She exclaimed.
Entering the US is not a small deal, you have to complete all the security checks and admissions at the immigration offices at the port of entry. A foreign national or an alien is generally required to submit a valid visa issued by the U.S government and passport. ‘’ After queuing for about an hour, I placed my bag, and jackets through the X-ray scanner and walked through. The security was beefed, I had to raise my scarf to be screened if I had any concealed weapon. This suddenly made me feel like a criminal but I had to put up with the situation’’.
"I was now
done with the first phase of the security checks and had to proceed to
the next room. I felt relieved. In fact this was a success’’ She
laughed. This was the next big thing that many travellers had to face
with fear. You have to proof that you will be able to sustain yourself
in the USA. Very many people are sent back to their country simply
because they don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to
sustain their stay in the USA. ‘’ I saw a woman sent back just
because she didn’t have enough money in her bank account. Moreover,
she didn’t provide enough evidence to prove she had relatives in the
country’’. She said. ‘’ My case was a little bit easy. However,
I landed on another trouble. I didn’t recall the exact time my
passport photos were taken. I had to convince the officials that I had
a really hard time preparing psychologically and hence I could not
really figure out the real date these things were done’’ Hazel
"Besides the struggle of how the immigration functions in USA, it wasn’t very difficult. I was done within two hours.’’
The big deal lies here now. When you are done with everything at the airport, what next. Many people prefer getting a cab in the streets but Hazel’s case was different. She had come to the US courtesy of her friend who connected her to one of her relatives in the country. She was supposed to find a way to reach that relative and therefore things were a bit challenging on her part. Never laugh at somebody’s travel misfortune. The friend never turned up on time and Hazel had to wait longer. With very many things crossing her mind. ‘’ You know how things get confusing sometimes, your friend is late and you think they won’t turn up at all. That is what I went through. Mind torture. What would I have done if everything didn’t go as planned? At least I had some money. That which I had saved from the part time jobs I got when I was in college’’. She said.
eventually hooked up and everything was as planned. All my worries
were washed away when I found myself in USA knowing that everything
was in order and now I can stay comfortably. As an African, I found
myself in this funny Venn diagram of immigration’’.
Hazel was not in the USA on those holiday vacations. She was here to find the promising jobs she heard about. Taking all the risks of traveling to an unknown country just to have a job and eradicate the circles of poverty in her home. ‘’ All this time I was revisiting my ultimate goal in the USA, to get that one job that I will wake up in the morning knowing I will be paid at the end of the month. My friend had promised me a job in this land of opportunities through her relative. She worked In the US as a Hotel attendants in one of the Hotels in Los Angeles.’’
Angeles is the home of some of the world’s beautiful structures,
white-hot arts scenes and the best place to hover around. ‘’We
took a cub through the city and believe me or not, Los Angeles is one
of the America’s pedestrian friendly city’’ She explained.
‘’We had all the time to see those tall buildings and people
walking freely through the paths. Unlike my country where everything
is a scramble. You have to scram for your space on the walk ways and
put up with traffic jams in the drive way. In fact in LA, it can be
diverse, rewarding and fun way to spend your travel time. Just
watching the beautiful structures along the way.’’
A driveway is your homes first impression. A quick picture of the place and the people you are going to interact with. The drive ways can be a little bit confusing. In short Los Angeles city is not a place that you can master in a day. ‘’We were driving down the city but I couldn’t figure out the way back to the airport. The City is big and the drive ways were confusing. At times I just felt as if we are on the way back to the airport. All the streets were seemingly the same and hence I thought I would take several years to master the way home’’ She said. ‘’The view of the max factory that I used to read about in the internet blew my mind. This beautiful pink and green art that I have never thought I will see’’.
life in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has emerged to be one of the immigration capitals of the United States. Statistics show that the immigrants comprise of a third of the city’s population and more than half of its work force. The city is made up of a widening gap between the rich and the poor and now Los Angeles looks more of a developing economy than the second largest city in the USA. Most immigrants live in the city of Angels, Santa Monica, Hollywood and Skid Row. Hazel started her life in the leafy suburbs of Hollywood where she settled in a family of five people. ‘’ Eventually we arrived and nothing was different from home. The house was small just like the one I lived with my parents back in Kenya. The surroundings were just the same; dirty roads, poor neighbors and electricity problems just like home’’ She said.
like there is a place for everyone in Los Angeles. The city is made up
of hipster areas, preppy places, the ghettos and a neighborhood where
college kids thrive. It’s not all rainbows and sun shine in Los
Angele. Some of the neighborhoods’ are better than the others but
Hazel had an opportunity of living at a medium neighborhood. Hollywood
is not a bad place to live as compared to Fashion District, Downtown,
Westlake, Watts and South Park. ‘’ This was not a bad place, at
least there were good schools and well-constructed structures. I have
never thought that in the United States someone can talk of traffic
jams, pickpockets and beggars until we got to the streets of Los
Angeles’’ She said
Especially in the walk of Fame. This place has people from all sorts of life. Some dressed like super heroes but characterized with poor state of living. Hazel had a different picture about the place. ‘’ Sincerely speaking, this place was a little bit better than the streets of Nairobi. However, there are some sort of similarities. Walk of Fame is a little annoying. People begging you trying to get you to take their CDs. Some were there selling ‘’tours’’ and other homeless people trying to get money. This is what you get; hobos, trashy-looking shops, aggressive people trying to sign you up for a tour and the unpleasant smell of Urine in the dirty streets’’ She explained. ‘’This was not so much different from what you get in the streets of Nairobi, but I have never thought of something like this in the USA’’.
Hollywood has beautiful things that you come across on your drive.
Hazel came across some of the amazing places that she had only heard
of in the TV, the movies or the internet. ‘’ I had only heard of
the Chinese Theater and the Hard Rock in the stories of other people
on the internet. This time, I was in the city of the Hard Rock and
several other stars. Only that I didn’t have enough money and time
to take a walk across all the streets of Hollywood. Again this was not
my ultimate goal in the USA. Maybe it’s something that was supposed
to come after I have something flowing in my bank account every
month’’ She said.
with a host family, you have to live a new life. Do what the family
members do and eat what they eat. Every home stay is as different as
the families that host you. As the old saying goes; you don’t choose
your family. You choose what to do with every situation. I had heard
many positive stories about staying with a host family but there are
also some shortcomings. You are living under someone’s roof and
hence you have limited liberty to try living the way you did back in
your country. Hazel had a different story to tell. ‘’ Thank God
there was no language barrier between us. My host friend came from my
home country and therefore we could even speak Swahili and English at
the same time. I was content with my living situation and found that I
got along well with the family members. However, I found out that they
had a difficult time living with an introvert. My main focus was
getting a job and I spent most of my time thinking and researching on
it’’ She said.
It is a difficult life to idle abroad, especially if it is in a family where everyone went to work and you are left home alone. Hazel experienced a tough life before things settled for the better. ‘’ Now that I had to wait until a job is organized for me, I hadn’t a clue of what I should be doing. Just hung out in coffee shops with lots of other like-minded but essentially idle insurrectionists’’ She said.
are in another country, do not expect the country to be the same as
yours. Do not expect the culture to be the same, and behave the same
way they do back in your home country. Do not expect the environment
to change for you. You have to adapt to where you are staying. To
Hazel, I think living with a host family from Kenya was a great
opportunity that she had to utilize wisely. She didn’t have to face
most of the problems that people face in the USA, getting lost on the
streets and sometimes getting into trouble with the police and the
neighbors. ‘’ Living with this family was different from the
independence I was used to but it was worth it’’ She narrated.
advantages that immigrants from
the common wealth countries have is the language. Most of the
people in the USA are native English speakers and hence Hazel didn’t
have difficulties communicating. ‘’ English is the official
language in Kenya, so this is the only foreign language that I got
since my childhood. I communicated easily with the locals. I came
across several Chinese and Indians in the streets and couldn’t
understand their accent easily. I had to remain silent sometimes or
even take longer to respond to their questions’’ She said.
Getting used to Spanish can be challenging. Spanish is not a foreign language in the USA and so someone has to interact with these people more often than not. You need to learn the basic Spanish phrases so that you can at least get a clue of what people are talking about. According to a study, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the USA and many people both immigrants and the native-born need to learn this language. Hazel had some funny encounters in Los Angeles. ‘’Ever since I first set my foot in the USA, I have been trying, painfully to learn how to communicate with these Latin Americans. With time, I came to learn the basic phrases such as ‘’Hello’’, Please’’ and goodbye’’. At least now I can use them confidently’’ She said.
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several of the USA culture that people find different from theirs at
home. They are interesting and hence every immigrant enjoys. These
includes some of the US cultural practices that people find
interesting, different or similar to the ones in their country. You
will also interact with several other immigrants from all corners of
the world with a different or a similar culture. Adapting to the
changes and the difference in the cultural endowment in a foreign
country can be challenging. Although you are coming from a totally
different background, you have to recognize and respect other
people’s culture. Hazel had a difficult time adapting to USA. ‘’
The first thing that I found challenging was the food. I
am used to the ‘’Githeri’’ and ‘’Ugali’’ back in
Kenya but then in the USA things are different. People like wheat so
much. The food in the USA had
different spices that I hardly got in Kenya. Not even the same
foods, not the same food processing methods, not the same staple. The yams,
cassavas, Arrowroots and maize flour that I was used to In Nairobi
were not available here. The biggest of all, the American food is
lighter, not dense and filling as the African foods’’ She said.
Africa, whenever I got out for dinner, I came home so full wondering
if I will be able to eat again the next day. I find it a natural
occurrence because of how much food we are given. Things in the states
are different. I have never realized how big the African portions are
until I came to the USA. I can order food that comes in three sides, a
salad and a bread and it’s actually not enough’’ She explained.
thing that is totally different between Africa and the United States
America is the prices. Things are cheaper in Africa more than in the
US. ‘’ The first thing I noticed immediately I landed in the USA
is the prices. The life here is quite expensive. You have to use more
than $30 just for dinner. In Kenya, food is so cheap. You can as well
get groceries in Kenya for $40.
In Kenya, silence is golden. When there’s something to be said, it will be said and when there is nothing to be said silence will dominate. In the USA, people like talking too much. You can’t take a moment of silence when you are out with friends. ‘’ In the USA, people are friendly and bold. Unlike in Kenya where it is a little bit difficult to talk to strangers, the people here are different. You won’t be surprised to be stopped on your way to the store by a stranger and you get along quite well’’ Hazel said.
very important to the people in the USA, most of the time things are
done within the time frames. People have to follow their schedules
strictly unlike in the African set up. Life in Africa is flexible, you
can change from one program to the other without any significant
impact on your schedule. Americans like to disregard the idea of
wasting time. In USA, being late for an appointment can be very
offensive as it is taken as a personal offense. ‘’When I settled
in the USA, I hardly understood the idea of time management. In Kenya,
time management was only applicable in school but not in personal
life. Most of the time, I landed into trouble with my host due to
delayed tasks and canceled plans. She came to the USA about 6 years
before me and so she had already adapted fully to the
environment’’ Hazel explained.
cultures offer different lifestyles. What is polite in one culture can
be rude in another. Unlike most Africans, the people in the USA look
direct to your eyes when talking to you. The way you shake hands can
also be a measure of your character. Many Americans are also so
sensitive on the way you enter their personal space. ‘’You will
always get into trouble with an Americans if you got to their homes
without their permission. You have to keep a distance and request to
get in. This is something totally different from what happens in most
African cultures’’ She explained.
the USA are also informal. Informal in the way they talk to each other
and the way they dress. In most African cultures, you need to show
ultimate respect to your elders in the way you great and / or approach
them. ‘’People in USA dressed so informally even those who have
some formal jobs. This is unlike my home country every office was
colored with black and blue suits’’ She said. ‘’They addressed
their friends and parents using their first name. You can be thrown to
hell if you tried this in Africa’’.
spend the larger part of their life moving from one place to the
other, from one job to the other and they are always doing a new
activity. However, it is quite easy to make friendship with their
fellow passengers on a bus or even invite a new acquaintance to lunch
or one of their parties. Hazel was not used to this. She grew up in an
environment where everybody was to mind their own business.
‘’ African life is different, people will always mind their own
business. You won’t be surprised to travel for a whole 5 hours in a
bus sited next to a fellow Kenyan and don’t talk. That is our life,
maybe it is difficult to start a conversation or everybody is occupied
with their personal thoughts. Here in the USA, I made friendship on my
first day. People are friendly and can easily start a conversation
with a new person on the way’’ She said. Unlike Africans,
Americans find it easy to make casual friends.
While there are all these differences, there exists some similarities between my African home and the American environment. Both are aspired and motivated by the same things in life. They aspire to succeed, want to be compensated for their skills and desire to provide for their families. Both the USA and the African culture tend to think from the same point of view. They tend to think in an inductive and linear manner.
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Struggles of Getting a Job
be honest, the United States of America is not a country that every immigrant can just get in and settle without facing any challenges.
Imagine having limited knowledge about the country, trying to get a
job, buying foods or even completing the basic tasks.’’ My
situation was complicated, I encountered numerous challenges before I
fully adapted to the environment. I once went to the store to buy some
things, having limited knowledge of the dollar became a problem. In
fact the likely upshot would be far worse and could cut far deep if I
did not have a small knowledge of the dollar that I had gained from my
job in the USA is not as easy as people may think. While most if not
all immigrants are happy to take whichever jobs they are offered when
they first enter the country, finding a job and moving up the ladder
is very difficult. Some of the immigrants
who are educated and informed find it difficult to secure a matching
job in the USA and this turns out to be the main challenge that people
encounter. Another thing, the immigrants are easily the victims of
discrimination and exploitation in the work place. ‘’Despite the
reality that I had the mind of securing the job that my friend had
promised, things didn’t go so smoothly. In the USA, even if you have
all the academic qualifications and connections, getting a job is not
a walk in the park’’ She said.
that many people don’t know is that in order to be eligible for jobs
in the USA, you need a work permit. If an individual is not a
permanent residence of the USA, they are required to get an Employment
Authorization Document. You need almost $400 as your filing fees in
order to get EAD.
This is the hardest thing that I experienced. My host didn’t tell me
about something like this. When I got in the USA, settled for some
time and now I was ready for a Job that is where my problems started.
She tried Organizing a Job for me just as planned but then the legal
procedure was long. I was required to get a permanent work permit
before being allowed to work anywhere. It is the responsibility of
both the employer and the employee to prove a legal working
relationship’’ She explained. ‘’This is something that I
learnt in the USA. In Kenya nobody requires any other document apart
from the academic papers to get a job. I tried going through the legal
process but it took me so long. My money was running out and I
didn’t want to be over dependent on other people’’ She said.
had to strategize a way that at least I can be raising a dollar a day
so that I will look supportive. My host was a single mother of two and
more often I thought I was burdening her with expenses. Working in a
restaurant to support her family and here I am sited down! No, I had
to do something for myself’’ She explained.
is always ready to take any job before things work for them. Hazel’s
story was no different. She had to struggle with every type of Job so
that she can have a sustainable
life. ‘’ Many people see USA as the country to make your
dreams come true, this is true, but you have to go the long way. I
came to this country to see if I will have a better future for me and
my family back home. At least I came to the U.S.A with papers, papers
that can may be in future get me a dream job that I have for long
waited for’’. She told me. ‘’But there comes a time that your
papers won’t count. Especially if you are competing with the
I interacted with people in the USA, a friend introduced me to a
construction company. But working in the shadows meant we were
subjected to underpayment and exploitation. This is when I realized
things were not working well for me. However, being paid $85 per day
was a great deal. At least way above the minimum salary my friends got
back home. In Kenya, as a casual worker, you can only secure $5 in a day. That is if you are
lucky to get a job in a very prominent construction company’’. She
know this sounds funny but I had to take that step. I wanted to raise
some little money, just enough to simply sustain myself. I didn’t
want to look dependent in any way and again I had to get my work
permit before I was enrolled to work in a place such as a
did she make it. Working at the middle of the construction and
interacting with men! That looked like a heart sacrifice. ‘’ The
good thing about America is that machines do a lot of work. At least I
was not to lift heavy weight, carry cement and pickup stones. The fact
that I had some certificates I was there to keep track and a record of
all the building materials. I had to work in a small office in the construction
site and keep a file of all the materials that arrived and left
the construction site. The truth is, I felt really lucky. There were
other very many women like me. At least not as big as I am but they
were working sunup and sundown. I bet that was their occupation. They
were so accurate in fixing metals, others welding and some others in
masonry itself. This is America. Unlike in Africa where jobs were
segregated. Construction was for men and some lighter jobs for women.
Here things are different. There is no job for women or men’’ She
The worst thing of all is that we were doing an illegal affair, that
is why we worked under the shades of public administration. We were
not documented. This was a challenge because we were sometimes
projected to stigmatization and exploitation. Sometimes I had to work
for 14 hours in a day just to please my employer. Other times we had
to wait for an additional two weeks for our payments to be dispersed.
That is what we had to go through. Just because we didn’t have a
work permit’’ She said.
you are thinking that I was the only person working under the shadows
then you are wrong. For the time I worked there, I discovered several
other immigrants from Spain, India, Pakistan, Israel, Syria, Canada,
Mexico and several other countries. We faced it all together but with
different reasons. Their friends in the USA abandoned some and hence
they had to raise an extra coin to sustain their life here. Others
were victims of domestic and civil wars and some others just came to
the USA with no papers. Therefore, this was the only job that they
could easily get. The only hope that they had was for a better
tomorrow’’ She explained.
took me 6 months working here, saving and supporting my host family
before I had raised enough money to get my EAD. The bad time was
running out quite well and I was getting closer to what brought me
here in the USA’’. Getting a job without the right documents in
the USA is an uphill struggle. The worst of all comes when the
prospect of never being able to go back home hits your mind’’. She
though life is not easy for the people who have come to the USA with
the hopes to improve their lifes, Hazel felt lucky for having a family
to host her for the time being. ‘’Were it not for Jane, my host
mother, I know I could die here. This is a place that you cannot feed
yourself just from the farm, you have to look for a job that will keep
you moving. For the time being I was researching comprehensively on
how to take an active approach to my jobs search strategy. I came here
with good academic papers which could get me a job in this restaurants
or a park. I was told that your school of education, your country of
schooling and even your ethnic name can get you into trouble when
looking for a job here in the USA’’ she said.
after getting my work permit, it took me a full 3 months to secure a
job in Los Angeles. In simple terms, securing a job in the USA is a
race, pure and simple. You take a Resume and find a line of other
hundreds looking for the same post. You have to beat the crowd by
standing out from it. The question is how. I had to stay informed on
any opportunity that came up and be among the first people to apply.
In America unlike Africa, employers value soft skills more than
technical skills. This is with the assumption that Technical skills
can be taught’’. Another thing, In the USA, I discovered that
employers also valued the experience acquired in the country more than
that from a foreign country. You have to put this in mind before you
start thinking that you are discriminated from the others’’ She
important lesson that I learnt, you have to keep your confidence. It
is not as easy as it used to look to find work here especially if you
are checking underground. Now that I got a work permit things got
easier. My American host mother could now get me a job easily. The
next time that the restaurant was looking for staff, they gave me a
job as a waitress’’.
things were a little bit better for Hazel, she was able to raise enough money for her personal life. ‘’ Here, my salary was
a little bit higher, I got an additional $20 dollars in a day and
hence I was able to save enough for my personal life. You know the
life of Americans, they like giving tips if you handled and served
them well. Being a professional in this field, my services were
visible. I earned good tips and became better
off financially that I was back at Home’’.
Here, I was able to vacate to my own apartment, save
a little money and have a good time as well’’ She said.
the new apartment, cleaning ladies, the cooks, vendors, the delivery
agents and many more people that I made friendship with surrounded me.
Being from Kenya, a country that English is mandatory in the schools,
I didn’t have bad days communicating and making friends. I now had
friends and coworkers that I could spend some time out with. Life was
not that boring’’ She said.
‘’ If you are a true friend and you are social and proactive, you automatically become special to me. This means you are invited to have a dinner at my place and / or get out for a party together. In the USA, I discovered that people can be so friendly that you can never be lonely. After sometime, I became committed to creating myself the support that I craved for. More so, the financial security that I couldn’t secure at home.
Why the Grass is Always Greener
reality of the matter is that you can never seem to stay happy
regardless of your particular circumstance. Believe me, this is a
common problem. We can all get a little restless about our career. But
when there is wealth
of opportunities and places where you can choose to live, we
are bound to keep changing our places of work and the place of
residence. ‘’ We all know that we are supposed to take whatever we
are given, stick to it for a while and proof to our boss that we can
be able to do better. However, if you have been doing all this but you
feel that your skills are not being fully utilized, it is time to
unstick yourself. Being a holder of a bachelor’s degree of Tourism
and Management made me feel small working as a waitress in a
restaurant. Although I had a good working relationship with everybody
from the top management to the lowest, I felt that my skills were not
fully utilized’’ She explained. ‘’I held on so long giving
myself enough time to learn the labor market in the USA. It was
totally different from that in Kenya. Employers here valued skills and
experience more than the academic paper.
year, the search for a better job began, I was a very active person
and therefore I was always on the move to attend workshops and
networking. I was on the search for any job opportunity that raised in
Los Angeles day and night. This means that I was fully updated on any
opportunity that came up’’ She said.
Hazel discovered is that she had a valuable experience behind her.
‘’So, I sent resumes to every job opportunity that I qualified
for. Now I was financially
stable and I could afford those expensive rides and free time
with my friends. That is where I got some of the information from. I
applied for somewhere from 30 to 50 jobs before I got an interview.
However, the first interview didn’t result into an offer. I had to
keep walking’’. Hazel said.
are having trouble looking for a job, expand your search, ease your
standards and take the best job that you are offered. ‘’After a
few more months of application, I got another interview with one of
the luxury cruise service company where am working right now. I am not
sure whether it is the truth or the lies that got me hired. I attended
the interview just like any other applicant and the question that I
think got me the job I gave a wrong answer. But you know sometimes
what happens if you are all true, honest and open. I was asked why I
am quitting my job. I didn’t know what to say since I had a good
working relationship with my manager and coworkers. I am convinced the
answer that I gave could have literally made me lose the offer but I
at the same time think it got me the job’’. She said.
think that is all what I wanted in life. I didn’t just want to get a
job and have a high wage. All what I wanted is financial freedom. I
mean to sit down one day and say I have achieved something in life.
That is why all my life is full of sacrifices. I had to sacrifice the
better part of my life for this. Even with the little salary that I
got from my stay in the restaurant, I was able to save enough for my
school. I enrolled to study for masters here. That is part of
investments that I made. Personal investment that no one can take from
me. I now own my own company. A tour company. I have several taxi
vehicles that are operating near the airport. I bought tour buses and
now am also an employer. That is what I wanted. To be able to pay
wages too’’ She said. ‘’Now that I have a family and am
supposed to take care of them, I don’t have much worry. I can handle
them, I can feed them, and I can pay their school fees and buy them
the best clothes. I think that is enough for the parent. Giving your
children what you were not given’’.
How Money Changed Her Life
‘’My life is not changed, am still the same Hazel that I was before. The only difference is that I cannot sleep on an empty stomach. That is what I came here to look for. Back in my country, there were limited chances of doing this. But here if you have papers and the right energy, things are easier. I am now able to sustain my younger sister in college. I left my country when she was still in primary school but I can now promise her a better life. She will be able to complete school and get to the labor market where the reality of life is. I am now able to settle any debt that our mother got when she was trying to raise us. I can also clear her hospital bills when she gets sick at any time. This is not enough, the best thing is that I can be able to visit her more frequently than before. That is what I wanted in life. To have some financial freedom. That is how money has changed me, not so much but it has’’. She said
born poor is not your mistake, but dying
poor is now your personal mistake. In fact it is a sin.
‘’Before I became financially
stable, I experienced many things that I embrace up to now.
The first lesson is that if you want financial
freedom, then do not choose where you will get money from.
Make that extra mile and look for it. Another thing is that it is
better to try and fail than fail to try. If you see an opportunity
that can elevate you to the next level, implement it’’ She
advised. ‘’The other thing is sacrifices. You have to sacrifice
today’s consumption for tomorrow. Before
I could pay for an air ticket with my own money, I had to make very
many sacrifices. I minimized my monthly consumption and saved a lot.
That is why I was able to secure land here in the US and now I can
confidently say I have a stable life. A life that has a sacrificed
foundation’’ She said.
You can never make it in life alone. It took me a thousand hands to be
where I am today. I feel that some people are too good. If not for my
high school friend who opened the doors for me, my host family here in
the USA, my family back at home and my God, then today I couldn’t be
here sharing this story. They all contributed to my success in one way
or the other’’ She narrated.
stories has helped me gain an appreciation of life. The life that
God has given you and you have to get the best out of it. Because of
her personal experience, Hazel knows how hard it is to relocate from
your home country to another country in search for greener pastures.
This is why she has dedicated her life into helping those that are in
despair. The ones that are tied financially and cannot make a step
forward. ‘’When I successfully made it through this dessert of
thoughts and wind, I feel other peoples’ problems more. I like
helping those that are going through similar cases of turbulence and
stabilize their lives. That is the reason why I have adopted several
kids and took them to school in my home country’’. She said.
didn’t settle for less and therefore I shouldn’t sit down and
watch people go through the same path as I did. I was raised up by a
single mother. Being the oldest, I went through ups and downs the same
way my mom did. When my dad died, my younger sister did not get even a
little time to interact with him. That is the pain I feel when I see
my villagers back in Kenya going through this hard time. That is what
I value, elevating people to where I am today.’’
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