Firsthand: A Cold Welcome

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Coming to New York from Guyana was a dream that came through in January 2000. My wife and daughter came with me.

We arrived at JFK airport around 10 p.m. It was snowing and I had on a T-shirt and jeans and was braving the cold standing outside the airport awaiting our hosts. Some people passed by and said, “Young man, get in the airport or put on some clothes.” The weather didn’t feel that bad because I was in the land I had dreamed of.

But that night, my dreams were dampened. Our host’s apartment was a one-bedroom. She pays $600 for rent and another $200 for utilities, and only earns $1,000 a month. I realized people here are facing some of the same problems as in my country.

I began job-hunting at places like building contractors, hospitals, nursing homes and various stores. I got my first job at a nursing home in the food department, where I am still working. I never did work like this before, except for myself at home, sweeping, mopping and taking out garbage. Sometimes pride came upon me because of the type of work I had to do.

My dreams about America seemed unrealistic and began to affect me mentally. It got worse after working and drawing pay for weeks and the money wasn’t enough to assist with the basic needs. We stayed at my mother’s and I worried that we would never make it on our own.

Then, my wife left me. We had a big quarrel one night, and the next evening, when I returned from work, she had already picked up her clothes and our daughter. I told her America really brought out her ingratitude, that she used me: We quarreled over the years in Guyana and she never packed up and moved out.

Now, my focus is on doing more positive things in my life I am going to school to get my GED and after that I would like to go to college. With a GED certificate I would feel much more confident when I go to apply for a job, and it would give me the opportunity for a better living. What I’m earning now is small and I’m struggling.

After all my trials and tribulations, I am feeling beauty. New York has opened my eyes and mind to life survival.