• Atisha Sooklall

My first trip to the USA

Our visa’s finally arrived, and we excitedly planned our first trip to the USA for the beginning of December 2019. My husband had been there for work before but it was the first time for me. Although it felt like we were planning a holiday, we actually had a whole agenda to get through and a limited amount of time.

We got to the airport and it felt like the final goodbye. Our parents and siblings were emotional and so were we. There’s a strong emotion that one experiences as your heart sinks and the tears fall, while your brain is saying, stop being dramatic, you’re going to see everyone in two weeks. Nevertheless, the brain seldom wins over the heart and the tears could not be stopped. After hearty goodbyes, we boarded the plane and the start of a 16-hour flight. I have never been on such a long flight before. You literally have supper, sleep, have a late-night snack, sleep, have breakfast, sleep, have lunch, sleep and finally reach your destination. And the time difference of 7 hours, makes you feel like you’ve been on the plane for 2 days, yes I’m being dramatic, but those who have experienced this can relate.

Upon arrival at the Atlanta International Airport, we had to go through customs and border security. They checked our passport, Visa’s and work-related documents and we were on our merry way. After collecting our baggage, we had to do a bag drop for our connecting flight to Augusta. I then got to experience the infamous TSA (Transportation Security Administration) as we checked in for the next flight. I heard many stories about how difficult they can be. Personally, I had a good experience, I followed the rules and they did their job, don’t know what all the fuss was about. After the second flight, we reached Augusta. And we still were not there yet…

After a thirty min drive, we finally reached Aiken. We were both tired, hungry and just exhausted. We needed to shower, eat and sleep. We got to the hotel only to find out that the earliest check-in was two hours later. So we went out and got something to eat, drove around the town and finally headed back to the hotel.

The next day we had to start fresh with our agenda. We started at the Bank of America, where we opened our first American bank accounts. They were so helpful, which made the process so much easier. Next, we needed to find a place to live. So we started driving around and looking for complexes that we would consider moving into. We spent three days doing this and then we narrowed it down to two places that we liked. Since we only needed the apartment from Feb 2020, we couldn’t sign for the either of the places. Instead the real estate agents advised us to check availability in Jan 2020 and complete the online application then.

With the place to live identified, we then set out to the Social Security Administration to apply for our social security numbers. In between all of this, my husband was also working as he went through the orientation at the plant. He was introduced to the team that he would be working with and learned about the current projects that needed attention.

My uncle from Atlanta also visited and spent a few days with us. He wanted to make sure we were ok and finding everything that we needed. He took us to Walmart, Publix and Kroger and advised on what we should buy from where. I could write a whole blog post on just my visit to Walmart, they literally sell everything you can think of under one roof! He took us out to try different restaurants and take-aways and offered us valuable advice on living in the USA.

Before coming back to South Africa, we spent a weekend in Boston, where we visited my husband’s aunt and uncle. It was freezing when we got there, the coldest place I have experienced thus far. The air was thin and icy, when the breeze brushed my face it felt like my cheeks and ears were burning wholes into my head. But it was also one of the most beautiful sites as it was snowing, picture-perfect like you would see in the movies. We had such fun while we were there, we went to MIT, did lots of shopping and did one of the escape rooms at Breakout Boston. If you have an escape room near you, be sure to try it out, its definitely worth the experience.

Time flew by, but we knew where we were going to live, bank accounts were opened, social security applications were done, and we had family close by. We departed the USA with peace of mind. All the real drama of getting 28 years’ worth of baggage from SA to the USA was still to come…

Catch up soon, another day with another story…

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