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Immigration Dilemmas

I swear, if this weren’t true, then I should be a fiction writer!

I just came off of what I can consider the most tumultuous, uncontrollable, yet highly strengthening and humbling 36 hours of my life! The insanity began when I landed in London’s Gatwick International Airport (LGW) from Philadelphia at 8am GMT.

Like everyone on board, I have to pass through immigration before being admitted into the country. I give the immigration officer (a woman) my documents and wait to be grilled (this always happen coming into London so I am just waiting for it]. The woman, who looks like a man, did not fail. The She-man asks me where I have been, why I am coming to London, how long I was out of the country, etc. When she finds my answers to be unsatisfactory, she tells me to step aside as she has to speak to her manager to decide whether I can be admitted me back in the country.

I am shocked…. and a bit nervous! I am a dual citizen: a holder of an American and Trinidad passport. However, I have been working in London since September 2006 on a working visa! What did she mean that she “has to talk to her manager to see if they can admit me back in”?! For crying out loud, I’m basically a citizen…ok, not legally, but I feel like I am one! Too bad that feeling like one is not the same as being one!

Then the She-man comes over to me and says to get my luggage, because this is going take a while. She calls another woman (an overweight, elderly woman) to escort meyes, treating me like a child and criminalto take my bags from the conveyor belt. I follow the woman and I get my stuff. Then she tales me to the ‘Nothing to Declare / Declare’ area so she can search through ALL MY THINGS right in front of everyone! She asks me if there was anything dangerous inside that she should know about. I tell her there was not. She explains that when she takes out something that may be of “significance”, she will put it into a plastic folder and will further inspect it later. Therefore, every time she takes out something from my stuff, she has to question me about it:

“What is this?” she asks.

“A notebook,” I respond.

“What is this?”

“Sweets for my colleagues.”

“What is this?”

“A t-shirt,” I reply.

Now I am thinking: immigration officers may be book smart, but they really have no common sense! I guess they are so used to seeing James Bond-like secretly devised weapons, that they cannot take a notebook for just being a notebook.

Once she finishes with the investigation, she tells me to gather my stuff and go into an elevator and take it to the basement floor. She says she will meet me in the basement via the stairwell. Immediately, I got scared! I think: why is she not taking this elevator with me? Because I watch so many movies, I begin to see big, bad guys dressed in black waiting on my arrival to the basement. As soon as I get out of the elevator they will grab me, beat me up and make me confess…but wait, I have nothing to confess! I did not do anything wrong! However, my emotions are still high and I stand in the middle of the elevator on guard as to what awaits me at the other end of the door.

The elevator reaches the basement. The doors slowly open and….OMG…it is just the overweight, elderly woman breathing hard! She must have run down the basement stairs in order to meet me on my descent. I notice that I am back by the immigration area. The woman asks me if I want anything to drink. I want to say: give me a shot of Patron! However, I figure that would not help my case. So I simply ask for a glass of water. Then she tells me to take a seat and someone will come and speak to me. Once again, I get nervous.

I take a seat and I see there are three other people there: two women and one man. The elderly woman comes back with the glass of water. I thank her and she leaves. I notice the two women reading, so I get out a book and begin to read. About five minutes go by and then another immigrations officer (a man) calls one of the women into a small door. I know that cannot be good. I continue “reading”…. really just looking at the words as to not look around at anything else. About another five minutes pass, and the same dude from before calls me in. He tells me to bring my stuff.

I gather all my things and head into this small door. The hallway was quite narrow, but the room is bigger than I thought. There were four immigration officers there: three men and one woman. All four greet me politely. The woman tells me to take my things into a storage room and she would have to go through it.

I ask, “You still need to go through it, although another woman went through it already?”

Before she could answer I say, “It’s procedure, huh?”

She smiled and replied, “Yes.”

As she starts to look through all my things, the gentleman who got me earlier tells me to follow him. At this point, my fear has left me because they were all so nice! Then again, I think, this could be their plan. I try to keep my guard up. I follow the dude into a ‘Biometrics room’: where your picture and fingerprints are taken.

I ask the guy working the machine why this is all necessary. He explains that when someone is detained, his or her fingerprints and picture must be taken. Now, I truly felt like a criminal.

Unlike the old-school technology, which was done by a person putting their fingers in ink and then laying it on paper, the fingerprints are now done with a computer. I lay my four fingers down and the scan was taken. Then I do the same thing for my thumb. I repeat the process of my left hand. Next, I do the same for each individual finger and my thumb on a smaller scanner. Then, I move on to take my picture. I need to say that is probably THE WORST picture I have taken in my life! I just took a 16-hour journey from Los Angeles to London Gatwick. My hair is a mess and my face looks tired and oily!

Ok, so this part was over and the original guy who I followed into the room, tells me to follow him once again. I follow him back into the small office. Then he explains that he will be keeping me in a “holding room” until I get interviewed. He asks if I am hungry or thirsty. I say the latter and ask for some water. He gives me the water. He then tells me if there is anything I want while I’m in the holding room, just knock on the door. Then another dude opens the door and I enter this “holding room”.

My first opinion of the holding room is that it’s actually pretty good. Like I said, watching a whole bunch of movies has made me think of the worst-case scenarios in situations like this. It is big, probably a quarter of the size of a basketball court. There are benches, tables, chairs, books, a phone, two bathrooms (male and female), pillows and blankets. I meet one of the women who I saw reading earlier and there are also five other people: a man, a child, and three other women. I take a seat and begin to read once again. By now, it is 10am.

About 10 minutes later, the immigration woman (the one who re-looked through my stuff) calls one of the women from the holding room. Twenty minutes after that, she calls me. I leave the holding room and step into the office. I see the She-man. Instantly, I know that I will be sent back to the US, because the She-man did not want to hear any explanation from me. However, I play along. She introduces herself to me and tells me that she is going to conduct an interview. She asks me to follow her into a room.

We go into the room and it looks, what I think, a typical interrogation room would look like: no windows, no mirrors; only four walls, a table and three chairs. We sit down (I sit across from her) and she asks me questions. I feel extremely nervous; not because I have anything to hide, but because of the environment, how she is treating me (like a law breaker) and by how little she seems to care about the situation. It seems like this is more of an inconvenience for her than anything else.

Not to hate on the UK Border Patrol, but every question she asked and every answer I gave, she have to write down! I felt like I was back in the early 20th Century! As you can imagine, this process took AGES! Why is it that there could not have been a laptop?! Here’s an idea: UK Border Patrol. Instead of treating innocent people like me as criminals, go ahead and get a laptop for your employees!

Anyways, she is asking me questions, though I feel like she already has her answers and could care less what I tell her. The gist of the situation is that my paperwork for my work permit is incomplete. Instead of finishing it in the UK, I will need to go back to the US to finish the process. However, I was not told this prior to my departure from the UK and hence why I am in the predicament before me.

Therefore, the She-man explains that I am banned from the UK for the time being! I ask her if I can at least be admitted for even a day to get my things. After all, I did live in the country for almost three years and I have accumulated tons of stuff. Not to mention I need to sort out my rent, lease, bills, etc. She tells me that she will have to speak to her manager (yea, like there is really a manager!). Once she says this, I know the answer will not be in my favor. Then she asks me to sign the interview and escorts me back to the holding area.

In the holding area, I meet the same people that I met the first time. I take a seat and begin to really read my book. I know I am going to be deported so I start to think about what I will do with my life once I am back in California: what job will I get, how will I get my stuff from London, how sad I will be, how I will miss my friends, etc. Then I start to look at the bright side: I can save more money, finish a documentary I am working on, have the good weather, be with my family, go to more basketball games and hang out in Vegas! Either way, I have tons of stuff to think about since I was more or less at peace with the situation.

The She-man comes back and calls me from my holding room. She explains to me that I will be sent back to the US (big surprise) on the first flight to Philadelphia, which will be tomorrow (it was about noon). I tell her that I am from Los Angeles and would need to go there, not Philadelphia. She says I can only go back on the same airline I came with and to the last US airport I departed from (which was Philadelphia). She continues to say that her manager will not give me permission to get my stuff (once again, big surprise) and that I will need to get someone to ship my stuff (she must not know how much stuff I have).

Once again, she asks me to sign some documents, which states that I understand why I am being refused and what I need to do to come back. I sign it. I ask when I can come back as a visitor. She responds, “How long is a piece of string?” I really want to reach over the desk, grab her by her ugly blonde head and lay the smack down. However, I know that will only make matters worse, so I just ignore her rhetorical question and politely ask, “Is there anything else I need to sign?” She says there is not. The She-man then tells me that she has asked for me to be taken to a detention center where I can shower, have a proper meal and relax. When that has come through, she will inform me. Even before she has to tell me, I am already on my way into the holding area. But before I go in, I ask to borrow a phone so I can text my employer and friends to let them know that…. ummm…. I’m not coming back for a while.

By this time, there are only two women in the holding area with me. I begin to text furiously. One of the women asks me how I got my phone since no phones are allowed. I tell her it is one of the guards. This actually broke the ice as the three of us start talking about our situation. I find out that one woman (who is a UK citizen) is being held here because her husband committed a crime in a Commonwealth country and he is barred from the UK. They (UK Border Patrol) think she will try to assist him in coming back here. The other woman is a US citizen and she has the same problem as me: incomplete documents.

The holding area is really cold at this point, because the A/C is blasting. I ask the officers if they can turn it down and they say they have no control over the temperature. So I ask for a blanket, which is one of those aluminum ones people use for camping. I am still freezing. By now I am wearing my scarf, gloves and have my hood over my head. I make myself as comfortable as possible and try to get some sleep while I wait to be transferred.

About two hours later (it is about 330pm now), an immigration officer tells me I am ready to be taken to the detention center. I say goodbye to my newfound inmates, gather my things and leave. Two officers escort me to a van: one female and one male. Both are really cool. We are joking and laughing, as I try to play it cool. I am put into one of those prison vans: you know, the ones that has bars around it and a bulletproof glass as a partition between the criminals and the guards. I am surprised they did not handcuff me, too! It was so surreal.

I arrive at my detention center. The employees greet me and explain to me what is going on. I go to the front desk where I get my picture taken (yet again) by a male guard and am given a badge, which has my picture on it. He tells me to walk around with this at all times. Next, he tells me that I will be taken to a nurse for examination and then I will be taken to my room.

As I wait here to see the nurse, a couple of male detainees pass by and say “hello”. I immediately think that is weird because I thought I was going to be placed in an ALL-FEMALE detention center. Then I start to think and realize that I did not see ONE female working here. The fear creeps up again.

The nurse (a man) invites me into his office. As the trend has shown, he is very polite. He asks me medical questions and then I ask him about the facility. He explains that this is a safer (as in, the other one is not as safe) detention center that has space for 120 men and five women!

He saw the look of horror on my face and saysand this is no joke”do not worry. These guys are low-profile criminals and some are just waiting for deportation or removal hearing. They are very protective of the women here, so you will be ok.”

I ask, What does ‘low-profile criminal’ mean?

He responds, Drug uses, dealers, thieves and pedophiles.

I just look at him blankly. Then I enquire, “How many women are here?”

He says, “Right now…maybe one or two.”

I try to play down the fear and say, “Oh, that’s cool. I’m only here for a night so I should be fine.”

He smiles in return.

Of course, I’m terrified! I have seen the movies! I know what’s up! I keep on asking questions as to leave his office. But the nurse has done his examination and has to leave to go to the “other detention center”. He tells me to “take care” and takes me to the front desk where I meet a female guard takes me to my room.

The female guard is a young, blonde woman. She warmly greets me and takes me on the tour. The first stop is my room. She explains how to open it and then we enter. The room is pretty spacious. It has five single beds, five small closets, five chairs and five shelves. There is a bathroom that has a shower, a sink and a toilet. There is a TV in the room. Not too bad, I am thinking. Next, we move on to the tour of the facility.

We walk out of the room and go outside. Because the women are kept in a wing by themselves, in order to access the other parts of the detention center we have to walk through a courtyard. The courtyard is only filled with men. I can feel their eyes on me. I keep playing it cool. I walk with my head up, smile at a few people and continue laughing around with the female guard. The courtyard is very spacious. There is a ping-pong table, a basketball court, a big patio, concrete benches, and a grass area. Once again, not too bad.

We get into the other wing and I am shown the TV rooms (there are two: one for the Arab stations and the other one for everything else), the dining room (one large room that looks exactly like a cafeteria), the library with a computer room, the shop (a small space that sells things from phone cards to cigarettes), the immigration help stop (self explanatory), and the laundry room. The female guard tells me that I will not be given the full tour since I am only here for one night and will not need to know about other stuff like the visitors’ center, fax room, etc. I agree with her. She escorts me back to my room and I am left on my own.

It is about 430pm. I brush my teeth and wash my face immediately since I have not done that in over 24 hours! I put on some deodorant, as well. While I am doing this, I hear the intercom go off. But because I have an electrical toothbrush, I did not exactly make out the words that were said. I think cannot have anything to do with me, so I am not worried. I did not want to stay in my room since I was kept in the holding area most of the day, though I was quite intimidated to go outside. After a minute of inner debate, I tell myself to suck it up, be a (wo)-man, and go outside. I take a deep breath, grab my book and exit my room.

Upon my exit, I am surprised to see that the lobby, where I need to walk to get outside, is locked off by a big cage! I see male guards running in the lobby and I hear someone (I am guessing a detainee) screaming. I look around to find another way out, because now I really do not want to be alone, but I cannot find one. I just stand there hoping someone will take notice of me. Luckily, someone did. One of the guards sees me and says: Sweetie, don’t be frightened. You can get out this way. He opens the gate for me. I thank him and quickly walk into the patio. It’s going to be a long night!

In the patio, I see the same guys I think I saw before. Most of them are black. As I am walking, on of the guys who said hi to me while I was waiting for the nurse says hi to me again. I respond, but continue walking into the other corridor. As I am checking out one of the bulletin boards, another guy says hi to me. I tell him hello. He asks me where I am from and why I am here. I tell him. He is from Nigeria. He is immediately shocked that I am an American citizen and I am stuck in the detention center. Then he tells me his story. As I am talking to him, another guy I saw earlier starts talking to us. He is also from Nigeria. The same thing occurs: I tell him my story and he is surprised. Then he tells me his. The first guy asks me if I want to play some pool. I agree.I mean, do I have anything else to do.and we walk into the TV room (the ‘everything else’ one) to play pool.

As soon as I walk in, all eyes are on me. I feel like a celebritywell, sort of. I relax a bit, because I feel the stares were just ‘curiosity’ looks and not ‘I’m going to hurt you’ glances. There are about 20 guys in this room and I am still the only girl. Unfortunately, the pool table was occupied, so we sit down. The chairs are aligned with about eight chairs in four rows. I sit in the second row. The Nigerian guy leaves to talk to other people, so I chill and watch TV. I remember it being about 530pm, because the Nigerian guy have mentioned that dinner is coming up soon before he left. Between then and 610pm, I fall asleep. I am awoken by the Nigerian dude who wants us to go to dinner. I tell him I will go later. The Nigerian dude leaves me, as I try to wake up.

A guy in front of me says, You must be real tired, huh? I respond, I did not realize I was. Then he introduces himself and I do the same. I am asked my story, I tell it, I ask him his, and he tells it. That is basically how you break the ice in a place like this. He is from Antigua. He introduces me to his friend, who is from Gambia. We talk for a bit and then the Antiguan and me go to eat dinner.

On the way to the cafeteria, we pass the Arab TV room, which has professional wrestling going on. Now, I am HUGE pro wrestling fan. I take a minor detour! I join the other five guys in the room. My new bff (the Antiguan) joins me. The guys in the room are talking about what is going on. I join in. This is another way of breaking the ice: join in what people are talking about. They are surprised to hear that I know so much about wrestling. I think I scored cool creds. I watch wrestling for another 10 minutes and then go for dinner.

Eating dinner at the facility is exactly the way the movies portray jail to be: show your badge or number, get a tray, walk down the line, get food and sit at a table with your crew: I sit with the Antiguan and the Gambian. The South Asian/Middle Eastern sit together, the East Asian sit together, and the loners, obviously, sit alone.

Food for the evening is white rice, a piece of chicken and cauliflower. Yumdelicious [do note the sarcasm]! There are about 30 other people in the room. I ask the Antiguan to tell me about other peoples’ stories. He tells me about an Iraqi who gave most of his fortune to try to get to the UK, but was picked up by immigration right as soon as he arrived via boat and he is being detained. Then, I hear a story about a man who overstays his visa by two weeks because he is friend is terminally ill. He is also detained. Wow, these are pretty bad stories! My incorrect paperwork has nothing on these life changing dilemmas.

As my crew is talking, a small dude joins our table. We are sitting at a four-person square table. The small dude is now sitting across from me. The Antiguan introduces us. The small guy does not seem all there and he stares at me a lot while I am eating. We all talk for a bit more and then my crew (minus the small dude). It is only 7pm.

I go back to my room to put away my book. When I come back, I see the Gambian playing ping pong. I watch for a while. The match is really intense and I am shocked by how serious these guys are taking the game! I start talking to a dude next to me. We talk about sports: ping pong, tennis, basketball, etc. It starts to get cold and I move to the library.

The library is not small, nor is it big. Considering the size of the facility, it is good enough size. The computer lab is a room within the library. I make an appointmentyes, an appointmentto use the computer. One can use it for half an hour at a time and there is a guard monitoring what we look at. I make my appointment for 8pm so I have time to kill.

By now I am comfortable enough with this detention situation. I go back to the patio, where I play a game of ping-pong. I play a horrible game (really, I suck at this game!), I talk to some other guys to waste time and then I go to the library.

I am on the computer for an hour (luckily, no one has an appointment at 830pm, so I was able to use it until closing time). In that time, I see a big guy walking towards me from my peripheral vision. He stands really close to where I am sitting and says, Hey, baby girl, can you fix me up? He is pointing to his hair. I laugh and tell him I have no idea how to cornrow. He looks a bit disappointed, but he leaves. I think: even in a detention center people still care about their looks! Oh yeaand I finally saw another girl: an East Asian girl who looks like she is with her boyfriend. She is on the computer too.

I leave the computer lab and check out what books the library has. As I am doing so, the Antiguan starts talking me. We agree to go to the TV room. On the way, we meet more people who share their stories with me. My assessment, based on what people are telling me, is that people are here for three reasons:

They are low-profile criminals who have served half of their time in prison and are now spending the other half here. The reason they come here is because the UK Border Patrol is deciding whether to deport them back to their country. This scenario applies for people who are not UK citizens.
People who have overstayed their visa on a previous visit to the UK.
People like me, who have incorrect paperwork. However, I did not meet anyone like that. I am guessing that if you have the incorrect paperwork, you will be sent back to your country the next day.
So people in categories 1 and 2 are currently trying to fight their cases legally. They have some type of representation. In the meantime, they are stuck in the detention center. Most people I talk to have been here for two, four, six weeks and even 17 months! One guy even tells me he has been here for three years! I am thinking that things must be really bad in his country to want to stay in the detention center for that long trying to fight his case! Once again, I look at my situation and realize that it is not as bad as I initially thought.

We go to the TV room and watch music videos. It is about 930pm. I ask the Antiguanwhile pointing to the gentlemen in the suitswhy is it that lawyers get to stay here past visiting hours, which end at 9pm. The Antiguan laughs at me and tells me those guys are not lawyers. He explains that when certain people are stopped by immigration and they are considered more dangerous than you and me, they are not eligible to get their luggage. So they are brought to the detention center in what they were wearing. I say oh. Then he tells the dude in the suit to come over here and tell me his story.

I listen and I just want to start laughing! He was very vague, but I can deduce that he is involved in some type of bribery/smuggling business. The funny thing is that this guy really believes that he is innocent. He starts getting heated because he thinks UK immigration is treating him unfairly. Then again, don’t we all think we are innocent? There is no one hear, even the low-profile criminals I spoke with think they are guilty. Everyone is not taking responsibility for his or her actions and blaming someone else. I can also say that I may be guilty of this too.

Ok, so watch TV until about 1030pm and then I head to bed. I exchange my contact information with a few people and say my goodbyes since I will be leaving at 445am for my homebound flight.

I go into my room and am shocked to see the two women I saw in the holding area there! They tell me they were kept there (holding area) until 830pm. I give them the rundown of the facility and we joke about a bit. The East Asian girl comes in and we talk to her for a while. Around 1130pm we all go to bed.

At 3am, a guard comes into our room to wake us up. He says that a van will be ready to take us back to Gatwick at 4am. We allminus the East Asian girlget dressed and wait. The guard returns at 4am and tells us only one of the girlsthe one going to Barcelonais leaving now. Me and the other American will be leaving at 5am. I am so annoyed!

At 5am, the guard comes once again to get us. We are searched (yet againthough I have no idea what they think we could have acquired here), given back our stuff and are taken into the van. The detention center experience is over! Based on being in the facility for 12 hours I can assume that the facility held about 60% blacks, 30% Middle Eastern/South Asians, 8% East Asians and 2% Eastern Europeans and others.

We arrive to Gatwick where we are searched (ANOTHER TIME), have our stuff run through the security scanner and are taken to the holding room again. We meet back up with the girl from Barcelona and two other girls. For heaven’s sake, why didn’t they just take us all at 5am? We get breakfast (cold vegetarian sandwiches) and I read for a while.

It must have been about 630am when they got the Barcelona girl to go on her flight. About half an hour later, they got another girl (I think she is from Portugal or Brazil) to go on her flight. I knew my flight was not until 950am, so I have tons of time. I lay down on the bench to take a nap.

I am awoken by a noise. It takes me a while to realize that it is someone crying. I look around. I notice the American girl going into the bathroom, so I think she is the one crying. However, she comes out quickly and gives some tissues to the other girl who is lying on another bench, facing the wall, and crying. I ask the American if the other girl is ok and she shrugs.

Now, I start to assess my dilemma once again and understand that it is not a bad thing to be sent back to the USLos Angeles, exactly. This is where everyone wants to be. But, unfortunately, not me at the moment.

About five minutes later, a female guard comes to get the crying girl to ask her some questions. I take the opportunity to get some sleep again. It is about 9am when the female guard comes to get me and the other American girl to board our flight. We say goodbye to our keepers (the guards who were watching the holding room) and walk towards our gate.

We go through security! We get our bags tagged and walk through the tunnel to get to the plane. By this time, I am content with the situation and cannot wait to get home! We are having casual conversations with the guards about life, movies and, of course, Michael Jackson. One of the guards (the female guard) explains that we are not getting deported, because if we did, we would not be able to come back into the country for 10 years! We are simply being refused entry until we straighten out our paperwork. Also, we cannot even come to the UK as a visitor until the Border Patrol feels that we are not a threat to work illegally in the country.

The American girl enquires if this is how immigration treats everyone. The female guard says how this is one bad thing about the system: that everyoneregardless of how big or small the mistake iswill be treated the same way. I guess that means even terrorists are treated as nicely as we were and even people who made simply mistakes are treated as roughly as we were.

The female guard finally explains that we will receive our passports when we arrive in Philadelphia. I ask if I will be receiving my ticket to Los Angeles there too. She says I will be.

We leave the guards and board the plane. We are the first to board the plane, as we have to receive V.I.P treatment. We are surprised to see the same cabin crew, as they are as surprised to see us! We tell them our story. Yep, that’s all I do now: tell people my being-refused-entry-into-the-UK story. We are seated and get ready for the seven-hour flight to Philadelphia.

Upon arrival to Philly, we are escorted by a flight attendant to have our passports returned only when we step foot in the airport. This is so ridiculous, I think! This means that we must pass through the tunnel that connects the plane to the airport and literally be inside the walls of Philadelphia International Airport before our passport are given back! Once that is taken care of, we go through immigration. Finally, the craziness has come to an endOR SO I THINK!

I say goodbye to the American girl as she lives in Philadelphia and I enquire about my ticket to LA. I go to the airline company’s desk attendant. I tell her my situation, I show her my paperwork and she explains that the UK Border Patrol only took care of my ticket from London to Philadelphia. I will now have to pay for a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, which is about $800! I tell her how I do not have that kind of money on me and I left my credit cards at home-in London. Then I ask her if there is a bus or train option for $400. Can my luck get any worse?

Apparently, the answer is no. At this point, she leaves her desk and talks to her manager. She comes back and says I am going to give you one of my tickets, so it will be $300. I thank her so much and pay for the ticket. I re-check my bags in and go to my gate number to wait for my flight.

I board the plane to LA and I see I have a middle seat. Great, I am thinking. However, my luck is still changing for the better. The plane doors close and there is no one sitting in the window seat! Awesome! I take the window seat and have a relaxing five-hour journey to LA. On the plane, I am sitting by interesting people and we all strike up random conversations. Gotta love the cool people you meet while flying!

Ok, so all the good luck is not fully with me: we arrive to LAX almost two hours late! But that’s ok. I just want to get home, take a shower and have a proper sleep! My sister picks me up and I do what I do best: tell my story! While I am telling her it, I think to myself: man, this is such a wacky tale! Is anyone really going to believe me?

I hate to be clich, but this was a great learning experience. I now understand that situations are only as bad as you make them to be, there are truly less fortunate people than you in the world, stay calm so you can think wisely in dilemmas, and be thankful for what you have and who you are. Though I truly want to be in London right now, I will soon learn why I was meant to be in Los Angeles. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason. The only thing that sucks is waiting to find out that reason! But, hey, such is life: you take the bad with the good and the challenges with the easy-sailings.

[Please note that I did make the elderly, immigration officer who checked my bag to appear quite ignorant. I do understand they were just doing their job and have to ask these questions. The same thing goes with the female immigration (She-man). Although I included laughable adjectives and comical descriptions, I contend that everything that I have written true].