My journey to America by Ellie Drake

Ellie DrakeA true life story from a woman, who first had to teach herself English and today, continues to ‘walk her talk’. I was born in Tehran, Iran. For many years during my childhood, I started feeling that something was not quite right in the country that I was born in. People around me told me to give up on my dreams, because to have a dream and not have the opportunity to pursue my dreams would hurt so much. I was in Iran during the bombing of Iran-Iraq war. One day with my own eyes, I saw a rocket in the sky not too far up. It landed on the same street as my High School.  NULL

For many years, I started dreaming about starting my life in a country where I would have the choice to pursue my passions.

It was 5 a.m. I washed my face with the semi warm water while looking at myself in the mirror and catching the light behind my dark almond shaped eyes. I placed the mandatory scarf on my head, attempting to cover what seemed at the time to be too much hair to cover. I picked up my bag full of books and started walking on a steep dirt road about 2 miles away from our first destination. Out of the house to the right then about 100 yards, and then a sharp turn to the left. My favorite part of this first small road was a creek about 2 feet in width. The sound of water going down the creek seemed to help prepare me for the road ahead. Yes then that sharp left turn, and a long stretched out and quite steep road. One step at a time, sometimes I would come back to reality when the sweet yet tired voice of my mom would say “Faster Elham”. Elham is my Persian name. It means inspiration. Ellie is easier to say. I would speed up and walk along the side of my Mom inhaling the cold crisp morning air of a small town called Karadje, 50 miles from Tehran, the Capital of my birth place, Iran. We would walk every day about 2 miles to the top of what seemed to be this never ending dirt road to catch a bus, then travel 50 miles to arrive in Tehran where my parents had decided I would attend middle school. To keep my mind entertained during the very cold mornings of winter or the dry yet very hot days of the summer, I would accomplish one goal.

I would walk up that familiar dirt road, and teach myself one word.

It didn’t matter which word, as long as it sounded like it could be understood by a person from Texas, Florida, New York, California, and! Oh wait I believe those were the only states I knew. I would practice one word per day per 2 miles! That was my goal. ‘Sky’. That’s S K Y. Got it. Now as long as I repeated the spelling another 40 or 50 times, I should be ok. I hope I am pronouncing it correctly!’ The next day, ‘light’. The day after, ‘Food’. Then, ‘School’. Here is one, ‘book’. I remember the word that I almost gave up on. It took an extra day and 2 additional miles to get this one down. ‘T a b l e’! Why isn’t it spelled T a b e l? After all it’s pronounced tab el not tab le ? Word after word, thought after thought, dream after dream, hope after hope!

I must say I believe the principle of “you must first believe it before you see it.” I believed that one day I would be able to perhaps walk on a road not only made out of dirt, but made out of Gold.

Then came the most amazing news of my life. I remember I was 14 years old, and one day when I got home from school I noticed that my Mom and Dad were sitting at the small kitchen table in a small basement apartment that we were renting in Tehran at that time. I guess you could say that we were middle class and my parents worked hard yet accepted nothing but excellence for me. They asked me to sit at the table with them, and my Dad told me that they had decided to immigrate to America. Those words were so sweet to my ears that I still remember how they sounded. After all, America was the synonym for Paradise. It was a place you would dream about before you went to sleep. It was the land of liberty and opportunity. With the help of a very good friend, my father traveled to Cypress to apply for a United States Visa. His first attempt failed, but he had made his decision and with more determination than before he tried again a few months later. Luckily this time has application was accepted. He left Iran shortly after that and went to Florida. He then hired an attorney and started the process of bringing my Mom, Brother, and I here. About 18 months had passed, and the process with immigration was going very slowly. He missed us, and we missed him but we had no choice other than to wait. One morning when my brother and I woke up, my Mom told us that we were going to Dubai to try our luck with getting a visa. When she told my Dad over the phone, he strongly opposed and said that it would be impossible for the three of us to get visas. However my Mom had run out of patience, and she wanted to go to Dubai and that was the end of the story. So a couple of days later we left Tehran for Dubai, with one goal in mind and that was to go to the American embassy and apply for a Visa. The morning after arriving there, we headed for the American Embassy and got there at 4 a.m. to find out that there were a few hundred people there ahead of us. The Embassy opened at 7 a.m. and they started taking people to one of the four American Consul Officials that were there. In front of each of the consul’s booths was standing a translator who would translate the official’s questions to Farsi for the applicants and then translate their answers back to English for the consul. During the following hours, we saw that the only people that were getting approved for a visa were the very few that were generally 65 years or older. Hundreds of other applicants had walked out of their interviews with a deep sadness on their face and their passports in their hands which meant that they had been denied. We waited there until after noon when our number was finally called.

We started walking toward the consul, and suddenly I was greatly inspired and told my Mom that we did not need a translator and that I had decided to speak to the consul myself.

My mom looked at me with a very worried look, yet she accepted my proposal. We walked through the booth and toward the tall blonde American consul who held the key to our future. I still get the residual butterflies when I think about that life changing moment. He was still studying our hand written application which I had filled out with the help of the dictionary, when I spoke in broken English with much more accent than I have now “you must be tired, you have been working from the Morning until Now.” He looked at us with an expression of acknowledgment and granted us a small yet comforting smile. He then asked me a few questions and my response to most of them was “Repeat Please?!” Amongst my answers was the fact that I wanted to come to America because it was free. Actually what I meant was that I wanted to come to America because it was the Land of the Free. After about 2 or 3 minutes, he looked at us and said “you can go now… I will keep your passports, come back at 5 o’clock and you will have the Visa!” It took us a few seconds to realize that we were awake, and not dreaming.

It’s a strange feeling when you are awake yet you think that you are dreaming a Dream.

A Dream for a better future…. A Dream for a better life…. A Dream and a Chance to change your families’ future for generations to come… We walked out of the booth as if we were riding the Concord with frequent flyer miles and of course without our passports in our hands, and immediately realized that a huge group of people were running after us wanting to know what our secret was. I have thought about that moment often. Maybe the consul was just suddenly in a good mood, or maybe he felt the deep burning desire that was burning within us…. I know that I am forever grateful to the people who are the reason why I was able start my life in this country. I know that I am forever grateful to my Dad for his sacrifice, to my Mom for her cou
rage, and to the American consul for his willingness to share his beautiful America with a girl from Tehran who at the moment she stepped onto this land promised herself that she will one day be a great asset to this Country. We landed in Miami International Airport just a couple of months later. It was beautiful to see my Father after about 2 years.

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