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Friday, June 9, 2017

(Re)Born In The USA

In my desperation for the upcoming doom to come (6 more days!), I was reminded of something else. June 15 was the day my relationship was over, but June 25 was the day when my other relationship started. It was the day I leave for, and consequently, arrived in the US.

What was it like to leave the only place you have known all your life, in exchange for something new? My longest flight till that moment was 1.5 hours flight between The Capital and my home island. I was never even been to another island, only those two. Yet there I was, sitting in the waiting room of an airport terminal waiting for my 24-hour flight to start. Excitement ran through me like a spring shower, deliciously refreshing but a bit shocking as well. I, the control freak, started to think the many ways that the trip or flight could get botched. What if they don't accept my visa, what if I don't have all the paperwork, what if they refused my entry and told me to go back home? 

It was absurd, and I know that. Listen girl, I told myself, you got all the paperwork you need, you are of clean background, and your husband-to-be is as clean as can be. You're good, I said, you're good. That calmed me a little bit. I thought of many scenarios that could happen and the best ways to deal with them, all pretty much ended up with, "Well, there's nothing I can do about that…" With that, I had no other option but to chill. 

I knew I got it all good, but it was still scary, very scary for me. People say, "If you are worried, that means you have something to hide,". That was definitely not the case with me. Maybe it's because back home things could still get wrong even when you have everything in order. Maybe because it's the USA and I've read far too many stories how TSA or immigration officer treats you like a criminal. Or maybe, just maybe, because I will end up 8,000 miles away from my comfort zone, with people that don't speak my language and probably don't care much about me. Either way, it was scary.

But then I saw my little backpack carry-on, and the rush of excitement was running through me once again. I have spent the last 3 weeks I had in Bali to prepare for my departure. The little brown canvas shoes with a white flower stitched on it - which I wore on that flight - was purchased during that period, along with a pretty pair of dark red flats with a bow on top for my wedding shoes, safely tucked in the checked luggage the size of another carry-on. A copy of Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park" in English. Gifts for his family (I sounded like the Spaniards coming to find a new world lol). My wedding outfit: the tailor-made Kebaya (traditional lace blouse) and a silk cloth to wear as a skirt with matching sash. My asthma inhaler, 3 of them. The beautiful maroon trench coat that I purchased in Jogjakarta, solely for USA life. Those and very few clothes, that's all I have. And him. I got him waiting for me in the US. And a whole new life with him.

It wasn't until my second flight, when I depart from Taipei, that I realized the consequences of my action. As the plane took off from Taoyuan International Airport, as the lights below us grow dimmer and smaller till there is nothing to be seen, I cried silently on my seat. This is it, I thought to myself, there is no turning back. 5 hours flight to/from Taipei is doable, a lot of Indonesian people do that. The additional 12 hours flight to the US? Not so much. It seemed only the rich and the working can go to the US, I was neither. I've only realized this now, but back then I was very worried. What if I have to go home and I don't have money to go home? What if something happened to my family and I can't help them? What if I can't find a job? What if I have to do manual labor since I sucked at details and have no physical strength at all? For the first time in my adult life, I will be fully relying on someone, and that scared me. And yes, being 23 hours flight away from your home will pretty much turn you into freak out mode.

The first thing I saw when we start the landing process, was the 405. It was amazing. I have never seen any road as large as that one. I mean how many lanes were there, 6 or 8? My fears and worries gladly took the back seat as my curious instinct kicked in in hyperdrive, absorbing every detail and every sensation. This is it, I told myself, USA. I would never, ever thought that I'd be able to come to the USA, let alone to (possibly) stay there. I wouldn't be able to afford it. At the same time, I had thought I will never, ever get married. I simply was not attractive enough. Yet there I was, waiting in the immigration line at LAX. The two things that I thought will never happen, would happen almost simultaneously. It was madness. It was folly. But I'm glad I did.

The hours and days after were times of discovery. I discovered that immigration officers can be cool and efficient and friendly, as I glide flawlessly through the checkpoint, right to the arms of my very surprised husband-to-be who just arrived with a handful of roses. To this day he still accused me of cutting through the line, since nobody can go pass immigration that quickly. Hey, I look innocent, what can I say? I discovered the giganticness of US freeway system, or at least the 405. I discovered that an IHOP entree is large enough to feed a family of 4. I discovered that Katy Perry was probably lying about hot California girls since it was freaking cold. I discovered that yes, there can be fog on the beach in morning time (what blasphemy!). I discovered that cars and vehicles are frighteningly fast, and since everything is so far apart (I lived in Huntington Beach that time), you are stuck there without a car. I discovered that I hate being not in control my own life: no scooter, no permanent ID (yet), no money, no job.

But I learned and adapt quickly. I learned about the transportation system. I got a birth control implant from Planned Parenthood. I visited places like library all on my own. We move to another city 2 months after I arrived, and I learned some more. I learned to master the art of grocery shopping, and with that, the art of cooking. I went and got my state ID by myself. I apply for my conditional green card, and afterward, my social security number. I looked for volunteer jobs. I joined Meetup groups and meet new people. Everything was new to me, and even the sight of different nuts on an autumn sale made me squeal in excitement. Drinkable tap water was life changing, and so does the notion that nutcracker doesn't have to be in the form of a soldier. 

Looking back, it was a girl who left Indonesia almost 4 years ago. Despite her age, it was a young girl who excitedly prepares herself for the trip of her lifetime, who left her home filled with hope and filled with love, a naïve being who believed everything will be perfect. It will be a grown-up woman who'll return home for a visit. A woman who have seen a lot, experienced a lot, and matured from what had happened. A woman who understand more about love, and who knows how to love herself properly. Being in the USA not only taught me about myself and about life, but also about the world itself. The barriers around me were torn down, both in my mind or through the accessible information system. I understand more, and consequently, I love more. I did not evolve, I was reborn: better, stronger, smarter. And to that, albeit all the pain and tears and sadness I went through, I thank my stars. Hello, Ary 2.0. I love you.

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