The American Decision : Part One
I love being a citizen of the Bahamas. I feel privileged to have grown up there. It's refreshing. The history is amazing. The culture is rich. The people are extraordinary. They are colorful. They are confident. It's been an absolute honor to be numbered among them. For 35 years when asked, "what's your nationality?" I've derived great pride, and pleasure in the response: "I'm Bahamian." The decision I made earlier this year, began a process that will forever change the way I answer that question.
In April I finally decided to apply for United States citizenship. In the past four, and a half months I've had several appointments with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) concerning this decision. The most recent occurred on Thursday. It was step three in a minimum, four step process. At this appointment, you are interviewed, and tested on American history, government, and civics. There is also a reading/writing portion to the exam. In advance of this appointment you are given a booklet containing a hundred possible questions, and the answers. Of those hundred questions you'll be asked ten questions, of the examiners choosing. You must answer six of them correctly to pass. The reading section turned out to be easy as reading a single, simple sentence. By simple I do mean simple, a subject, a verb, and an adjective. The writing portion was more of the same. It consisted of writing a single elementary school sentence, five words in all.
The interview portion is only tricky, if you are a criminal. They pretty much ask the same questions, repeatedly. They change the wording each time, in hopes you'd divulge something incriminating. If you were exhausted, or super nervous you could get tripped up, but if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. Really by the time you've made it to this stage in the naturalization process, it's all downhill. They've done all the background checks etc, They know who you are. HA! They probably know your DNA structure by then.
On Thursday I walked into that office, and took the test. I sat through the interview amazed by the ease of it all. My interviewer was very gracious. As it turns out, he and his wife have six kids. They homeschool them all. This homeschooling mommy felt an instant conection. I would have loved the appointment to last longer. I wanted to hear more of his experiences with homeschooling. But alas, my interview was done. "Cool immigration dude" had to go back to work. More immigrants awaited their interviews. I was informed that I passed, and was ushered back to the waiting room, to await further instructions. I stepped back into waiting, area, and looked over the crowd. It occured to me that this is the last time I would be numbered among them, the immigrants, the foreigners in this land. USCIS is the one place you can go (besides the airport) to get a cultural fill. There are people from every continent, and corner of the globe represented there. It's a surprise every time. You never know what countries will be reflected there on a given day. As frustrating as the process can be, this was a highlight to me. I can't define why it's so easy to interact with people there. Perhaps it's a mutual appreciation for a shared experience. Whatever the reason, you feel oddly at home in the one place designed to address the fact that you are not at home. As I closed the door behind me, from across the room came a question, this time in an African accent. I had heard it asked to those before me, "Did you pass?" I paused to respond, "yes." As though rehearsed cheers went up all over the room. Congratulations in all accents, nods, and genuine smiles of support everywhere. I felt strangely at home among this foreign family. I found a seat, and passed the time chatting to a Liberian couple. Shortly, an immigration officer came out. She called my name, and gave me a letter with information concerning my final appointment. This is the last step in this process. Turns out it was scheduled a week later, this coming Thursday. God willing, on that day I'll be a sworn citizen of the United States of America. As the time approaches so does the realization, of the magnitude, of my decision. I don't know what the future holds for me as an American. This I do know: I will FOREVER be grateful for the nearly 36 years I've spent being a Bahamian.