I planned to write a book about my experience in America but after reading your blogs I decided to reach out to you because I know my story will be out there as soon as possible and I also wanted you to enlighten your audience especially Nigerians about the real America. Not sure what to title this either my ruined American Dream or Culture shock or whatever the Holy Spirit puts in your heart. Where do I begin? This is going to be long don’t know if you will cut this story into different parts but anyway, let me start from the very beginning and I would be using my other name Esther in which only few friends and immediate family know how the name came about. Please Read on:
It all started early in 2011 a course mate and friend of mine who lived in Texas in the United States of America, I said to her that I wanted to apply for the visa lottery and she informed me that if she applies for it in America there would be a greater chance of me winning. I was excited and prayed to God that His will be done in my life as I had nothing else left for me in Nigeria I had broken up with my boyfriend after almost a year of dating due to our AS genotype issue which hurt me for a bit but I got over it quickly as it was a no sex before marriage relationship, I had lost my journalism job in a reputable magazine due to downsizing and the job I was currently working in as an editor was based on commission as I worked without pay for good six months it was indeed frustrating being a college graduate and so, I felt a break in America “the land of opportunities growing with milk and honey” and in which “money grows in trees” as we meant to believe will make me successful immediately I landed. So, I told my friend whom I would call Rosemary (not real name) to help me with the application and she did few months after application cannot remember exactly when but I got two emails at midnight that I had been selected a winner.
The last picture with my sister before i left for America.
I was shocked and ran straight to my parents room leaping for Joy that I had won I remember my mum jokingly saying at last my dream of marrying “oyibo since I was 10 has come to pass” (story for another day). My winning still felt like a dream to me and another shocker was that I had two different confirmation numbers which indicated I had won twice for the same lottery. I went for my visa interview and was granted visa on the spot. I called my friend in the States and shared this news with her and she was excited for me and shocked as this has never happened winning twice with same application. This could only be God I said and before going back to bed I went on my knees asking for Gods protection in a land have never been to before. It was there and then that the Holy Spirit ministered in my heart that my name would be Esther in that land because I would be favored. I wrote that name down immediately and shared it with my parents and ever since till date, I have continue to address myself as God’s favorite.
My mum started making preparations for me she sold bunch of stuff for me to pay for my blood work, visa, and so on. I told her I could still wait for this preparation as I had time to prepare but she said no need this is “America we are talking about” I told her I’d miss everyone she said they will too but that, this a great opportunity the sooner we prepare the easier it will be not too loose the visa because if it’s not accepted at a certain time, another will take my place and so the preparation began. I told selected friends of mine that I’d be relocating and gave my last hugs to them. My dad gave me his old winter Jacket he had used when he came to the states many years ago for both his Bachelors and Masters Degree in Economics. After the preparation was over and flight scheduled, my departure day was November 29th 2011 (almost 7 years since I relocated). Informed my friend of the date so she can be aware and also make preparation for my arrival in her house in which she shared with her husband and kids. My parents and siblings cried at the airport and I cried too as I was set to begin my new life in America.
I arrived Texas, USA the next evening on November 30th, 2011 was so excited the smell of the land and the roads were beautiful I held myself back from screaming when the pilot said “we have just arrived Houston, Texas” was smiling ear to ear as I walked down the stairs of the plane shivering in the cold environment just looking for Rosemary, her husband, and two kids and I eventually found them. It was indeed a joyous moment for us all as I had not seen her in almost 5 years but I kept in touch (something about me I try to keep in touch with my friends that had an impact in my life no matter where I am at) and I hugged them all. On our way to their home as her husband drove I stuck my head out the mirror asking where the tree of money was and they all laughed and said to me that America is not what we Nigerians are shown in Nigeria. I couldn’t believe America even heard a grain of sand or dirt. I was so shocked to see filth on the road. I had so many inner thoughts that I said under my breath like “Is this America”? , “Where is the real America”? , “Is Texas the real America”? , and so on before I knew it we had arrived at her home. I settled in and was showed my room in which I would be sharing with her kids and I contacted my parents and siblings and mentioned my arrival to them and also my cousin in Atlanta, Georgia whom I couldn’t stay with as his wife who is an American would not hear of it. But all the same, I was really excited to be in the land of opportunities and greener pastures. We all went to a Chinese buffet that night of my arrival and that was my first time ever in a buffet restaurant as we were allowed to eat as much as you wanted and you are not allowed to take any leftovers home which made me think to myself “If this was Nigeria will this restaurant even still be in business” (LOL). Anyway, after eating we got home and Rosemary sat me down in my room telling me that I was there to care for her kids until I found a job and settled properly. I told her no problem as I loved her kids especially because her eldest who was 5 at that time shared a birthday in January with me. I always woke up early to shower because we all shared a bathroom so I could be done before anyone woke up. I also gave a bath to the kids and dressed them up every day and Rosemary was happy and thanked me and her Husband was also happy that I was staying with them. Few days later, it was Sunday and I was excited to be going to a Nigerian church as I loved to dance and praise God. I attended the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Texas and it was amazing. You will never believe the number of Nigerians in Texas no single American was found in that church I never felt left out knowing my fellow Nigerians where nearby and everyone welcomed me to the church. As the service went on, an announcement was made by one of the church leadership that a babysitter was needed and the pay was 500 dollars. I was so excited and after the service I told the church usher that I was interested in working as a babysitter and they promised to keep in touch. This desire caused a conflict between I and Rosemary and when we all got home, she sat me down and reminded me of the agreement that as long as I was with her I could not work because I was there to care for her kids and taking that job will interfere in that plan. Her husband also told me that I should enjoy my free time because once I start working I would want a break. Days went by and I was taking to the Social Security office to let them know I had arrived and sort out some documents and also apply for my social security card (This is a card in the states that includes 9 digit numbers that is issued to all citizens and permanent residents in America it is identifiable to you and you need that number for everything official you need to do). It was a long line and when my waiting number was called, I went forward Was told by the office that under no circumstance must I share my number with anyone and that, I’d receive it in about a month after I applied and I eventually received it and to my surprise it was two cards with same number which my friend reminded me that it was due to me winning the visa lottery twice. I took my cards and put it away. Fast forward to January 2012, it was tax season in which everyone files taxes to sum up all that they have done in the previous year. My friend called me from the tax office to give her my social security number and I remembered what I was told at the social security office and I told her I was told not to give it out and she was so mad and yelled at me on the phone that if I didn’t I had to leave her house that night. So, I called my Cousin in Atlanta and told him my predicament and he told me not to give it out that my friend must be trying to claim me in their taxes as a dependent to get more money from the government and that, I should ask what it was for. I sent a message to my mum telling her what was going on and called my friend in Nigeria also telling her about my predicament and I was told to call 911 that no one should tell me what to do but I was too scared to call the police. I remembered I had a high school friend in New York as we practically were like family friends and went to same church in Nigeria. I called her since have been keeping in touch with her from Nigeria but decided to stay with Rosemary because she played the lottery for me. My friend in New York, Jennifer advised me that I should ask Rosemary what she needed it for and that; she would talk to her as well. Rosemary got back from the Tax office so mad at me and was screaming that I have changed and I needed to live her house immediately if I don’t give her the card number and I told her I was just following instructions and her husband tried calming her down. I ended up giving her my card number (I learnt later from a source who works with the Tax office that she claimed me as a dependent and got lots of money but for security reasons the lady who told me this could not give me an amount). This was illegal because I was a 26 years old adult and no one should be claiming a grown woman but what I know I was just a JJC. Things were no longer the same again in that house I was so scared and shaky around her. Jennifer kept her promise and contacted Rosemary on phone and spoke rationally to her and begged her on my behalf as well.
In the month of February 2012, Jennifer asked me to relocate to her shared two-bedroom condo in which she shared a kitchen with her roommate until I got settled and had a job. I was excited going to Manhattan, New York which is referred to as “a land that never sleeps”. Same state my dad lived almost 40 years ago and same state the popular movie, Home Alone was shot in. I bought some biscuits (which I later learned the correct word was cookies) for Jennifer as I didn’t want to go to her apartment empty-handed. Arriving there, I was happy to see her and knew I won’t be there for long as it was indeed tight and so grateful she asked me to live with her. She thanked me for the cookies and said the brand I bought which was Girls Scout Cookies where are favorites. She taught me a lot about America and life living in New York and showed me how to read the Map, how to use the train with the Map Quest App, how to use and fill up my metro cards, how-to ride the bus, the bus schedule, and so on. I learnt a lot and within a month I was so happy to find my way around places and even took long bus and train rides to Brooklyn, to see my dad’s relative. The first thing Jennifer did for me the next day was to get me registered to have an ID card and I got my first state ID which shows I was a New Yorker. Following after, she told me I need to go out every day to look for a job and made a spare key for me and said I need a job so that I can settle down on my own because I can’t live forever with her as she was doing her Doctorate and also working and her boyfriend always came around to spend the night. I told her that was fine. And so my Job hunt began and I went out even in the snow and rain in search of jobs on the streets. I Tried getting a dish washer job and was told I was over qualified. Went to the parks where parents bring their children to play and showed the mothers my green passport and ID card that I wanted to baby sit their kids and they were all scared of me as they ran and held their kids close thinking I was a kidnapper or something like that all these where so embarrassing for me. Jennifer did a resume for me and took it to her job and yet to no avail no job. My money I came with was already reducing all I did was pray and talk to my mum who made some calls to her friends in the state and I got money and one of my mum’s friend also sent me a laptop and my cousin in Georgia sent me 100 dollars I was so excited and contributed to the cooking for Jennifer and I never asked her for money. I sensed a bit of jealousy in her as she opened my mail (letter) from my cousin who had sent me money (It was later I learnt that in America it was illegal for anyone to open your mails without authorization) I wasn’t happy she read my mail and saw the money I was given but I could not say anything as I was living with her. She began to complain unnecessarily that my dressing was a disgrace to her as I failed to wear shorts, that I wear slippers to the laundry room, that I wear hair net, and so on. I cried my eyes out to sleep every night as I never envisaged these sufferings. The devil brought doubts to my heart that it was never God that gave me that name, Esther but rather it was me talking but I rejected that voice because I knew what I heard deeply in my spirit in Nigeria. Only my parents knew that I was suffering. I decided to keep late nights in the park after job hunting and packed up my blankets to the park and slept out there in the cold with an alarm so that she doesn’t complain when I come back too early. From that day, I come back home 9pm everyday to please her and when I couldn’t take her complaints anymore, I called one of my mum’s friend the one who had sent me a laptop that I couldn’t live like this anymore and she told me everybody has a story in America and that it will all end. She sent money for me to sign up for Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and said it’s a nursing assistant program so that after the class I can get a job. This job involves assisting older people in nursing homes from cleaning their poop, to changing their diapers, to bathing them, feeding them, arranging their beds, and so on. I learnt later on that almost every Nigerian in America started as a CNA. I took a train and a bus every morning to school. It was an 8-weeks training program and after which, you graduate and do an externship.
I met a Nigerian Muslim one day before the end of class and told her of my predicament in the hands of Jennifer and she told me about a nice Jamaican classmate who wasn’t in class that day but has a basement in her house as she lived with her husband, daughter, and sister in-law and a kid and that, she would talk to her for me to see if I can live there. I was so excited and I met Francine (real name) that was the best day ever she really felt for me as she watched me narrate my stories in tears. She spoke to her husband on my behalf and he agreed and said, I could live in their basement which is attached outside their house for 600 dollars a month. I agreed and informed my parents, cousin and my mum’s friend. After graduation from CNA, I wrote a letter to Jennifer thanking her so much for her help so far and told her that I could not continue living like this with her gave her all my reasons and mentioned how she is not happy with my dressing, her complaints, etc. I dropped the letter and the key in her fridge and packed my stuff to Long Island, New York to live in Francine’s basement. This was the best day of my life as I had my own privacy, my own room, bathroom, and kitchen and also found a true friend and sister in Francine. She was and still continues to be the best thing to ever happen to me. My mum and family spoke to her on the phone and thanked her. Her husband was impressed how I respected him calling him Sir all the time. I didn’t know how the rent money was going to come but I trusted God and each night I prayed and cried to God. Francine was scared one night and came to the basement and asked me if I was okay as she heard my voice I told her I was praying to God to help me and she said her mum is Christian too and prays. We talked and cried together that night and she said I shouldn’t worry all will be fine I hugged her in tears that how could she allow me a stranger into her home she said she liked my spirit and that am her sister I should stop crying. My mum’s friend sent me my first month rent to pay and I gave Francine and told her my mum’s friend had given me the money and she was excited for me that despite everything God is helping me. We both did a lot together with her daughter from hair to nails, to cooking, to eating and her hubby always bought Chinese food for us on Fridays as that was Francine’s day off from cooking (LOL) and we went to our first externship together at the nursing home. I could not stand the poop from an amputated man and I immediately told Francine that this job, wasn’t meant for me and we both laughed and I told her I wasn’t returning to the externship job anymore. On getting home, I looked for a Nigerian Church for Sunday and I found one and meant the pastor after service told him everything and my experience in America.
He told me about people in church I could baby sit and work for until I got my feet. I became a worker in church did jobs that offered me less money because they knew I was desperate, I begged to baby sit peoples kids and I was given like 20 dollars or any amount as they wish no matter the hours I worked with and with the explanation that things are hard but despite all these, I still praised God in pain and paid my tithe with the little cash I got from begging people.
Was blessed with many groceries from church and I cooked Nigerian food which I shared with Francine and she also shred her Jamaican food with me as well. She always invited me to come to the main house to watch TV even though I had TV in my own basement as the house was too quiet for her. After living with Francine for some time I didn’t know where the next money to pay rent would come from and I was tired of begging. I fell into great depression and I had lots of suicidal thoughts and called my mum to tell her I wanted to return to Nigeria as the suffering was too much and she cried with me on the phone telling me she doesn’t even have the money to send me back and that, what would people say about me returning when I just left. I begged a lot to enter buses and trains and no one helped me and I had to walk. I was a depressed woman just wanting to end my life and attempted to sell and tear my passport in anger. I reached out to my friend in Nigeria who was a banker at that time; she sent me money to my account and was encouraging me. I missed my family badly and while alone in my room I wanted to just die and I prayed to God to take my life that I was tired and better off in Nigeria with my family and I slept off. The next day, I decided to visit a Baptist church down the street to just pray as it was a week day and on getting there, they asked all new comers to stand up and I was acknowledged and was told hope to see me on Sunday and I was like, “today is my last day”. After the service, people were greeting each other and the pastor’s wife a white lady slipped a note to me and when I opened it was a folded 50 dollars bill and a note that read something like: “There is just something about you. May God Bless You” I cried in my heart as I had just given my last 10 dollars in the offering basket. On my way out, a woman came up to me and I could tell from her accent she was Nigerian and she asked where am from I told her from Edo State, Nigeria and she hugged me saying she is also Benin. I told her about myself and that I am recently relocated from Nigeria I got to find out as we talked that she was a neighbor to my Muslim friend who introduced me to Francine. She asked me why I had said today was my last day and in tears I told her how I live with a Jamaican couple and could not afford to live with them anymore as I do not know how my rent will be paid the next month and then she asked for the amount and told me that she would pay it and to be sure I wasn’t just giving her a sob story she drove me straight to my Landlords house, met Francine and her hubby and paid four months of rent for me. I was shocked and still am when I remember this part of my story. God used a stranger again to pay my bills. I cried that night asking God to forgive my unbelief and I believed once again that I was favored.
After these four months expired, I told God that I cannot continue begging and another rent was due and I knew God has tried for me including the church but I needed to live Francine’s house as my rent was due again and I had no option so I packed my bags and Francine saw me dragging my luggage to the side of her basement and asked me where I was going I told her in tears that I had nowhere in mind but that, I was tired of life and begging to survive she hugged me crying that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I should wait till her hubby comes back. When her husband came back, he told me I could stay for free until I found my feet. I was shocked and didn’t know when I went straight to my knees in tears thanking them so much for their love towards me. He took me and Francine shopping and bought much stuff for us (Imagine your landlord and landlady taking you shopping). This could only be God.
In 2013, it was laid in my spirit to join the United States Army because I was tired of begging and I bade my Jamaican family goodbye with a promise to keep in touch. I enlisted for three years and three months in my training, I got my US Citizen Passport. Wow! I had become a Citizen just like that what usually takes 10 years was given to me in a platter of Gold. After my training, I was to relocate to Korea in few weeks ( so I returned to my Jamaican family to spend some time with them. I bought them lots of stuff, gave out gifts to my church, my friend in Nigeria who helped me when I had nothing, my parents and my mum’s friends who had also helped me in my low state.
I now entered buses and trains for free due to me being in uniform. Civilians saluted me; children hugged me and respected me by thanking me for my service to the nation as I walked down the street of New York. I was not worthy of this love at all which was all God’s plan all along. I was an American US Soldier.
In 2014 January, I was on leave from Korea and God made my path to cross with my fiancé who is now my dear husband. We went on a date on February and he proposed to me and within few months on November 22nd, 2014, few days to my 3 years in America, I was married to my heartthrob and guess who my chief bridesmaid was?
No other person than my Jamaican sister, Francine (I had to move my wedding date so it could fit into her schedule) and at my wedding I made sure the M.C. thanked her and her husband openly for taking care of me.
In 2016, my Army contract ended and I did not re-enlist, got a job for the federal government and living happily with my husband as we prepare to celebrate our 4th anniversary on November 22nd 2018.My life till date has been a miracle and I am so glad I did not end it all when my going was tough because I wouldn’t have been where I am today sharing my story with you. Am so glad for my experience and have forgiven all those who hurt me and whenever I face a storm, I remind God am his favorite and pray and He Always comes through. I might not have all I want but I have all I need in Jesus.”