Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A New Beginning

Jan 9th marked a new beginning, I was naturalized to be an American citizen. Now I can proudly call myself an American. The ceremony, which was held in St Paul, was remarkable. The projection screen showed pictures of immigrants many years ago from all over the world. When I looked at their faces I tried to imagine their experiences such hardship, reliance on each other, sacrifice, and hope. It's not easy for me to imagine how it is like to bring my whole family to a place where you can't simply go to a store to get what you need, especially food, not to mention shelter.

The judge gave a memorable speech, told us the story of his grandmother. Her father came first and worked at a mine, I believe in Iron Range, to save up money to bring the rest of his family from Croatia. Her grandmother sent her little grand-daughter to the ship. I tried to imagine her grandmother's feeling that she wouldn't be able to see her grand daughter ever again. His grandma didn't have much food and she was very hungry in the ship on the way to New York. Then all the way from New York to Minnesota she ran out of food. My guess it was at least a 2 day trip by train. Fortunately there were some men from Germany who gave her some slides of apple and that's all she had the entire trip !!! She never forgot how hungry she was. Her family and other immigrants lived in a community relying on each other. Her father didn't live long, he died in a mine accident.

You may be surprised that it's my first citizenship. Yes I was born in Indonesia and so were my parents. In Indonesia citizenship by birth is only granted to pure indigenious people (inter-racial children with an indigenious parent is not eligible either). While driving back from the ceremony to my house it took me awhile to sink in the feeling of belonging to a country. When I opened the door and stepped on the ground I felt the unsettling feeling of being a foreigner is finally over.

While waiting for the ceremony, all new citizen candidates were given a big envelope. I had the chance to read the preamble and the entire constitution to have a better idea what the founding fathers stood for. We made an oath and pledge of allegiance. I do not believe in what many people think about the idea of patriotism. Don't get me wrong, I will keep my oath. To me patriotism now is about keeping the ideal of the founding fathers and integrity of the entire nation. Thanks God for all His blessing after all. He must have a plan for me.