Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It Took 9 Years and 3 Days

In the past 9 years and 3 days I have:

-Lived in 2 different countries
-Lived in 4 different States in the USA
-Went to 4 different high school in the period of one year
-Had my first Thanksgiving meal
-Experience my first proper winter (with snow and everything)
-Hated my first winter
-Lost an accent and replaced it with an new one
-Moved 11 times and lived in 11 different homes
-Graduated from high school
-Went to University
-Got my first car
-Crashed my first car
-Won the Greencard Lottery (technically, my dad won it which automatically got my mom and myself a greencard too)
-Spent $28,000 in lawyers fees and applications papers to not get kicked out of this country
-Became an illegal immigrant for the period of 1 week (I had to wait for my Greencard papers to get processed, in the mean time my visa had expired)
-Found and married my best friend and soul mate
-Started my own business at the age of 20 (the first time in Utah, the second in Colorado)
-Survived our apartment flooding
-Became an American Citizen

Durban Airport, South Africa. September 22nd, 2002

That is the only picture I have of the day I left South Africa. Now just over 9 years later I find myself inside the office building of the U.S Department of Homeland Security Pledging an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, being told I'm now lawfully an American Citizen and watching a Video of Barrack Obama congratulating me on my new Citizenship.

Who knew that today in Colorado, 50 people from 30 different countries swore an Oath to become American citizens? Cheers were cried, a few tears shed and lots of hugs broke out as we were all dismissed and congratulated with a piece of paper proving our new nationality.

To my left sat a man from Nigeria and to my right sat a man from Albania, both dressed in fine suits and shoes. For a second I thought I had missed the newsletter telling me about the dress code. All I wore was my make up from the day before, slightly combed bed hair and a sweater with tights. Frankly, I was uber-ticked that I had to wake up at 6:50am for this ceremony and spent the hour and a half's drive to Homeland Security griping about it. I was humbled when I walked into the office and saw families and friends of families excited for this eventful day. Only then did I realize that today WAS a really big day for all of us. We had all struggled for several year to get the honor of saying our oath and being called American Citizens.

Grumpy, sleep-deprived Juanique was now humbled and slightly excited Juanique. I even wished I had taken time to put some make-up on. I guess the struggle to get to this point wasn't really fought for by me but by my parents. So I have them to thank for this day. I didn't really understand why they were so excited for this day to come. I didn't even tell them I was doing it until I had an hours worth of Stop-Start traffic to endure prior to my ceremony. When my parents got sworn in 2 months ago they threw a big party with all their South African friends and celebrated becoming Americans. They are the ones who struggled with the lawyers and IRS and the people who submitted our paperwork. They are the ones who left their jobs and all they had owned, earned and worked for to come to the States, where as I was just a lucky recipient of their sacrifices.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

So maybe if I was there with them getting sworn in I would have cried in gratitude for all their hard work and sacrifice in getting their children to the USA. If Tristin was there I may have smiled a little more about it and shared with him my hopes and hesitations of this day. However, what I could do was celebrate this life altering day with 50 different strangers from 30 different countries. For just an hour of our lives we were all comrades in that room that had shared similar struggles is different countries and were now at the same pinnacle in our lives.

This morning I woke up a South African, and now this afternoon I blog as a New American Citizen. Maybe on the 4th of July I'll actually get in the American spirit and start wearing Red, White and Blue.