GEORGE KARABINIS
June 17, 2017
MARIA RUNGWAT WARREN
June 17, 2017

ELENA NIELSEN

“May 1994 was the year my life unraveled. My family was excited.  It was the 23rd  of May and we were all packed and ready.  This was the day that my husband, a U.S. born citizen, was taking us to the United States for a one-month tour.  My daughter was looking forward to seeing Snow White and other Disneyland characters.  Our first stop upon entry was New Mexico to visit my father-in-law and to test fly the new airplane that my husband just bought.  Seven days after, all our plans changed.  It was as if the world froze. My husband’s airplane crashed and that ended his beautiful life.

The tragic accident abruptly ended our vacation and thrust our family in turmoil. Suddenly, we were stuck in this country where we did not know anyone, had no friends, no relatives, except my husband’s family whom at that time we were just trying to get acquainted with.  The plan to visit Disneyland was now replaced with plans for my husband’s interment and dealing with the necessary arrangements and informing families and friends about the sad news.

While we were in the process of grieving, I also had to face the harsh reality that I would now have to provide for our daily needs while we were in a foreign country.  I had to face the fateful question of whether we stay in the United States as an immigrant or go back home to the Philippines.  Going back to the Philippines would mean being home to familiar soil, friends, family, and the culture we were accustomed to.  Staying here as an immigrant would mean abandoning our old lifestyle, and assimilating ourselves to our surrounding.  Getting used to the food, the people, customs and traditions, and the four seasons.  At the same time, I realized that it also would mean better opportunities for me and my family, and a better education for my child.  As a parent, my first priority was to provide a bright future for my daughter.  Choosing to be an immigrant in this country was for me the only true wealth that I can bequeath to my child.

I am aware that there will be challenges and bumps we will encounter along the way. To feel discriminated because of my color, my being a minority, and my English with heavy Philippine accent is inevitable.  For me, all of these are minor compared to the comfort  and  ease  that  my  family  will  enjoy  from  this  wonderful  country  of  peace, comfort, acceptance, and opportunity.”

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