It was my dream—one of my most desired wishes—to go to America. It was unbelievable when we got our American visas. We were all so excited to go there—and not as refugees, but as visitors.
Finally we got there. I was very happy, and during the first month it was so much fun. My children were little and they didn’t attend school, so I was free to travel around and have fun with my in-laws.
I had come from Pakistan (Peshawar), where women didn’t go out very often. You had to stay at home most of the time, either welcoming guests or sometimes going to relatives’ houses.
My in-laws in America were very nice to me and my kids. There was no time to feel bored—they took us everywhere. Our wish had came true, and we were here. It was so enjoyable to go out without anyone telling you to cover your face or head. The beautiful tall buildings, malls, houses; the clean big streets divided with straight white lines; the traffic lights; the unbelievably long and pretty bridges; the clear blue sky and all the pretty bushes, trees, flowers, playgrounds, and beautiful places to sightsee—it all made you feel like you were in heaven on earth.
People cared about recycling, and keeping their neighborhoods clean. Most Americans I met were very kind and helpful. I never felt like I was a stranger or a foreigner. My neighbors were the nicest people, and felt like my own family. When I walked along the street, people smiled and said “Hi,” which made me feel so welcome.
When I went to the bank, even though I couldn’t speak English very well, they helped me to understand everything. At my children’s school, they helped me again, and I worked happily as a volunteer there. At any office or anywhere I needed to go, people were there to help.
But if you want to live in the U.S., you have to pay for many different kinds of insurance, a home mortgage, and lots of bills—and therefore you need a job. You can’t see your family often because everybody works at different times and they are busy. When I was in school in Afghanistan, only my Dad worked, and working hours were from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. At dinnertime, we were always together, and I can say it was stress-free.
In Afghanistan, our maid took me to school the first week. After that, I found my own way and could go safely between school and home by myself. The school was free—even the university was free, and at the end of term, the school gave us a salary.
Indeed, we had a great nation, but everything has changed after thirty years of war. The population has grown eight times since then, and all the cars and people make for big crowds and a lot of mess.
But in America, it is not worry-free. You have to take your kids to school. You have to drop them off and pick them up because it is not safe to leave them unattended. The people are helpful, the bridges are beautiful, but life in America can be very stressful, too.