a faraway family

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Far Away Family

“A world of opportunity,” this phrase is often used by immigrants to describe the unknown plateau called the United States of America. In the instance of Irma Delapeña’s trek towards America, this phrase was quite accurate. Irma was born in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Her homeland foods were adobo, sinigang, pancit, and lumpia. At the age of in 17, she set foot on American soil for the first time. Though life in America was different than in the Philippines, Irma enjoyed the majority of her experiences in her new land.

Irma’s expectations for America were high, independence and freedom. In her homeland she never encountered these two values much. As a year old, she still lived with her parents. She longed to free herself from the strict hold of her family. In addition, she was sick and tired of the Marcos regime. She yearned to speak her mind freely without getting prosecuted. American culture served as an obstacle for Irma, but one not difficult to overcome. Due to the weather change, Irma had to endure winters. In the Philippines there were only two seasons, wet and dry. She had to adapt to winter, summer, spring, and fall. For the first time, Irma had to wear several layers of clothes. When she first arrived, it was difficult to get a job and socialize with others. Irma was more of a tourist than a citizen. She visited Canada and Europe before settling down in San Diego. Her first job was a secretary at Carriage Trade. She thought that manual labor would have a degree of dignity, but she learned otherwise. She had achieved a degree in Management and felt this job suited her. Her first day of work, she was assigned to vacuum and water plants. All she could think was, “What are they doing to me? I feel so un-useful.” She went through a stage of culture shock. It took a few months to get entirely adjusted to American life. Another obstacle was the time difference. There is a 16-hour difference between the Philippines and the United States. When it was nighttime in the Philippines it was daytime in the United States. Also, she had to learn about the transportation system. In the Philippines, Irma didn’t own a car, and suddenly when she arrived in America, cars became a necessity. In the Philippines, Irma used to eat rice everyday, but she learned the growing trend in America was fast food. It was hard to be away from her family. She missed celebrating occasions together like Christmas. She used to cry whenever she heard a Christmas song because it reminded her of her family. One comforting aspect was that Irma’s favorite leisure activity, shopping, was prevalent in America. Pronouncing English words was difficult for Irma. An instance she recalls was when she was calling her co-worker and called him “dog” instead of “Doug.” Irma never really experienced prejudice, but she could she feel it in restaurants and other establishments. At her work, they offered trainings on cultural diversity. This allowed her to learn about other cultures and how to overcome prejudice. Overall, her experience in America was positive, and she never had anything negative to say about it.

Irma feels she is an American, but she never refers to herself as just an American. She believes she in a Filipino American. She believes that freedom is the ultimate symbol of an American. She will never forget her homeland and her native country. Even though she can’t bring her parents’ grave to America or have a family reunion close by, she still brings her culture into America often. The Filipino values of a close family and hospitability are practiced everyday in Irma’s life.

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She believes that America should never have an open-door policy. Being strict with the type of immigrants they let in are crucial in her eyes. She thinks that background checks are necessary especially with all the terrorism occurring lately. She also believes that immigrants should be physically fit. If she were to speak to an immigrant now about prejudice, she would tell him/her not to focus on prejudice but just to live their life.

I respect Irma for all her work to achieve her dream of living in America. I am grateful that Irma settled in America because it gave me a chance as her daughter to become the best person I could. It allowed me to go to good schools and take courses that will help me further myself in life. I’m thankful because she met my father in America as well. Moving to a new place and settling there is never easy, but my mom is a success story for all other immigrants.

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