Across the Atlantic
On our first date my husband shared with me a small dream he had; to move across the Atlantic and live and work in the Americas for a while, “Mexico or Brazil” he said. He had just moved back from a three year stay in his fatherland, Spain, and started a job in Porsche in the southern German city of Stuttgart, where he was planning on staying for a good few years in his motherland.
For me America was a “must try”. It wasn't a dream, but a plan. I would be lying if I said Germany was always going to be where to settle down. Germany was a place I wanted to start my graduate degree before heading over to the States for a postgrad or even a job. But the comfort and security Germany offered me made it difficult to make a full commitment to moving away, forever. However, I always knew I would live in what the Americans like to refer to as “the greatest country in the world” for even a short while.
So when Tim was offered a promotion at Porsche Latin America in Miami where he could make use of his English, Spanish and German skills enhanced by his experience in the automobile industry, we started looking into options that allowed me to continue my PhD. My ideal scenario would have been going to Boston or Seattle where my supervisor was quite familiar with the American Studies departments. But I have to admit, Miami had a nice ring to it. And writing a thesis by the water didn't seem too shabby. After several consultation meetings with my dissertation supervisor, I was convinced that moving to the States would aid my research on immigration publishing in America.
And so it was. We packed our possessions, stuffed them into boxes and had a moving company ship our belongings over the ocean. Life in America started a little earlier for Tim. I still had three months remaining on my work contract and used the time to get rid of anything we didn't want to take to the States while looking for a place to rent in Miami online. Our realtor had given us a long list of condos she imagined we would be interested in, and I going through them one by one, would let Tim know which one to go see. We had a strict set of preferences; great lighting, no carpeted floors, and a guest bedroom. We ended up with the perfect home, and a bonus. We managed to score a great view. All windows face the ocean.
I spent December and some of January in Iran. Celebrated my birthday with my family and friends before lugging my huge suitcase to IKI airport to say goodbye to Iran for a few years. You see, even though the employees at the American embassy in Frankfurt were extremely friendly despite my Iranian passport and issued me a visa in less than ten minutes, breaking the conversation that was being conducted in English to continue it in Persian, (he was American, he was white. I am not sure why he could speak Farsi in such a great manner; errorless and without a thick American accent), I was given a single-entry visa. Meaning I can only enter America once and stay there for the duration of Tim’s expat contract. This infuriated us initially. It is unfair to know that they don’t feel comfortable allowing a resident of Germany married to a German, multiple entries to the United States. But the move to Miami was so exciting that we decided not being able to leave America too often within the next three years is not that bad. (Our wedding celebration will take place in Germany this summer and although it’s a bit of a risk to head out of America and apply for a new visa when in Germany, I am hopeful the recent changes in the political world and Iran’s re-entry in the global economy after nearly two decades and the lifting of the sanctions will spark some friendlier relations. For who knows, maybe my next visit to the American consulate will be just as pleasant leading to a stamp in my passport that screams trust.)
I was in Iran when the HR158 was passed making me grateful for my decision to apply for the visa and having it in my passport before flying to Iran. Porsche’s legal advisor who had been guiding us through the transition and visa procedure advised me to have our marriage certificate at hand as well as pictures of my time in Iran with my family upon arrival in Miami International Airport. And although I had nothing to be nervous about- I had been staying with my family, attending my cousin’s wedding and taking the opportunity to spend time in my homeland for the last time before leaving for the States due to the restrictions the single entry visa had enforced upon me, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the time I would have to waste answering questions once I landed in America.
After a week long stay in Heidelberg, I said goodbye to the bone-chilling cold and got on a train to Frankfurt International Airport.
What surprised me and everyone else sharing my concern about the entering America was not how I was treated on American soil, but in Frankfurt airport before departure. Starting from check-in to passport control I was asked to show multiple documents, explain my reason for travel and provide them with my address and contact details in America. I was asked questions about what my parents did for a living, where in Germany I had been living for the past few years and where exactly my husband, a dual citizen of Germany and Spain, was from. At one point I was asked if I spoke Turkish, leaving me baffled and disappointed by their lack of information. I must point out that all of this was done in an extremely polite and friendly manner. And considering the terrible things that have happened in the last few years, I shouldn’t have been too surprised.
I enjoyed a business class 10-hour-flight from Frankfurt to Miami (thank you Porsche), sipping on green tea - I avoid alcohol on moving vehicles, tipsiness and motion sickness don’t work well together in my case - and watching films one after the other, including an Ed Sheeran concert. I have now become an avid believer that we should all fly business, everywhere, all the time.
Tim had insisted I try to get out of the plane as fast as I could to guarantee a spot not too far in the back of the queue at passport control. I was among the first handful of arrivers. The process that had been predicted to take two hours took one minute with only one question, “is your husband already in America?” And that was that.
I proceeded to claim my luggage and upon leaving the baggage claim I was asked by an officer where I am coming from. See, some Germans when wanting to ask you where you’re from, as in what is your nationality, make the mistake of translating the German question into “where are you coming from?” Having lived in Germany for nearly 5 years and turning a blind eye to some of their grammatical and semantical errors, I allowed myself to believe that the officer was making the same mistake. “Iran” I answered quickly.
It was his astounded “what?!” that made me realize my mistake in regarding his question as a mistake. “Germany. But I am from Iran.”
His face softened as he asked me if I was visiting family in Iran and wished me a nice stay in America.
Iran and America are on the route to a better relationship but it will be quite some time before we can board a direct flight from Tehran to the States.
Tim, convinced that I would be out of the airport no sooner than two hours, was taking his time to pick me up. Freshly showered after his half marathon that morning, he only got to the arrivals terminal after a good half hour wait on my side. He had even considered bringing his laptop to get some work done while he waited for me. Luckily that proved unnecessary.
I arrived at the apartment we had picked out, on a sunny Sunday afternoon with light pouring in the windows welcoming me to our new home across the borders of either of our homelands. And although Tim had spent every waking moment he had when not working, arranging our furniture and belongings, there were boxes and boxes of things to be unpacked. And today on the day that marks the end of the first month of my life in America, we can proudly say that our condo is now a home. And the Braviyounis are now receiving guests…
As of now, Under the Indigo Dome is excited to present you with narrations of adventures and experiences from America… There's a lot to be discovered...