Washington DC- An immigrant’s Diary-Part I

The Journey of an immigrant- 

I was not born in this county, I was not born in the State, I wasn’t even born in this country. Its been close to 17 years for me in this country. An immigrant with aspirations, dreams and looking to touch and feel that I had only seen through postcards, movies and commercial clips and Time magazine. A few decades back I would have made my way on a steamer across the Atlantic, processed at Ellis Island and made my way into the Big Apple.

The sheer romance of this journey, the awe inspiring narratives were what my dreams started to be spun around. It took a British writer,  Jeffrey Archer to vividly describe the success of an immigrant from small town Poland. “Kane and Abel” that is the book. The graphic and vivid portrayal of Abel Rosnowski and his rags to riches story was the recipe for several of the west bound aspirants. And as time rolled by, the dream seemed to get far and further away with each passing year.

And then you start to wonder- Opportunities do not come around if risks are not taken. Life definitely gives you lemons, but being served lemonade is completely unheard of. If the New York bound ship is not docked for you at the harbor, then you start to look at options. You could still set out west but you may have to have a few pit stops. Now that is something that clicked inside me. I am thinking, even the Arabian peninsula is west of where I grew up.

The journey begins- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

It was an extremely sunny cloudless day in Oct 1995 (I later realized 364 of the 365 days are extremely sunny and cloudless) and I landed with a deep sense of foreboding, not sure what to expect but somehow fairly certain that I was a second class citizen. This is not fiction and the way the immigration officer waves me through I started to resent my own self, my seemingly impulsive decision to even set foot in the peninsula. And then the journey to a remote camp, 150 miles into the desert hugging the Red Sea was me slumped in the backseat, still unable to fathom the deep change that was happening right in front of me. Miles and miles of dunes, herds of camels, some of them on the back of Toyota pick ups and the relentless sun refusing to hide. Now I am starting to hallucinate- I am going to be asked to join a plethora of workers, whipped across my bare back and pull the huge pieces of rocks to create a pyramid like structure. Not entirely delirious but the projection of fears emanating into something evil.

I arrive at the camp and instead of running across the Bedoins or even hearing the Arabic dialect, I almost get run over by group of loudly chattering Filipinos. Then some Sri Lankans, some Indians then I spy some gringos. This was going to be my microcosm, a camp by the Red sea, by no means a resort but certainly not made up of stuff I had earlier imagined. Reality sinks in and the jet lag hits me. I am off to lala land.

To be continued……



Author: Ashok Iyengar

A published author and a Project Management professional I love to travel, mentor and network. Writing my travelogues, commentaries on political and social issues I create meaningful conglomerations between the west and east. I live in the Washington DC metro area. Just started a new journey with assisting teaching Project Management classes at GWU, Washington DC

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