On my last installment of “A Life of Love” I talked about the visa process – getting a visa for Feyma to come and live in the United States. It took around 4 months, a relatively short time in the scheme of things, although it felt like a decade!
On January 6, 1991, Feyma landed at Portland International Airport, in Oregon. Of course, I was there to meet her.
At the time of her arrival, it was a very cold day in Portland. For several days leading up to Feyma’s arrival, Portland was in the middle of a real cold snap! In fact, it was record-breaking cold, like Portland had never felt in history.
On the day that Feyma arrived in Portland, it was 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Yep, that was the high temperature! So, Feyma was in for a shock, coming from a place where the highs pretty much 365 days per year were around 95 or so, and the coldest weather she had ever experienced was probably in the 70s or so. 6 degrees? How could she adjust!
I went to the airport early, I was really excited about Feyma’s arrival. I had missed her badly during the 4 months or so that we had been apart. I knew that after landing, it would take time for Feyma to process through customs and such. She not only had to do the “normal” customs and immigration clearance that was required of all passengers arriving from an International location, but also the process of being a new immigrant who had never been to the United States in her life. This meant a sit-down interview with an immigration agent and such. Feyma (at that time) was a very shy and quiet young lady, and I was unsure how she would do in such an interview.
There was also a delay for all passengers deplaning from Feyma’s flight because there had been a medical emergency on the flight. As I recall, one of the passengers had a heart attack during the flight, so nobody was allowed to get off of the plane until this sick passenger was taken off and rushed to the hospital. So, I did a lot of waiting. But, after a while, I saw Feyma coming up a staircase, and I was elated!
I explained to Feyma that it was very cold outside, but I brought a sweater for her! Haha… I just did not have a coat for her and was unsure what size to get or what style she would want. She did not realize just how cold it was, but once we went outside she quickly learned. When we stepped out from the warmth of the airport, it was a real shock to her system!
The Drive Home
I actually lived in Vancouver, Washington at the time, which is just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. On the drive home, with it being wintertime, many of the trees were barren – all the leaves were dead. When Feyma saw this, she said: “Why doesn’t the government clean up these dead trees that are everywhere?” Feyma, being from a land where it is basically always summer, had never experienced leaves falling off of the trees as a normal cycle. If trees lost all of their leaves that meant that they were dead! I explained to Feyma that the trees were not dead, but she looked at me in a way that I knew she did not really believe I was telling her the truth. Well, 4 or 5 months down the road she would see that I was being truthful!
Even though it was very cold, it was a clear and sunny day. Being the middle of winter, the days were short there in Vancouver. The sunset was around 4:45 or so, or at least it began getting dark at that time. In the Philippines, being very near the equator, the days or of relatively equal amounts of daylight and night. We get around 12 hours a day of sun, and 12 hours of darkness and this is 12 months of the year.
So, when we got to the late afternoon, and it was obviously getting dark already, Feyma was both shocked and depressed. She could not believe it. I told her to just wait, once it was June or so, the days would go on until nearly 10 PM in the evening. Again, I got that look like “Are you lying to me again?” LOL. Sure enough, though, when summer came, and she saw the days lengthening like that, she was pleasantly surprised. As I type in this article, Feyma is in Alaska working in a Fish Processing facility. There, she has experienced daylight going until around midnight, and she loves the long days.
Because of the extreme cold, I told Feyma to watch her step when she was walking outside. I told her that there were patches of ice on the roads and she might fall and hurt herself. Again that look came to her face! But, when she slipped and fell to the ground, that look was quickly erased and she figured out that I was indeed telling her the truth!
Later, I was explaining about the ice. I told her that if we filled up a glass with water from the faucet and put the glass outside, after a few hours the glass would be full of ice, not liquid water. The look again… so we did it, and she was shocked!
It was really fun seeing Feyma experience things for the first time. Things that were so common to me, but firsts for her. Hey, I did the same things when I went to the Philippines, lots of “first-time experiences” for me, things that were commonplace to her.
I really think back with fondness on the time when Feyma arrived in the United States and seeing her learn new things. It was fun and also helped our relationship grow. Really, that time of learning really made Feyma the person that she is today because she changed a lot during her time in the States. I suppose that I did too, being with her, picking up on many of her customs and such.