Sunday, February 3, 2008

My First Step into The Land of Opportunities; The USA! (Part 1)

Well, well, well... Here am I finally in The USA. I've never expected going here b4. Here, I will try to elaborate on my experience for the first few days here in America as well as the journey before arriving to this Land of Opportunities.

1st ATU 12 Contingent to fly (Aug 9, 2006):

People going to UIUC (JPA): Ezra, Victor, Resty, Ziha, Teda, Qila, Mar, Shin Hwei, Andrie and I.
Person going to Cornell: Chear

August 9th, 2006 -

The moment of truth has manifest itself; time to fly! I arrived with my parents and zuhai a.k.a. pit, my youngest brother, to KLIA at about 4:00am fetched by Usu Wan and Usu Susi. I thought somebody were there already but it was not until 6:40am Aqilah arrived. So, I was the first to arrive in KLIA. Bored while waiting, I slept and ate, huhu.
It was about 7:40am when the check-in counter is open for luggage check-in. By then, all of us, the JPA Ilinis, have arrived. Plus, there were lots of people over there - our parents, JPA officers, and INTEC friends. The early morning was busy with hustles and bustles of settling the check-in issues involved; doing away with passports, boarding pass, insurance, and... ahaks, the YELLOW RIBBON!
8:30am = The moment of truth. After the do'a recitation, I heard Cik Intan, the JPA officer says, "Ok, boleh check-in sekarang", then I realized that I have to go... leaving away those who accompanied me thus far in Malaysia. Huhu, I cannot help but cry while hugging my parents and brother... At the time, I know that they have done so much for me. I projected that they spent thousands (more than five thousands) just for my preparations of going to fly to The US along... To INTEC frens @ paparrazzi... well, ur mission has accomplished nak tengok orang banjir! :p (X pe... nnti korang pon nescaya akan banjir gak, hahaha!) Then we queued to stamp our passport through the electronic gate system (woo... Malaysia pun dah canggih ooo...) which is quick and convenient. Later, Ziha's uncle (Ziha's uncle works at KLIA) ushered us to the train connecting us from KLIA's main terminal to the terminal for international departure. Huhuhu, once I arrived there, I don't feel like in Malaysia anymore; there's a whole lot of bunch of foreigners there. So, we made our way through there (it's plain sailing thanks to Ziha's uncle assistance) and for about 20 minutes or so, we boarded the MH 0094, Boeing 747-400 airplane.
In the plane... huhuhu, it took us for about twenty minutes for the plane to actually take off. I was darn sleepy at the time (the night before I was unable to sleep well, dunno why... anxious, perhaps... huhu) and... finally after waiting, the gigantic plane made a smooth run down the runway and there it flew!
As soon as the plane is airbone, when the last tire of the plane finally loses its grip of the ground, I feel somewhat touched in my heart; part excited, part anxious... Excited because I'm going overseas man! and to The United States some more! :D But still, anxiety is there since I have a little idea of what to expect, what more to know and of course the responsibility as a Muslim, a Malaysian, an eldest of the siblings, a son, and of course, a JPA scholar. So, as I glide into the snowy white cloud, I keep thinking of that... What will I be in the future? How can I manage my own life?
And yes... little did i realize, up until this moment that many people has done so much for me, especially my parents. I don't know why this sentimental feeling suddenly arouse amidst the supposed to be an enthralling event, but you know... as if there will come a stage of life when you feel that you must make a move... a move to the front... and leaving away the people you love, for the greater cause.
And so the plane flew from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei without much event except for the occasional air pockets due to bad weather while we're on our way. The flight took about 4 hours and 30 minutes. The time zone is still the same, so, we arrived at about 3 o'clock at CKS International Airport, Taipei.
We stopped at Taipei for about one and a half hours. Not much to say at Taipei, though. The airport is quite old (KLIA's better!) but it's big... Huhu, one thing that I remember was Teda's shoe strap was lost (literally, lost). That time, we were about to check in for re-departure to Los Angeles (LA). Teda did not pass the first security check so she has to go for the secondary screening. The guard asked her to open her shoes and she did so for her shoes to be screened. Poor Teda when her one of her shoe strap was lost inside the screener! So, what she did was... she replaced her shoe straps with yellow ribbons given by Ezra! (Huhu, comel and clever)
At about 4:30 pm... here we go again... this time... a long flight to Los Angeles boarding the same plane.

Now that we have boarded the plane. The jouney is long, and yes, tiring. I'm tired of sitting and waiting long inside the plane. What I did was sitting, with occasional reading, sleeping, eating, and going to the toilet all along the way. One thing interesting in the plane was it has an interactive tv in front of the seat where one can play video games, browse through for travel exchange, watch movies etc2. But I had little interest on those things though so I prefer to keep my eyes shut or reading. Other than that, nothing much except for wondering, monologuing and thinking about the steward, stewardess, and people who were sitting next to me (On my left was a young lady from India, and on my right was a lady from Taiwan. Both were quiet to me, though),
Oh, one thing worth mentioning here. For future ATU Contingents to The US, please note the following:
1. While on board from any flight heading to The US' international airports (as in Taipei to Los Angeles, LAX), you are required to declare your properties to The Custom. You will be given two forms which you must fill in before arrival in The US. So, to those who carry lots of money, better know how much you bring along with you along with other special things such as food, plants, etc. You need to declare them in the form.
2. Don't bring ANY liquid items in your carry-on luggage. These include toothpaste, gel, cream, lotion, even plain water! This is a new regulation imposed by The US authority.

Ok, let's continue.

After for about 11 long hours of flight, we finally touched down at the Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles. I can't believe it! I'm in The States! When we arrive, there was a mild sandstorm, but not much of a problem to us since we're in the big plane. So, after disembarking the plane and waiting for Shamini to fill in her Custom form, we finally walked out of the gate and feel the first American air... Subhanallah, the air was cool and soothing! The sun was present but still, it was balmy. I expect the temperature that time would be around the early twenties; it's like you are in an air-conditioned room. The difference is that, the air is natural! Then we took a bus that transported us to the main terminal. Ahaks, in the main terminal, things were exciting. Wanna know? Read on...
At the main terminal, as usual, we need to queue to stamp our passport so that we could enter the country. The thing is, after I queed for a while, and when it's time my passport to be stamped, I was should i say... arrested!? Huhu, suddenly the front officer who guarded the gate seized my passports and my other documents and gave them to the other woman guard who later lead me to the smaller space in the airport. By the time, I have lost contact with my friends. There, i waited for about thirty minutes. While waiting, I was required to fill in a form asking my personal information such as my parents name and address back in home country, and why i'm here in The States. That time, then I realized that I have to go for the secondary level security check: failing this may cast me into the custody or deportation from the States! Huhuhuhu...
Also with me were some PRC(People's Republic of China)-Chinese girls were also detented, like me. They were also unclear for what reason that they were detented. Others were Mexicans, Hispanics, Arabs(?), and even MAS stewards! Huhuhu, then after twenty minutes of waiting, my name was called by the officer and she leads me into her office...
That time... ok... I expect interrogation and interrogation it was. Huhu, but things were quite otherwise from what I expect, though. Instead a serious a spade is a spade question, the my conversation with the officer was jovial and easy. She asked some 'bonus' question like 'who's your parent's name?' and 'is this the right spelling?' and 'how do you find Ilinois?' to me... Then, she seemed busy keying in my information in her computer. During the interrogation, we saw a Hispanic man with his two very young daughters crying. The daughters cried because they were missing their mommy because she is being interrogated too, I guess. And guess what? The officers there were trying to 'pujuk' his daughters not to cry! And even the officer who interrogated me said, "my goodness!" for the cry of the little kids. Huhu, how convivial! After for about half an hour, a MAS lady came in and asked whether I'm a Malaysian student who is missing from my group and I said yes... That time, I knew that my friends did not know where I am, what am I doing... and neither do I regarding them...
Well, after an hour or so, it finally ends. What is more interesting is that the lady officer apologized for my time 'wasted' for the session and wish me all the best for my study! She even lead me out of the office... Now i'm feeling like an important person, huhuhu.... So, my passport, my I-20 and my I-94 was given back to me with the stamp "LAX, 8/9/2006, admitted" and how relieved i were!
So, I walked outside and I saw Andrie, Ezra and Teda were waiting for me. The rest had gone outside...

Huhu, sleepy oledy... esok je la sambung tulis lg...
To be continued...

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