Ten years ago (minus a day or two), P, draped in yellow and orange marigold garlands, hugged his family at the Tribhuvan International Airport. The group who gathered to see him off posed for a photo (which still hangs on our refrigerator). In the photo P looks different—much skinnier, with longer hair and tinted glasses. His expression is a mixture of excitement, nervousness and sadness. His little cousin at the time was about six years old, she was the smallest one in the photo—now she is nearly done with high school. After the photo P again said goodbye, trudged off to the departure gate, and boarded a plane bound for Bangkok. It was almost two years before he returned for a visit.
It took him over 48 hours—flying from KTM to Thailand, then Tokyo, then Minneapolis (where he briefly met up with a cousin who, during P’s layover, brought him to the “Mall of America.” An undoubtedly overwhelming first entry into the US, P fretted at the cost of an alarm clock when he converted dollars into Nepali rupees. His cousin gave him sage advice, “Stop doing that. You’ll never survive here if you keep converting everything.”) then from Minnesota to Boston, and finally to Bangor, Maine. Once the tired traveller departed his final airport, he was greeted by his friend and former high school roommate S, who drove him the final two hours north to their small college campus in rural “Downeast Maine.” Today is the anniversary of his initial arrival on US soil.
A decade in America.
Ten years is a long time. It’s hard for me to imagine being away from my own country for that long. P said that when he initially left, he knew he was leaving for quite a while, but he can’t believe it’s been ten years already, “Time passes fast in the US.”
Now—almost three American university degrees later, soon to be married, with lots of memories under his belt, I guess today is one of reflection.
I can’t speak for P, but I think about all the immigrants who have come to America who never had a chance to go home again, who missed weddings, births and funerals. We are lucky that we now live in an age of great technology. P is able to talk to his parents often on the phone, and video chat through Skype and Gmail. We are able to travel to Nepal every few years, and P’s family has been able to visit. We make an effort to highlight beloved and important aspects of Nepali and American culture so that both of us feel respected and appreciated in our household.
So happy ten years to P. Perhaps someday we will be celebrating a happy twenty years… or perhaps a happy ten years to me in Nepal. There is a lot of life (knock wood) in front of us, so we will have to see what will happen.