When you immigrate to a foreign country, whether you are familiar with the place and people, or you happen to be one of the only immigrants from a place that many people are not familiar with, there is a process of assimilation that takes place and not always is easy. At first, things are new and fun, our own selves are just getting to know and explore the new habitat. After awhile you start to feel a bit more up-rooted. Suddenly you realize that you have been transplanted into another soil, with another plants that sometimes are just different to you. Perhaps a different specie? Without even planning we new immigrants start experiencing a bunch of feelings that can be confused with discrimination, and sometimes they are discrimination.
During this process we learn to give grace to people. We learn to read in between lines, and be strong. We learn to appreciate our roots, our culture, our language, our food, our families and many more things. New immigrants learn to value things for what they are. Besides learning new words and phrases, we learn to appreciate honest smiles, kind gestures, new food, new traditions, new ways of living, and how things run in the new place. Somehow we start behaving like the others. Change can be recognized in our diets, our way of driving, the music we start to listen to, the TV shows we watch, the hobbies we acquire, the places we frequent and of course the people we befriend.
After the first impression has passed, the assimilation process starts. The immigrant learns to live in the new place. Whether the person loves it or hates it, is the new home. Somehow, one learns to be resilient, bolder, stronger and most importantly, we learn to compromise our own culture to accept a new one. Perhaps one that blends our home with the new country. But something more beautiful also happens, we have not just found a place to live. We have also created a nest. We have become part of the environment. People are more familiar with us. Or perhaps we are more familiar with the people. Our second language starts to come, and we do not feel bad about our first language. We might even enjoy our own accents. We learn to promote our culture and give more insight in other people’s needs.
The process is slow, it took me a few years to realize how hard is to be part of a community that happens to see you as an outsider. I am happy that I was innocent enough to not take some gestures as racist. I am happy that even though my new roots are planted in American soil, my soul is planted in planet earth and my heart still whispers Bolivia with a smile. I am happy that my parents taught me to take people as humans, no matter what nationality have. I am happy I look Filipino even though I am not, I was able to make more friends from another culture. I am happy I can see new immigrants as people that need a hand. And not as outsiders that want to take what does not belong to me.
My only wish is for all first generation immigrants, not let the media, propaganda and politics make you believe that you are less or you are not welcome. Don’t let old immigrants tell you that is going to be hard. The truth is that all changes are not easy. The truth is that there is always a friendly hand that will help. Some people call them angels other just friends. Many, many years ago immigrants came and planted their roots in this soil. They had to overcome storms to strength their roots. It took time for their flowers to come, and their seeds to spread. Be a hand that help, learn to be part of the community and most importantly learn to strength that a community.