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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To be, or not to be.....

Before I start the next instalment of the Americanisation of Tracie (or resistance thereof), I want to thank everyone for their encouragement. I have had more responses than I had ever imagined and it is most invigorating to know I have a following.

But enough frivolity, and on with the show, so to speak, or write!

I do not like the dentist. If there is one thing I loathe as equally as a visit to the dentist, it is a visit to the doctor for a medical check up, or for an injection; and, if there is anything I hate more than an injection, it is having to have blood taken. In order to become a resident of the United States of America, the latter three things were required.

Irrational fear overtakes me at the mere mention of needles, so needless to say, perusing the requirements of the 'health' section of the immigration forms was tantamount to reading a script for the latest halloween movie. Counting the number of sharp objects that would have to be inserted into my skin, the 'employment' section of the form asking for prospective occupational vocation, could have been completed with the word 'sieve'!

Friday evening was the time when the local clinic held their 'no appointment necessary' immunisation surgery. I arrived and took a ticket, and a seat. The average age of the immunisees was five. I sat among the preschool children, feeling slightly conspicuous as the nurse called my name, and suggested I go first, so as not to upset the children. Apparently, chewing my nails up to my knuckles, and nervously observing the toddlers playing, was not the only problem. When I get nervous, I get slightly louder than normal, and whispered remarks, sometimes, appear to be spoken as if through a megaphone. Comments such as, 'Do they realise they are here to be stabbed?', and similar, were intended to be amusing remarks to ease my anxiety, but as the pressure rises, so does my voice, and parents who had pursuaded their children that they had nothing to be afraid of, were being quizzed by their offsprings with squinting eyes and frowns.

The doctor was a very jovial lady who tried to convince me that polio, diptheria and tetanus were still very dangerous diseases and. if they were not contained, 'we' could find ourselves in the middle of an epidemic. I smiled, confirming that I did indeed share her concerns about the future health of the nation, but that I didnt think my being innoculated. against what were known as 'childhood' diseases, in this day and age, was going to help keep numbers down. With a chuckle, the doctor plunged two needles into my arm, just below my shoulder, waited for the scream, removed them, placed two sponge bob plasters over the puncture marks and all but jammed a 'popsicle' into my mouth.

My certificate for being very brave and doing my part in keeping the nation from suffering a possible pandemic worse than the plague in 17th century Europe, would have to be attached to the paperwork that was to be completed by the next medical official.

Armed with said paperwork, I set forth to the doctors surgery. Once again, my faithful companion, my daughter, Samantha, accompanied me and was never short of words of encouragement. Being told that she didnt like the look of the doctor's assistant, and that she was sure she heard screams from the back room, failed to put me at ease and reduced me to a quivering mess in the waiting room. Fortunately, for all concerned, Samantha was not permitted to pass the red line which led to the consulting rooms.

The removal of enormous amounts of red liquid from my veins did nothing to prepare me for the remainder of the visit. I was asked to take my clothes off, and was handed a piece of terry cloth slightly larger than a flannel. which I should use, as best I could, to cover myself. I am used to meeting my doctor face to face and, perhaps, exchanging pleasantries before a physical examination. Dr. Garcia didnt actually get to see my face. After the initial exam, I continued to lay on my back, legs in a very unlady like position, and answer questions. Dr. Garcia's heavy hispanic accent was just as hard for me to understand as my English accent was for him, and the nurse seemed to think she was in the front row of a Vegas comedy act. She all but whooped and clapped at each, 'Im sorry, could you repeat that'. and hearing answers given to questions that I thought were being asked. rather than those actually being asked. Dr. Garcia left the room still not knowing the colour of my eyes, or knowing if I indeed had eyes.

A week later I returned to the doctor's office to collect a sealed envelope which contained the completed forms and a statement to say that, according to the medical opinion of the professionals. I was not suffering from any life threatening or contageous illnesses, nor was I afflicted with promiscuous diseases. The sealed envelope, application for work and travel permits and the request for residency, together with a cheque for an extortionate amount of dollars, was sent to the Immigration Offices in San Antonio, home of the Alamo, in Texas.

My travel documents and work permit were received, and my fingerprints were taken, sometime before my appointment to meet with Rudy, my assigned immigration officer. However, the appointment duly arrived and I was filled with that sense of dread once again. Something was bound to go wrong!

The night before the appointment, I went for a swim. It was a beautiful evening at the end of June and the temperature had not yet reached the stiffling stage of a Texas summer. The seasonal insects had just started to mature and the mosquitos were very, very hungry. Did I mention I had developed an allergy to the strain of mosquitos during this year? As I swam to the edge of the pool, I felt a sharp nick just to the left of my nose. I left the pool and, by the time I had reached the house, the swelling was very visable.

The following morning I awoke unable to see past my nose. This was not a metaphor. The swelling between my nose and eye was so severe, all I could see was skin. Not able to tend to my wounded ego, and accompanied, this time, by my knight in shining armour, Dana, I left for the ninety minute drive to the Homeland Security Office. As ordered in the letter, mobile phones were left in the car together with any objects that would be unauthorised in the building. I walked through the security arch with no problem. Dana, on the other hand, buzzed loudly. His story was that he thought he had put his keys in his pocket but when he went to retrieve them, they were not there. The original set of keys that he thought he had picked up, was in fact his pocket knife. I stood there, shock on my face, squeaking inaudible sounds, which eventually erupted into the screaming accusation, 'YOU BROUGHT A WEAPON INTO A GOVERNMENT BUILDING!!!!'

Almost at my wits end, I went to the ladies room to regain composure before meeting Rudy . Slightly calmer I attempted to leave the restroom. Unfortunately, the door was just a little bit stiff. As I pulled, hard, the door jammed on my foot, cutting my toe and causing it to bleed rather heavily. Limping back to the waiting room, Rudy appeared and called my name. He didn't seem at all phased at being greated by a woman whose face was grossly swollen on one side (by now the swelling was spreading around the side of my face), and blood spurting from her foot. Calmly, he led us to the lift, then along the corridor, where he found a box of tissues and nonchalantly handed one to me. and into his cubicle. He lifted the receiver of the telephone on his wall and said to one of his associates, 'Yes, they are here. He seems a bit intimidating and she seems nervous. I think you should inform security and when they come back downstairs and tell them to observe closely'. He returned the phone to the craddle, smiled as I attempted to lift my jaw from the floor, and explained that there was a couple who were rather suspicious awaiting an interview with an immigration officer! The realisation that I thought he was referring to me, caused possibly the first sign of emotion from Rudy, and he laughed heartily. At last, at ease, the rest of the interview was a breeze.

Six months later, Rudy called me to say that my application had been approved and my conditional residency card would be mailed to me as soon as I sent a photo to be scanned. Two years later I had to be reinterviewed and refingerprinted in order to gain my unconditional permanent residency.

The only regret I have is not reporting the photographer who snapped my likeness for my green card, for cruelty and abuse. The steriotypical passport photo is a masterpiece in comparison. I truly look like an alien, more of ET variety, on my card.

The whole procedure was, on reflection, relatively painless. I am now legal and am afforded the luxery of going through the shorter citizen/resident queues at immigration, on both sides of the atlantic. My only problem is the fear of flying.

But another story.

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