Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Day to Remember

The Delta was ready to land at the Seatac Airport. It was 10.25 in the morning. I looked around, and tried to think of what was gonna happen when this plane was landed. My heart beat quite fast. I never imagined that I could finally be in the US. A country that I really wanted to see the most. The stewardess came toward me asking me to fasten the seat belt. Bismillahirrahmanirrahim...that's the only thing I said when I realized the plane was successfully landed. The journey was begun.

I stepped my feet on the land of the US for the first time. Again, I looked around. Everything was just so different to me. I had no idea what to do next. The only thing I remembered was nobody would come to pick me up. The college only gave me the booking code of a shuttle bus. I saw the people were standing in a long queue, waiting for their turns to be interviewed by the officer. I decided to follow them.

Then, a horrible thing happened to me. One of the officers came to me and took me out of the line. He looked at me deeply. “Is there anything wrong with me?” - that's the only question popped into my head at the time. He asked me to sit with the other five men in a different room. A man from Philippine asked me “Is it your first time coming to the US?” Yes, it is. I realized there's something unusual happened to me at the time. I was the only woman got the special interview.

After waiting for an hour, the officer finally called my name. I was so worried thinking of what he was gonna do next. I came toward him speechlessly. He asked me to put off the jacket that I was wearing. I put it on his desk. He looked over all the pockets of the jacket. I told him that I didn't have anything in there, I put all my stuff in my bag. He looked at my backpack suspiciously, but he finally didn't look over it. He spent couple minutes reviewing all the documents I had, such as passport, DS 2019, and Indonesian ID. After reviewing all the documents, the officer then asked me a lot of questions. He asked my parents' name, my parents' job and my purpose for coming to the US. I answered all the questions patiently while hoping that he would let me go soon. But, then, I felt pretty shocked when he asked me to open my "hijab". I never thought that he would ask me to do that. That wasn't right at all. I tried to fill up some courage left inside me and told him that I wouldn't be able to do that. Then he, again, looked at me deeply and said “I just wanna see if you have ears or not”. What...? I couldn't believe that he wasn't sure if I had ears or not. I looked around and found that there were only two people left in the room, me and the Philippines man. The officer was still waiting for my response. “Oh God, I wanna make it faster. I really wanna go out of this room” - my pray at the time. I took a deep breath and then told the officer that I wouldn't open my head cover, but I'd let him touch me instead and make sure that I have ears. He seemed satisfied with that and finally let me go. But, the last thing he said really shocked me. He said “it is a procedure to prevent terrorists from coming to our country”.

While walking to the claim area to find my luggages, I asked myself “Do I really look like a terrorist?”. A tiny little girl, with a small backpack and a letter from US Department of State, suspected as a terrorist. How could they think like that? But then I realized one thing “Is it because of my appearance wearing hijab?” I hoped not, cause we can't judge anybody by their appearance. If that was the reason, I would be very sad. And by those experiences, I promised to myself that I will never ever judge people by what they look like, what they wear or where they are from. 

(Seattle, August 9th, 2010)

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