Citizen

Yesterday morning I packed my and Gabrielle’s things and we headed out in the early dawn. I dropped her off at my parents’ house and headed down to LA for the last leg of my citizenship adventure: the oath ceremony.

Step 1, get a drink and snack for the road. Stop by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a decaf soy latte over ice and a bagel. Bagel is dry and the drink tastes like stale coffee. Ok, not a good start.

Step 2, sit in the car in LA traffic in 100 degree weather.

Step 3, car starts making awful noise from hell, worried about never getting there (or back).

Step 4, arrive at the location for the oath ceremony, the LA Sports Arena. Park, walk out of the parking lot with my head held high, strangely proud about what I was about to do.

Step 5, step out of the parking garage and get hit by the blazing sun and heat. Hike 3 miles to the arena. Suddenly very sorry about my wardrobe selection (dark wash jeans, black shoes, long sleeve blouse).

Step 6, get in line outside the arena with the hundreds of applicants who also showed up early. Did I mention the blazing sun?!

Step 7, get inside the arena, check in, give away my green card (I won’t need it anymore!). This part of the process is very well coordinated and surprisingly very painless. Walk towards the arena, be given papers and a little plastic flag. Go take a seat in the arena. Read the paper they gave you, a letter from the president welcoming you as a citizen. Wave the little flag. Try to settle in your chair, and keep all your million things you’re carrying in order.

Step 8, 12:30pm: wait. Wait. Wait. For a very long time. Then wait some more. Read a book.

Step 9, 1pm: notice you are sitting down in the arena while “visitors” are sitting in the stands, looking at you like you’re some sort of spectacle. Notice they even have popcorn, hot dogs, and drinks while you’re sitting there drying up like a prune. Don’t dare stepping away from your seat, they could start the ceremony any minute now.

Step 10, 1:30pm: notice that the stadium does not seem to have functioning A/C. The guy next to you starts fanning air with his letter from the president, blowing his sweat-tinted air towards you. Finish your book. Start getting irritated. And very very hungry. Why didn’t you think about getting lunch before coming in?!

Step 11, 2pm: The ceremony starts, 1 hour late! Judge appears, makes you take the oath. You and 3001 other new citizen waves their little flag. Try not to get teary-eyed about the momentous occassion. Ok, this thing should be over now right, I can go home?

Step 12, judge says heart-warming speech about the meaning of the event. Ok, cool, it’s ok, very nice speech, now can we go?

Step 13, person from immigrations says thank you to random people to make the event possible, yadi yadi yada. The mentions a video from the president and a music video of God Bless America. You think “a music video, seriously, this is so lame!”

Step 14, work really really hard at not crying during the music video. Feeling ashamed about being so emotional! And I thought this music video was so lame, why am I crying?! Start blaming low blood sugar.

Step 15, lady starts to sing the national anthem. Fight back more tears. Notice the girl next to you is actually wiping tears from her face. Feel better you’re not alone!

Step 16, every visitor has to leave before the applicants can leave their seats and get their certificate of naturalization. 10% of visitors are not leaving, thinking the instructions on the speaker somehow don’t apply to them. Watch them to wave hello to their family member applicant down below, wish you could slap them with your glare. Go! It’s hot and I’m HUNGRY.

Step 17, they finally make the applicants file away out of the arena. First in, first out. Glad you showed up early.

Step 18, pick up your certificate, once again this process is very well coordinated. Very impressed.

Step 19, hike 3 miles back to your car holding your certificate very hard to make sure not to drop it! Find lemonade stand guy, chug giant lemonade in 2 seconds, first calories since 10am, amen brother!

Step 20, sit in traffic to get back home. Car making so much noise, think it’s about to explode. Patience about to explode. Definitively over the teary-eyed phase.

Step 21, pick up baby, stop by to say hi to a friend and have dinner with them, then go home.

Step 22, sit down at home, eat some more (seriously, after skipping lunch, you might never feel full again!). Finally appreciate the event you went thru today, I became a citizen!

Anyway, isn’t it amazing, they have a oath ceremony every 2 weeks in LA, and every time it’s a stadium full. There were 3002 people that day, I’m assuming it’s their average. You hear how hard it is to become a citizen, and yet immigrants are becoming citizen at the rate of 6000/month in the LA region alone, this country is amazing!

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