Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Twenty-six years ago today... family came to America. My dad was just 32 years old, and my mom was 28, the age I am now. They brought with them four small children, ages nine, seven, four and two (days away from turning three -- that's me).

Like the anniversary of our American citizenship, I wanted to remember this day, but I couldn't do it without help from my family. My parents will remember more than the rest of us, but whatever my siblings can remember I'll add as well. I myself cannot remember a thing. There are pictures, and I have seen them many times, but I'm pretty much blank on the subject.

Here are some of my dad's memories:


I remember selling all our furniture. I remember selling our Toyota stationwagon and Trevor heaving a big sigh as someone drove it away.

We had photos taken before we left by a pro. They were black and white. Tracey could not smile. She was only three, and very shy. Mom said, "But she isn't smiling in these pics." I said, "But that is her. The photos captured her as she really is right now - tiny, cute, adorable." So mom agreed.

There was the sadness of saying goodbye to family in Bulawayo. We left them all behind forever. But there was the excitement of taking off in a Boeing 727 from Bulawayo -- we kind of did a very tight and high-angled corkscrew upwards to evade any missiles that might be hidden in the bush surrounding the runway. There was the relief of getting out of a terrorist war which infected and affected our lives every day.

We arrived in Johannesburg, and that night boarded a Jumbo jet, the biggest plane we had ever seen. The flight was long...about 18 hours. We stopped to refuel on an island on the north west coast of Africa. Isla de Sol..."Island of the Sun" (Portugal's island).

We arrived in New York and we grabbed six carry-on's and four kids and hurried out the plane. We had never seen those walkways, so I was shocked when I walked out the plane and found myself in a big room filled with immigration people. But they processed us quickly , giving us all green cards and we boarded a Brannif flight for Dallas. While changing terminals, we had to use two taxis. We had 18 pieces of luggage. I got into it with one taxi driver who tried to overcharge me -- the other did not. I had just come out of a war in Africa and I wasn't afraid of this guy. But then he started to summon a crowd around him. Just when I was about to cave and pay more, he accepted the last $10 I had. Welcome to New thanks.

[A Christian family] met us in Dallas and took us out to eat. What wonderful and generous people. When we drove to their home in Ennis, I thought that there was a party going on near their home as there were so many cars. They were just the neighbors' cars that they were not using. "What affluence," I thought. It blew me away.

The next day we went to the Dallas State Fair and had a blast...except when they set off the fireworks. Big bangs were what I dealt with in Africa and I jumped two feet in the air because it sounded like a landmine going off. Our kids had never seen fireworks, so Russ and Trev took off running thinking it was a terrorist attack. Russ was seven, Trev was four. Another man and I had to literally chase them down or they would have reached El Paso.

But it was so exciting to be in America. I remember the thrill of being in such a great big, free country where I did not have to watch out for landmines, ambushes and such. There were 20 different types of bread. New cars. What we used to use again and again sometimes, Americans threw away as trash. And it

I have never regretted bringing my children to the USA. I wanted them to have freedom, education and not have constant danger in their lives.

Thank God.

Here are some memories from my mom:

October 6, 1978

The trip was such an exciting adventure, I never once felt apprehension or fear. We felt so privileged to be accepted to enter the wonderful country of the U.S.A. Our four children were equally excited, which made the transition much easier.

It was hard leaving family members, but we felt as though we were going to pave the way for them. Unfortunately, that has not happened as yet, and as the years go by, and Christmas holidays come and go, it tugs at my heart a little more each year to be apart from the ones I love so dearly.

I remember the day, October 6, so well, as our plane touched down, I could not believe we were standing on American soil, thousands of miles from our homeland. But everything was so new and different, the sights, the smells, the sounds, the people, we were awestruck. We were so kindly treated by our American friends, and being part of the Church of Christ, it was like an extended family, and they just covered us with love and eased our lives so much. God bless Christian people whose purpose in life is to love mankind. We would not have made it without that kindness.

Every year, on October 6, we remember our life-changing move, and are so thankful we live in this wonderful country of America. I would not wish to be anywhere but right here. It is a strange experience moving to another land. In some ways, you remain a stranger for the rest of time, since your roots are not here. I feel that, but it is not the fault of the people of this great land, but something in my heart. Your birthland is somehow entwined and ingrained in your being, and remains there forever.

But our children are more a part of this land than we are, and for that, the change was worth all the struggles we endured. Leaving the soil you were born on, is like a ripping, and a tearing, but there is healing and mending. It just takes time.

We have found much to be thankful for in this land. We have never regretted making the move.

My sister, Kerry, was nine at the time. Here are her memories:

Coming to America....

I remember the house beginning to look very empty but I couldn't help think that this was going to a fun thing. Little did I understand that this was going to be a long-term settlement even though Mom and Dad tried to explain the impact of it all. I eagerly told all my friends and they were in amazement. I mean, I knew some Americans and knew that there was much more in America...better toys, better places to see, freedom from the anxiety of waiting for your Daddy to come home safely and no more nightmares and looking under your bed at night for witches and terrorists.

The whole saying goodbye thing is a blur to me. I guess that was mostly the job of Mom and Dad. I do remember all the suitcases and feeling overwhelmed with making sure our whole family stayed together at the airport. I was the oldest and it was just imperative to me that we not become separated on this huge journey to never-never land. The plane flight was very stuffy to me, lots of people, but I managed to sleep and then I remember the stop for fuel at the little island. Oh, that place was so
like an airport. I just remember lots of water on the floors of the bathrooms and it was just a bit primitive and smelled really bad. Then on to New York and I thought, wow, we really are doing this America thing for sure. But the taxi drivers were not so friendly and I was ready to turn around and go home when I saw Dad arguing with one of them. I thought that there was going to be a fight or he would get hurt. I was pleased to learn that this would not our final destination.

Then we arrived in Texas and I remember going to eat and was in awe of all the highways and cars and restaurants and stores.......oh, yes........have to mention the amazing Piggly Wiggly grocery store!! Russ and I attended school for about a month in our short stay in Ennis, Tx and we had a ball. We rode in the back of [a family friend's] Subaru truck which had built-in seats in the open back with seatbelts that faced backwards.....we thought we were the coolest and I think we waved at several cars the first few days. I was nine and was CRAZY about Sesame Street. I was so impressed with all the songs that those puppets could sing and I loved the variety of chips and candy that even [family friends] had at their own house. Also, we could now wear normal everyday clothes to school instead of uniforms and we could buy ice-cream from a cold machine in the school cafeteria!

Moving to Stanton was a good thing for us too. Driving there from Ennis was hilarious. I'm not sure how long it took us to get there but I know that poor Dad was trying to adjust to driving on the right hand side and so taking the correct highway was torture. I just remember entering a couple of highways and then he would say, "Oh, man, we're gonna have to turn around and do this again!" We finally did find Stanton and luckily they had very little traffic and no rush hour! It was quite an adjustment beginning school as a white African girl. It took me weeks, maybe months, to figure out what a Mexican was and I finally asked a friend to show me one......I didn't have a clue and I had been sitting next to several in my class. Then I remember a few kids asking me if my parents had black skin? Well.....there were many more times of unfamiliarity but I found my place in this huge continent called the United States of America and what a trip it has been. I am grateful to be here. Even though there are some moral struggles and warped people and their ideas, I much prefer living in the United States where opportunity is abundant and where I can see many different landscapes that God has created just in our part of the world. I pray every day that it will remain and everyone will pledge, "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". Love to all my family and thanks Mom and Dad for your very special gift!

Here is what my brother Russ (seven at the time) had to say:

I remember being at the State Fair and running from the fireworks because I thought they were going to come down on us.

For now, that is all (unless Trev wants to add something later). Thanks to my family for their contributions to this entry. It just didn't make sense to write about this all on my own. It is something we experienced together, and we will always remember this day, October 6, as a very special day.

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