Friday, February 12, 2010

"Last of Iraqis" is in the States

I know it might be as a shock to most of you because I decided not to talk about it until it happens and now it happened.

about a year and a half ago I applied to the IOM (international organization for migration) in Baghdad, the applicants should have worked with the US army or helped US based media organizations and for sure I have been approved because of my activities with the media.

After some interviews and CIA checks I have been accepted and given a departure date which was Feb 1st ….We went from Baghdad to Amman and stayed there for a night and as usual the Jordanians were jerks and gave us some really hard time, despite that the trip to Jordan was the shortest but it was the hardest!! next day at 10 am we left from Amman heading to NY in a direct flight…Thank god for the good reading and searches I have done in which I discovered there are cribs for babies in big airplanes like the ones we were traveling by so I booked a seat in front of the crib and that made the trip much easier…after more than 13 hours flight and to be honest it wasn’t that hard at all as we expected and Linda (My daughter) behaved better than adults…we reached JFK airport and I was surprised for how easy the procedures were comparing to Amman…we just finished our papers with the IOM and that took about 2 hours (because we were travelling with a group of 10 families) ….We went from Baghdad to Amman and stayed there for a night and as usual the Jordanians were jerks and gave us some really hard time, despite that the trip to Jordan was the shortest but it was the hardest!! next day at 10 am we left from Amman heading to NY in a direct flight…Thank god for the good reading and searches I have done in which I discovered there are cribs for babies in big airplanes like the ones we were traveling by so I booked a seat in front of the crib and that made the trip much easier…after more than 13 hours flight and to be honest it wasn’t that hard at all as we expected and Linda (My daughter) behaved better than adults…we reached JFK airport and I was surprised for how easy the procedures were comparing to Amman…we just finished our papers with the IOM and that took about 2 hours (because we were travelling with a group of 10 families) then we headed to the counters and it was a matter of seconds, just a fingerprint and a photo and that’s it! No body search? No interrogation? No hours of waiting? No there was nothing like that, everyone is smiling and welcoming and that was a real push up…and there I was, the electric door opened and I was in NY….Goooood, what a clean air, what a great weather…the air feels really different, the clean streets, the lights, the cars…everything is different…they took us in a bus to the motel which was like a shit hole, it was disgusting and in a very bad neighborhood, I wasn’t able to see NY, we stayed in the ugly motel near LaGuardia airport for a night and the next morning we went to the airport and headed to Dallas TX at about 11am and from Dallas we went to Houston TX which is our final destination…through these trips I made some impressions about the Americans in general which proved to be right till now, I discovered that they are really nice and smiling to you when you meet their eyes, they are so calm and I like that.

I reached Houston at about 4pm and there was my in-laws waiting for us and the guy from the organization took us to out apartment which he didn’t know where it was exactly and after more than an hour of searching we reached the app. It was good, clean but empty with the last kind of neighbors I’m looking for! Everyone is with long beards and white robes, like I’m living with Taliban or AQ, damn it, I came to the US to live side by side with those!

On my way I was somehow disappointed, because US is not like what we see in the movies or maybe the movies and series are shot in NY or Hollywood or some other cool places, Houston is not that cool or beautiful, it’s soooo big and everything is distant, no one can live here without a car, it’s impossible…anyway, I didn’t see anything that attracted me in the streets.

My in-laws were staying with us for 2 days (they live in San Antonio) and they had a car so they took us and we bought as much as we can…we bought all the kitchen appliances from Wal-mart, the living room from bi-rite and the TV from my friend.

I also discovered that without a social security number you can breath but nothing more…I applied for it 2 days ago but they say it takes from 2 weeks to 6 weeks…God, I’ll die for the social security number, I want to have a good internet not like that Cricket stupid USB broadband which is really slow and most important thing I want a driving license so that I can buy a car…My budget is 2000$ does anyone have a good one for me? I’m looking for 4 cylinders Japanese car.

All the past days has been so boring to me…sitting at home and doing nothing, it’s really boring not being able to go anywhere and not having a job…I MUST find a job ASAP for two main reasons, the first is that I’m spending and living from my savings which isn’t good at the first place (because I thought my departure will be at the end of 2010) so I didn’t have time to save enough, and the second reason is that I discovered I’m a workaholic! I need to work, I love working and I hate sitting without work…I’m starting to search for a job in the journalism or media field but nothing till now, or maybe working with refugees resettlement programs would be good too…and if I didn’t get those I might start looking for a work as a dental assistant…after doing some thinking, I think I’ll work anything that would pay me more than 13$ an hour…If anyone can help me with that, it would be a great favor that I’ll never forget. My American readers, I’m in your country now, help me by finding me a job because as I understood working in the states after the economical crisis needs connections and for sure I have no connection at all, so I’m counting on you for connections…and I need someone to help me with my resume because I’m not used to writing resumes as in Iraq we use CVs which is so different from resumes.

As for working as a dentist, I’ll take that road but it’s a really long one, it takes at least 3 years…2 MBDE exams which I’ll have to study for them at home and after I pass those two I have to go to American dental college for 2 years…may god help us through this.

OK, I’ll get back to writing posts about Iraq (through my friends there) once I’m settled and finished preparing my new life.

Wish me luck in the states because it seems I’m going to need loads of it.

Now I'll leave you with some of my photos:


this was in Amman



Last day in Baghdad at Sarah's parent's house


Linda in our home in Houston


At JFK airport

33 comments:

Jeremy said...

Welcome to America!

So first off ...

http://houston.craigslist.org/

You should definitely check out that site. It can help you find a car, a job, and much more. (monster.com is another popular job site, but personally I've gotten all my jobs from Craig's List). Craig's List also has a free stuff area, where people give away things like furniture to anyone who is willing to come pick it up; this can be a great way to get some decent furniture when you are just starting out.

As for the resume if you email it to me, machineghost _at_ gmail.com I'd be happy to give you some feedback/suggestions.

Steve Muhlberger said...

Try this, too:

http://www.freecycle.org/group/United%20States/Texas/Houston/info

It's worked well for me, and sometimes people are willing to deliver stuff. I wouldn't count on that but people might be sympathetic to your situation.

Harry Barnes said...

I was getting worried as we had not heard from you for two months and I did not wish to bother you via further emails. Then we receive this wonderful news and can now see the fine photos of Sarah, Linda and yourself. I know that you will all make the most of life in the USA. Just keep us posted on developments - and draw the lessons for us from your experiences in Iraq.

LJM said...

OK, for starters try to stay calm and watch TV. It's a good learning tool for what's going on here as well as getting used to American English. Is there any reason you have to stay in Houston? If your in-laws live in San Antonio, could you relocate there? You could rent a U-Haul small Truck to take your stuff there. Austin, Texas is not far from San Antonio. The U.of T. is there so there's a lot to do for free or cheap with lots of younger people around to get to know. If you are eligible to work as a Dental Assistant, that might pay you the best salary. Believe it or not, if you are willing to do anything while you study to become a dentist here, Costco (a huge big box retail store) pays their help well and has good health insurance benefits. Now that you're in the US, health insurance is really important, although you all are young and healthy, which is a good thing.
Now for the big welcome....Welcome to the USA Mohammed family!!! You are such an attractive family. Believe it or not, good looks will get you far in this country. Everyone I've known who immigrated here or Canada had to stay at first in pretty crummy places until they got jobs. Create a space in your own place that is yours and forget the neighbors. They are temporary. I wish you could come live in Kansas City, where I live. It gets cold here in winter. You wouldn't like that, but the summers aren't as hot as Baghdad. You all are welcome to come visit at my house anytime. You know how to find me. A car for $2,000 don't restrict yourself to Japanese cars. My parents have driven Ford Escort, which has been ok and I have friends driving Ford Focus and like them as well. Finding older models of those cars could work for you. They are good for gas mileage. Gas is expensive here. I've had friends who have liked driving Saturns as well. That's another General Motors American car you can only find used now. They stopped making Saturns, but you can get them repaired still here. Also, once you have your social security number or even if you have proof of your address, libraries here are free. You can check out books, DVDs, music CDs and all sorts of things, sometimes even prints to put on the wall for a time. Be sure to find out where the library is near you.

amagi said...

My goodness! Welcome to America!

I wish I had known you were coming -- I live in New York and could have hosted your family for the night. Obviously it wouldn't have been possible for you to post about that here, but I wish I could have spared you the night in the lousy motel. That's no way to spend your first night in town!

I don't think I have any connections in Houston (although I did live there at one time -- I'm afraid you may find it even more sweltering than Baghdad during the summer), but I will put some thought into it.

I know Rice University is there, as well as other colleges. Do you think you could do work as an Arabic translator? It's a tough time to find jobs now, but your skills are probably more specialized than most.

Nevertheless... here you are! Welcome to America, my friend. I hope you find you like it, and I hope we can help you settle in and find your place here.

Parvati said...

As a regular reader of your blog from Italy I want first of all to wish best of luck and much success and happiness in your new life to you and your lovely family. Hope-hoping you'll keep on writing, eh? Write about your life in the US, write about Iraq, about your own reflections memories thoughts and emotions... write about whatever you like: you write we read - it's a deal, OK? ;)

LJM said...

One other thing, you are still a blogger. You are a blogger in the US. Keep writing about your experiences. Now you are writing what you are going through as an immigrant to the US. Recently, there was a movie about a blogger who cooked recipes from Julia Child's cookbook and blogged about doing it. It became a bestselling book and a very popular movie in 2009. My point is this, don't stop blogging. Don't stop telling your story. One day you may have a book here. You might already have one. Besides, keeping a journal is therapeutic. You might as well keep writing here.

LJM said...

There is a program for dentists with training outside the US to apply for advanced standing to dental school (enter at year 2 or 3) in Houston. It's at the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston Dental Branch
6516 M.D. Anderson Blvd. Suite 155
Houston, TX 77030-3402
Phone:(713)500-4429

Maybe they'd be a place to talk to about finding a dental assistant or other job while you try to get into the program to get your US dental credentials. U of T Health Sciences is a big place. M.D. Anderson is one of the best cancer hospitals in the world.

Dr.Mohammed said...

Jeremy;
Thanks, I checked craiglist and I’ll check monster….I sent you my resume.

Steve,
Thanks….will check that out.

Harry,
Thanks…sure I’ll continue writing; it’s something I found joy in.

LJM,
I wish I could watch TV (although I bought one) but the problem in USA is that you can’t do anything unless you have a social security number and as I said I applied to it but it takes from 2 to 6 weeks as they said…so I can’t have cable or anything…I use air channels and I scanned for channels but I only found one which is called “My 20” it’s a nice channel though…good series 24 hours and ads.
How much is the hour of dental assistant? I don’t think it’s that high…I’ll check costco.
Well, sure thing I might come to visit once I settle things up…but I want Japanese because they don’t love to be fixed one day and another because I can’t afford that…about the gas, the gas isn’t that expensive comparing to Baghdad but the problem is with the mileage!!! Dear God, Houston is sooooo huge, everything is so big and distant from each other and that would consume lots of gas.

Amagi,
Oh, thank you that’s really nice of you, I really wished I could see NY, that was a dream of mine…but no problem maybe later I could come for a visit when I have some big bucks :)

Pavarati,
Thanks a lot…the deal is ON and it will always be :)

LJM said...

According to salaries.com, the median income for a dental assistant is $33,000, with the low range being around $29,000.

If you both could qualify to do this and found jobs, you could maybe do ok. Daycare is expensive, but people in the US live this way. You have to real carefully checkout daycare providers. You don't want to leave your daughter with just anybody. Even people who seem nice aren't always in this country. If you worked at the university for example, they sometimes have daycare centers for staff. That would be the best solution.

Um Ayad said...

Dear Mohammed,

Wonderful news. Thank goodness you and your family are safe and out of Iraq. The photos are gorgeous, Sarah and Linda are beautiful.
Be patient, it will all work out for you. I wish you luck and happiness in your new life.

cherenkov said...

I'm glad to hear that you successfully got out of Iraq.

I agree with LJM: don't limit yourself to Japanese cars. They were more reliable in the 80s and early 90s, but that gap has closed. PLus they sell at a premium, so for $2000 you will have to settle for a higher-mileage car than if you buy a domestic, which probably means more repairs, not less. You should look at a Focus for a cheap domestic. The Korean cars are pretty good too: Kia / Hyundai.

Marcus said...

Congratulations! And the best of luck to you and your family.

Indigo said...

Gosh, Mohammed, what wonderful news. I was just thinking of e-mailing you to ask how things were.

Jeffrey said...

Mohammed,

Welcome to the US! I guess we have room for three more.

*smirk*

You should try to contact Fayrouz. She's in the Houston area now, I believe.

Here's her blog.

Fayrouz.

On her sidebar you'll find a link for her email address and her Facebook page.

*

Bruno said...

Thank goodness you are out of Iraq! It's a real pity that circumstances forced you to leave the country of your birth, but I think it is for the better, given how things were going. My advice: go for the dentistry, if you can. Zeyad did the journalist route and I don't think it went that great for him. People always need dentists, and its a high paying job compared to a lot of the other stuff out there.

Bruno said...

PS - you look a bit like me, LOL. I would never have guessed. ;)

Indigo said...

Be careful that no one sells you a Japanese car with an accelerator pedal that sticks or brakes that don't brake. (See media stories about thousands and thousands of Japanese cars being recalled.)

Off Script said...

I'm so sorry you had to leave your home but I am very glad you are safe and well. I can't imagine how scary to start all over in a new country. Ignore what you've seen in movies and definitely ignore things like Jerry Springer. That's not America. We're a mixture of good and bad, like anyplace else. Hopefully you'll find more of the good. I hope you come to love this country, feel at home and find it a good place to raise your family. Welcome.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Mohammed,

Welcome to the States! :)

On the car thing, I agree with those who suggested looking beyond the Japanese models. They're usually more expensive. For $2,000 you'll have to look at an older model. It's always a crap shoot. But I've bought used and have had pretty good luck.

The bigger cities usually have good public transportation, so while you are waiting on the SS# and the driver's license you may want to just do a little sight seeing using that. But I'm sure Zeyad knows all of that and can advise you.

If you're not set on staying in Houston, you may want to consider a smaller town. There are some very nice areas(although obviously I'm not familiar with Texas) and the living costs can be lower than in the big cities.

Hmmm...as far as the TV thing goes, we've just gone through that digital conversion. So if you're not hooked up to cable you will need either a digital TV or a digital converter box hooked up to an old analog model to receive free channels via the air.

Good luck!

P.S. If the dental thing doesn't work out, you can always try for a male model gig.

Oh, and it's nice to know that Zeyad's family is here in the States with him. :)

Dr.Mohammed said...

Um Ayad
Thank you very much

Cherenkov,
I could consider domestics but Kia!! No way, Kia is a really bad company, I had a terrible experience with them, if you own a Kia it’s better to have a brother who is a mechanic lool. Thanks for the advice anyway.

Marcus,
Thanks

Indigo,
Thanks dear.

Jeffery,
Thanx

Bruno,
After some thinking I decided to head to dentistry too.

Indigo,
I think this problem is with the new models of Corolla.

Off script,
Thank you very much.

Lynette,
Thank you.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Forgot one thing. LJM mentioned the libraries, but I wanted to add that they should also have computers hooked up to high-speed internet for the public's use. At least that's how they're set up in Minnesota. I have to assume they're the same in Texas. :) That may be another option for you, until you get a more permanent set up.

Oh, and I think its more than just the Toyota Corolla's that are having problems. You can always double check on their web site.

When looking for a good used car, you may want to give weight to those that were owned by car rental firms. They usually are better at doing the routine mainentance, which keeps a car in better working condition.

JG said...

Great news, Mohammed. Best wishes.

Victoria said...

Welcome!! I wish you the very best.

LJM said...

Lynette,

Good suggestions, but probably out of the price range. Still, there are dealers that have cars at that price and it's good to ask if there is CarFax to know the history of the car.

Bruno said...

Excellent idea, sir! It sounds like everybody in America wants to be a journalist.Which means that the pay will drop. Whereas I know from experience that after a week with an aching tooth I'll pay just about anything to get it fixed.

I know that this sounds as if money is the only consideration - it is not - but it makes things much easier, doesn't it? ;)

I'd also go for Japanese if at all possible. I had a Toyota a few years ago and it was a reliable car, except for the starter motor which gave me hassles every now and again. Just make sure that you look at several examples before buying. In my experience it really pays off to shop around for used cars. Here's a tip: check for oversprayed paint under the doors and in hard-to-reach places. That might be indicative that the car has been in a crash and has been panelbeaten back into shape. Another sign of this is if the body panels don't have the same space gaps on both sides. Good luck! :)

programmer craig said...

Texas, eh? Well it could have been worse! You might have ended up in New Jersey, for instance! I probably shouldn't have said that because I grew up in New Jersey... but whatever! Texas is a big state, and once you get settled into life in the US you might want to think about looking around for an area you like better. My sister lives in San Antonia and it seemed really nice last time I visited her there. Or you could just move to LA or NY :)

I think looking at Japanese cars is a good choice. I used to always buy American cars with big engines but they broke down all the time. It's a big problem, especially when they get older and for $2000 you aren't going to be getting a new car. You can probably get a decent Honda or Toyota for that which will still be in good condition and be reliable.

Welcome to the US :)

gj said...

Fantastic news particularly after your last post on December 12Gorgeous looking family. You'll do well in the land of the free.

Indigo said...

Salt desert in Iraq, seen from space

http://twitpic.com/13lbva

البرجوازي العراقي said...

حمدالله على السلامة

عجبتني المدونة وخاصة الصور بهذه المقال يعني شنو طبيعية كلش وشكل الصورة اللي بالحديقة كانما دتستمتعون باخر لحظات من هوى العراق.

نفس الاحساس يجيني كلما اسافر من مكان الى مكان ولكن نفس الاحساس اجاني من سافرت من العراق ...الاحساس اخر يوم يكلي لازم تسافر ومن جهة ثانية يجيني احساس انهو مادري اني وين رايح كانما ماراح اسافر ابد.

السفر يعلم هواية اشياء ماممكن يتعلمها الشخص اذا بقى عايش ابلد واحد بس هذه الشي ماراح تسمعى بتكساس بس راح تسمع ناس تلطم من الغربة وتحيط نفسها بقوقعة من داخل البيت مكونة من تلفزيون ستلايت وطبخ عراقي ونقاشات طائفية وقومية بليدة.

نصيحتي الك ان تبحث عن شغل من هسة وتسوي اجازة سوق عل سريع

تمنياتي بالتوفيق الك وللعائلة الكريمة

البرجوازي العراقي

palach said...

Welcome to the USA. I look forward to reading about your adventures here. As others have mentioned, libraries are free and I think most have computers with free internet. Most of the time you can get a Library Card once you prove you live at your address by showing a bill (like a utilities bill) addressed to you.

As far as jobs---I would love to make $13. an hour too. The economy is really bad all over the U.S., Texas might be one of the better places for jobs. The newscasters speak as if the economic downturn is over, but I know lots and lots of people out of work. I work in a hospital and they still have a 'freeze' on hiring. Every state has employment agencies that help you find work. You might try registering at one of those. Your first jobs may not pay as well or be what you would like, but anything is better than nothing to start.

I understand your frustration at being placed in a neighborhood with people from a similar background. I assume it was a well meaning attempt to help your transition here. Many immigrants start out living in areas where everyone speaks their native language. These days most move on elsewhere when they are ready. I'm sure you will be able to do the same.

Meanwhile, best of luck. Please keep on writing when you can.

Anonymous said...

Please watch your weight now that you are in the USA. I would bet in a year you are going to find you and your family have put on 10-20% more body weight. It is the largest hidden curse of living in the USA, and if you can control that it will make your life so much easier down the line (health).

Anonymous said...

Dr Mohammed & Family,

Welcome to the USA! Though I must say Texas is probably not representative of the rest of the country--they consider themselves a sort of country of their own. I can say that for certain as my husband is originally from Houston.

I can also say for certain they speak a peculiar form of English down there, ya'll know whud I mean? Ya'll will eventually get used to it, bless yore lil ole hearts--jes speak SLOOOOW ;)

The other thing about Texas is BBQ--every self-respecting Texan has at least one grill,smoker, or other meat-cooking device as well as a secret BBQ recipe.

I second the recommendations for Craigslist.org and the Library. There is nothing like Craigslist for getting or getting rid of stuff and the Library is full of freebies including the internet so you can keep posting.

Best Wishes to you and your lovely family!

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