Migrating to New York was not a decision that came easy for me. I agonised over the family I would leave behind, childhood friends, my favourite places, things I liked to do and my care free cultural identity. Still, I took the decision that would force me to begin a new life, in a strange country, with very different politics. I felt like a new born babe learning how to live all over again.
My name is Susan Gosine-Herrera. I am a Trinidadian immigrant. I have lived in Queens, New York, for the past ten years. Everything, even the food, was unfamiliar to me, in the early days. The train was formidable. Riding the bus was inevitable since taking taxis left a big bite in my wages.
The adjustment period was lonely and trying, especially in the cold winter months. Being from a tropical island, the intense cold was a shock to my system. My brain often got frozen and my ears felt numb and stung. Then I started wearing hats and my brain didn’t freeze as much. The winter still gets to me, except, now I have someone to keep me warm at night.
Over the years I have made new friends, established relations, gotten married, learned to adapt to the climatic changes, absorbed the complexities of various cultures and settled nicely into my new space. From time to time, I still become homesick and long for the good old days when I bounded around Trinidad knowing home was two only bounds away. I still long to see my family and hear their voices. An airplane ticket and a six-hour flight are not the kind of visit that can be made weekly or monthly, unless, I can afford that luxury and I can’t. Sometimes I console myself with a telephone call. But life slips away when you are not close by to see those you love go.
Since I migrated I’ve lost cherished members of my family. My dear uncle, Oudit Narine, not my biological father, still the only one I knew, died months before he was due to visit with me. My biological father died, my mother also, two other uncles, several close friends, respected villagers, and only recently, a cousin. A young man in his prime. While adjustments are neither complete nor final they can sometimes bring pain. For such long distances can never be bridged in time to bid a loved one farewell. Most times the good bye is done over last rites.
Picking up your life from one country and transporting it across the globe into another does not change one’s heritage or one’s family, it only changes the place you live and the people you live among. And like most immigrants, I am finally beginning to grow roots. I can see progress in my life but mostly I can see stability. And when I look back at my achievements over the past years, I am pleased with the decision I made so long ago.
In moving across the globe I paid dearly and will continue to do so for as long as I live an airplane ride away from my family. But life brings change and in order to progress I had to undertake such a change. I did so praying for courage to stand firm. I cherish the memories of those whose presence in my life has influenced me to greater achievements and urged me to build new memories.
Migrating is like a marriage, instead of moving across the globe, you move from your parents’ home to that of your in-laws, or into your own, and again, hope for a better life and pray for courage to stand firm in times of disappointment. And that’s exactly what I am doing.