Eye on Earth – I

By Gus Bode

Patches of a Move

It was a nightmare.

The air-conditioned embassy was freezing in the middle of summer and those humiliating questions were all there:Are you pregnant? Do you have AIDS? How much money do you have? What are you going to do there?


Partly from the air conditioning, because I wasn’t used to it, for to us, the thick walls of our buildings were sufficient shelter from the heat and partly from being angry because my pride was stepped on. Although I had worked hard and had two jobs while trying to be an exemplary student at the University, my savings from earning $80 a month obviously weren’t enough to provide any kind of life in America.

And I was trembling because I was worried about not getting the visa. Not so much for my own sake, but for the hopes of my family. I could not disappoint them. They had dreamt about this New World where everything would be perfect. The American Dream, the miracle of success, the wealth.

They wanted me to go there and escape the poverty and hopelessness from which everybody around me suffered.

I got a visa, unlike the 90 percent of the people like me who, since dawn, had waited clustered in the line in front of the embassy for hours.

Two suitcases. That was all I was allowed to take with me. How could you pack your life in two suitcases?

My father had given me some American money and a list of all the people, family and friends he had borrowed from.

“Don’t ever forget them,” he said.


At the airport, I cried. Although I had traveled before and love it, saying goodbye was harder. Feeling so alone and small, I cried all day. And then here I was! Chicago.

I step out of the airport and take my first American breath. Air-like air; I can breath.

The highways were huge, gray, dusty and endless – not like the dream. Downtown, the lights were much better. I’d never seen such tall buildings. It was mesmerizing.

I received a warm welcome from country fellows. Then, on the train to Carbondale, it was freezing again.

When I arrived in Carbondale, there were three French guys waiting for me at the train station.

It won’t be so bad, I thought.

Alone again, I sat, after being told I was not to leave the house for a whole weekend until they came back. No way! I needed to explore the new territory.

I went for a little walk on the countryside, but I saw no people. I walked a little further, as I needed to find the town. Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.

Finally, I saw a woman in the distance. As she approached, I asked her, “Excuse me, could you please tell me where Carbondale is?”

The lady looked at me like an I was an alien.

“You are in Carbondale!”

On my walk, I discovered houses here and there that were made of wood.

We usually build our houses from bricks or stones and call those made-of-wood barracks.

What did I expect? Palaces, perhaps.

And they are so spread apart. Well, obviously, in the US, they don’t lack land.

I kept waling, but still I saw no people on the streets – that is, until I made it to Main Street.

Still, I didn’t find people on the street. I found cars.

By this time, I’d had quite a walk.

Although I didn’t know my way around town, I found it easy to find my way.

Lots of other things are easier here, too.

Checks, debit and credit cards, food delivery, packages of ready to eat foods, machines for everything. I’ve never had these things before.

Like an extraterrestrial, I discovered how they worked by trial and error, and often people laughed at me.

I’m a joke, always a new one, for there is so much stuff for which I never imagined a need to exist.

You get used to this plenitude very easily, though. It’s comfortable. It sucks you in until, without realizing it, you want more and more of it. You get frustrated if you don’t have it, and finally, you become its slave, not interested in anything else but having it.

But where are the people? I wondered.

The night surprised me as I searched for them. I needed to ask them about the American Dream. But I lost my way.

I was alone that night until, finally, I found some people from India. They showed me my way.

For a long time, I met people from everywhere but America. Where are they? Who are they?

I’ll keep searching until I find them.