Diaspora Stories: How I Survived The First 8 Months In The US
After three months in the USA, I rented a small room in a house. The room had just enough space for a twin bed, chest, and table. I shared the house with nine adults and was the youngest tenant. I was nineteen.
Within eight months, I learned to drive through a driving school. Before each driving lesson, I practiced driving in my mind at night so as not to upset my instructor. This tactic worked! It also taught me the power of the mind in achieving a goal.
I also improved my English by speaking to myself in the mirror each night, trying to sound American. I lived on canned beans, noodles, and sandwich buns.
Being nineteen and alone in Newark, New Jersey, was a difficult life. I couldn’t reach out to the only person I knew, so I mustered the courage to make it. Notwithstanding, I also had the Holy Spirit with me, so I was not alone.
I had the utmost support. I was given three instructions: “You need a driver’s license and a car, and you must stay in school.” Obtaining a driver’s license was celebratory; I called my mom in Kenya to share the good news.
To both of us, this was a considerable achievement. The driving instructor helped me buy a Nissan Hatchback for $600. I packed the car because I had not mastered the routes and was afraid of driving in Newark.
In the second week of arriving in the USA, I was instructed to look for jobs by asking, “Do you need help?” I developed a strategy of going door to door to each entity, alternating between downtown and uptown Newark daily, asking the question.
By God’s grace, I landed two part-time jobs after knocking on many doors in the uptown section of Newark. Those walks were tiring; my feet often hurt, and I would soak them in iced water to ease the pain.
Fortunately, two minimum-wage jobs barely met my monthly budget. One job paid $5.00 per hour, and the other paid $5.25 per hour. I worked 40 hours a week between both jobs while attending college.
On weekdays, I attended school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and used public transportation to work from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at one job and 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the other. The closing shift at the second job was often extended to 2 a.m.
Thankfully, I received weekly pay from both jobs, which allowed me to pay rent at $120 per week and still have some money left for tuition and transportation. My second job was at a franchise restaurant, and I often asked the manager for the unsold sandwiches. That’s how I got the sandwich buns!
I used to walk for two miles to my residence because public transportation had ended at 3 a.m. when I had completed my shift. Winters in Newark were harsh, and walking was excruciating as I had been on my feet for long hours. Therefore, I usually walked barefoot, carrying my shoes and bag while holding back tears.
I had nothing to return to in Kenya since I grew up in the slums of Nyalenda, Rhonda, and Langas. Nevertheless, I had to push through. Whenever tears started to roll down, I would console myself by saying, “Be strong, don’t cry,” and I continued walking until I reached my “room.”
I was so exhausted that I often slept in my work uniform without changing. It was an indication of how tired I was. Have you ever been so tired that when you slept, you never turned? Such were my sleep patterns for a long while.
I was so tired that I slept on one side throughout the night, only to be woken up at 6 a.m. by my alarm so I could catch the bus to college. I did most of my studies on the bus and the weekends before my shifts. By God’s Grace, the college transcripts shows that I was an exceptional student.
I celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas alone in my first year, but by the second year, life improved because I began understanding the American system. This time, I eventually felt comfortable driving my pimped-up Nissan Sentra. I will share that story next time.
I am sharing my experience to encourage someone who maybe going through something. This Country can be rough for first timers but with God all things are possible.
If you need prayers regarding life in the US or encouragement, please reach out through the contact form at www.paulineadongo.com.
Be encouraged; the Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Psalm 37:23-24).
Story By Pauline Adongo: Diaspora Messenger Contributor