Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An immigrant sort of

It's a funny thing when you leave your country for 8 years and then come back afain. It's almost as if you are coming back as a foreigner. My husband is Irish and so are my children and traveling around the world I have learned to meld into others cultures rather then bring America to them. So now here I was with my family in Dublin airport and 8 large suitcases and 5 carry ons. Our lives packed in these 8 bags, filled with clothes, toys, pots and pans. It could have been 100 years before. Ireland in an economic crisis, and with what we could carry moving on to America.

We took up so much space at the counter and blocked all the other customers coming through with their one bag. I could feel that shame again coming over me and the voice, "Who do you think you are getting out of here and where are you going? And how will you take care of your family." I'm glad the woman at the counter was polish and not Irish, maybe she had a bit more compassion for us moving and allowed the 8 bags even though she said the policy was one bag each. Now that the bags were gone I felt a kind of freedom, Yes we had 5 heavy carry ons but we could hide them better. Now I could pretend we were like the other families going away on holiday and off for a great adventure. Not our reality that we were off into the unknown and so much to tackle in such a short time.

We boarded the plane to London and I was reminded that 10 years almost to the date I had come through London to reach Ireland and now I would leave the same way. The flight was luxurious. We were given a drink and a snack of crackers on our 45minute flight. In Thailand we would have been given a whole meal, but I knew the farther west we went the less we begin to get and so I was grateful for what we did get. We arrived to the hustle and bustle of Heathrow. I was excited and nervous and I think my husband just nervous and sad. The girls still had very little idea of what was to become of them. Sami who is just 4 still thinks we are on holiday and will be going back to Thailand. Aiko who is 6 doesn't know what to expect and longs to stay in Ireland, the only place that she calls home. We were a family who had been on the road for a while and hoping this next port would be the place.

The flight was packed with foreigners coming for holiday and fun for the summer. There wasn't a seat empty. Squashed and tired we began the 7 hour flight. The girls watched as many movies as possible, Feargal checked out and slept, and me, well, I tried hard to get my mind off things with a movie but each one seemed to be worse then the rest. The only one I found was Julie and Julia, which was great because it inspired me to write my blog again. The hours seemed to tick slowly by and finally outside the window was New York. "look Aiko, New York." Aiko turned and looked out the window and said "oh Mommy, your home." Yes she was right, I was but again that word if so funny for me. It's not something warm and fuzzy but a bit scary.

Immigration for most Americans is pretty routine. They ask you why you went and what you do and then stamp your book and let you go. But this time we had a package. Although, the girls and I all have American passports Feargal now had a big envelope that was sealed and waiting for the officer to look at and pass us on to the resident section. We were all put into the non-American section and waited for about 45 minutes before we got through. We sat down and played cards as we waited for our life to begin in NY and watched as the Americans quickly passed through immigration. I too felt like an immigrant waiting the long line as we tried to enter. My children were amazing, never a complaint even though they had been up since 8 in the morning Dublin time and it was now 10 at night their time. When we were finally called it was exciting to get Feargal's residency card and start a new chapter of our lives. It was not me coming home but rather us coming to find a home.

We got through with no problem and entered another room where Feargal answered some questions and then was told they would send his green card. Now on with it. We pulled the 8 suitcases off the belt and threw them on one of the large porter carts. I don't know if I was really allowed to take it but with 13 bags, 2 kids and a baby in my belly, I took no prisoners and carried on. We got through customs without a hitch and still no one stopped us. Maybe they thought we were a massive group of tourists coming through and the porter had given the cart to us. Regardless we were free and out in the sweltering heat. After almost 4 weeks of rain and cold in Ireland it was good to be back in heat. It was like being back in Thailand, except that the people weren't as friendly. The taxi man looked at us sideways and tried to persuade us to take 2 taxis but I pushed ahead and Feargal started loading in the bags and without a inch left got them all in.

The plan was to go to Brooklyn, store our bags and get into Manhattan, where we would be saying for the next 6 weeks. But the girls passed out in the taxi and we decided to stay the night in Brooklyn and re-group for the morning. The girls were out and soon after Feargal followed. As for me, well I was too nervous. I packed and re-packed the bags, did laundry and finally forced myself to bed at 10pm. It had been a long journey of almost a year to get there and I knew this was only the beginning. I went to sleep on the couch hoping I had done the right thing moving my family here and hoping I wasn't messing up their world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leaving Thailand

It had been almost 2 years since since we landed in Thailand and as wonderful as it was, the time had come to make some decisions whether or not to continue in Thailand or move on. Thailand offered us space and a life style where we didn't have to worry about where our next meal would come from and time with our children, but at the same time we were getting stuck. Europe and America were slowly getting out of our reach. As long as we had no desire to go home we could afford to stay but beyond that we were getting farther and father away. We now only had enough in the bank for the flight out of there. Beyond that we were also pregnant and wondering where and how to have this baby. I had been blessed to have my babies in Ireland with midwives but Thailand was as medicalized as America. So many decisions to make and what would be the right one for our family? Where would we go, Ireland, America? We had no home anywhere. No place to rest our head. We had to be clear and move quickly. So in April, we decided I would buy a one way ticket to America and check out the lay of the land. I had left the States 8 years before,single and now I was a mother of 2 with one on the way. The stakes were different. The pressure more intense. Plus I would have to leave my family for an unknown time. I packed up and in the only way I could go through it went into denial about leaving. By the time I got to the airport I didn't even cry when saying goodbye to my children. I was numb and terrified. So much pressure on me and not a clue as to what was waiting on the other side. I kissed my crying children good-bye trying to sooth them with a lie that I would only be gone a short time, but they knew I was lying but I didn't know what else to say. I felt horrible and yet it felt like the only way we could move on. We couldn't afford to all go and we had really no where to stay. Single I had more of a chance to stay on a couch but as a family of four, I don't know who would have put us up. So I went alone. When I reached Japan I called home desperately wanting to go back to my family but knowing it was too late. My children begged me to come home but how could I explain this was he only way? How could I explain we didn't have enough money and no where to go? They would be safer in Chiang Mai with their father. I would not be able to provide for them. I felt like a failure as a mother and a person. I now thought of all the women I had met over the years who had to leave their families in a other countries to make money. I could not understand how they could leave. I thought they must be so cold and not caring about their little children. But now I began to understand their pain and their shame. I too felt that way, the pain, the shame.but I had no choice, or did I? I arrived in Los angles with 2 large bags and a mission. I had to make this happen. I handed my custom forms to the officer as I was heading out of baggage claim and as he looked at the paper he saw I was a an American citizen and said " welcome home." In a flash I had tears in my eyes. What did that mean welcome home? Where was my home? And if I was home would I be safe. For a moment my childhood welled up inside me and wanted to cry for days, but there was no time. My childhood was over I needed to focus on my children and making them safe. I spent 3 weeks in Los angles and at the end I realized as sunny and mild as it was. This was not our place. I was blessed with friends and family there that welcomed me with open arms but the clock was ticking and my children were father away each minute and I still had no idea how to take care of them. I was lost and worried. My husband suggested I go to NYC. It was the city I had left behind when I got married and now I hoped it would welcome me back. New York had always been my home, the place in my heart but I also knew how expensive it was and although I had lived their for 17 years on and off, I had always just scraped by. Now with a family, no money or health insurance, a baby on the way and an unconventional job the odds were against me, but I had to go. It was the only way.