Well, long time no post. I see I’ve been neglectful in my site maintenance again. Which is really idiotic, because a lot of things happened this past week. Perhaps the most monumental occurrence of all took place on Monday, when Apple and I once again made one of our ceremonial pilgrimages to a strange and foreign land, otherwise known as Miami.
My wife Apple (who, as you know, immigrated to the United States from Thailand some seven years ago) has been required to report to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services routinely ever since. She’s affirmed her status as a permanent resident, applied to remove conditions from her residency, applied for a 10-year green card, verified that we’re still happily married, had her fingerprints and photos taken, and so on. This lengthy ongoing process has, in fact, seen the name of that government agency change three times — from INS, to BCIS, to USCIS. (I guess they figure more letters = better service?)
But it all came down to this. On Monday, Apple was scheduled to have her fabled naturalization interview. Last fall, she applied to become a United States citizen, and — after another round of fingerprinting — was called to attend the big showdown on April 9th. (We lucked out, in fact, that her interview was not scheduled for a date on which we were still in Thailand.) The interview consists of a written exam, wherein you’re asked 10 questions about American history and government; an English speaking test; and an English writing test. So, after a weekend of last-minute studying, on Monday we headed east.
The interview took place at an office in downtown Miami Beach, a decidedly nicer area of town than the dump on Biscayne that we usually report to, but still an unfamiliar (and to a suburban guy like me, frighteningly large) urban area. For a change, I was actually allowed into the building with Apple this time — at the old Biscayne office, which sometimes appears to function like a labor camp, any non-immigrant persons have to wait not only outside, but across the street. After going through a security checkpoint at the door, which was a lot like an airport security checkpoint except with less friendly people, we were allowed upstairs to the big waiting area, where we took a seat.
This waiting area was essentially one big room full of chairs, the walls of which were painted an industrial cream color. It reminded me of multipurpose rooms you always find in church basements. There were folks of various ethnicities strewn about, so while we waited for Apple to be called, we sat around and watched the USCIS officers coming and going, trying to pronounce all these foreign names. Finally Apple was called (the guy didn’t butcher her name that bad, either) and the test was underway!
I had to stay behind in the grand waiting hall, so I sat around and people-watched, despite having a paperback book in my pocket. Mostly, I was too nervous to read, although I had no doubts that Apple would score well. After about twenty minutes, Apple appeared at the front of the room, and gave me a smile and a nod. On our way out, she gave me the good news — she’d scored 100% across the board! Although it won’t be official until her Oath of Allegiance ceremony, I can now quite proudly welcome Apple into the fold as a verified American citizen. Now you can get one of the nifty blue passports, too!
To Apple’s further credit, she elected to participate in the “demo program” for USCIS’s brand new civics test. This new test, scheduled for rollout nationwide in 2008, is being previewed now in certain “hot immigration markets” like south Florida. It’s reportedly harder than the old test, with a broader range of questions that may be asked. Not only did Apple elect the harder test, but she got every question right. And she’s helped the immigration service collect some kind of useful data as they embark upon their new phase of naturalization interviews…FOR THE FUTURE!
Now, all we have to do is wait for the official letter from the USCIS, which will tell her when she’s been scheduled for her public Oath of Allegiance ceremony. They hold these ceremonies around the nation on a routine basis (often on federal holidays, I’ve noticed), wherein they get a group of newly-christened citizens together and have them take the oath in grand style. Apple’s interviewer told her that she might make it into the June 14th ceremony, but regardless, she could expect it to be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center. I’m almost hoping that the June date will fill up, because the next one might be held on July 4th — wouldn’t that be cool!
Funny anecdote (because you know I’m good for it): On the way home, we were both hungry so we stopped in Davie, Florida for a spot of late lunch. Neither one of us was quite sure what we wanted to eat — nothing really sounded good — but when we saw a Chinese place go by, we decided to double back and try it out. We ended up having what Apple later dubbed “the worst Chinese food I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
The drinks were canned — they even brought us the cans to prove it, although they were posh enough to open the tabs for us (though not posh enough to pour them into our glasses). The egg rolls were blah, and the — well, the everything was so over-salted, it was almost as if the only flavor any dish actually had was “sodium flavor.” It was enough to make your heart race. Although I had chicken broccoli, not exactly the least healthy dish on any given Chinese menu, I decided not to finish it lest it do me some kind of damage. We were quite happy to get home and have a home-cooked meal later in the evening!
Speaking of getting home, we made it just in time — due to the severe drought in Florida right now, a brush fire on Alligator Alley nearly blocked our only way back to the west coast. Fortunately, the freeway was still open as we drove back — but was closed down completely just two hours later, and reopened only sporadically for the next 36 hours. Yipes!
Anyway, many heartfelt congratulations to my wife Apple for a long road traveled, and a great job done. And welcome to the U.S., although you’ve been living here for seven years already. 🙂