My first day in the United States was part of a journey which began long before my arrival. Prior to my journey to America, I endured conditions in refugee camps which seemed impossible to cope with at times. I stayed in Dadaab Refugee Camp, however, the migration committee relocated us to Kakuma Refugee Camp because Dadaab was no longer safe for us who were the Somali Bantu minority. From Kakuma, we had the opportunity to come to America. It took 24 hours to get to the United States. We came from our camp in Kakuma to Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, from there we flew to Switzerland, then from Switzerland to New York, and finally, New York to Arizona.
The United States was a whirlwind. There were endless surprises about life here. The very first thing which struck me about the United States were the cell phones. In Kakuma, we used older phones which were large and stationary. I was shocked that people could carry around such small devices which worked as phones. After leaving the airport in Tucson, we took a car to our new home. Being in a car was exciting; we all wanted to be in the front seat. We were driving to our new home, looking out the window at Arizona. Before I had gotten to America, I had seen it on television during our orientation. I thought I knew what to expect, I’d had a vision of what America and Americans looked like. I turned to my case manager and asked, “Is this the U.S.A?” and she told me, “Yes.” But I didn’t believe it. On television, I had seen beautiful places and huge cities. Tucson was nothing like how I was told the United States would be.
We arrived to our house and were shown around. Our first meal in the United States was bread and eggs. That night, we heard the horrifying sound of gunshots. We couldn’t believe it; we had just fled war and hunger, and now, we had come to the United States for safety, and we were more afraid than ever. This is not what we planned to get into. The next morning, our case worker came to our house. We asked what had happened, and she explained to us that the sounds we heard were fireworks. We were safe. Since this first day, I have studied, grown, and dealt with bitter New York winters; it has been a hard but rewarding journey. I now devote time to helping other New Americans acclimate to a new life in a new country.