Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unforgettable Moments: Part 1

Blogging helps me release stress. Strange, I know. I've been trying to blog every day and sometimes, I just have nothing interesting to say. So I found this idea generator that helps me on those days when my "rock star life" is not inspiring me to write.

So I give you the 10 most unforgettable moments of my life. Some are happy moments, some a little scary, but all very defining in my life.

1) My first day of school. I remember the anticipation and excitement of finally being able to attend school with my two oldest siblings. I remember my mom taking me out to buy the uniform, my new shoes, my lunchbox. The day finally came, and I was the most excited child in the classroom, at least I'd like to think so. While some kids were crying, I was ecstatic to be there, to finally have a chance to learn.
It was March in Panama, and a beautiful summer day. Once we had met our teacher, they took us out to the assembly area. They lined us up, the principal went up on the stage, and then we sang our National Anthem. I'll never forget that moment, I was finally growing up!

2) The year was 1989. Panama's government was under the command of General Noriega. Things were scary to say the least. I was 15 then and understood most of what was happening. I knew our school had been shut down by the government because it was run by a religious group. Electricity was being rationed so we spent many hours every night without power, sitting outside, listening to a radio station from Costa Rica in a small battery powered radio.
I also knew we weren't allow to congregate on the streets. If more than 3 people met on the street to talk, they could be put in jail under the pretense they were conspiring against the government.

I remember this day because my sister and I were sitting outside, just watching cars pass by and people walking towards town. I remember the men stopping to chit chat, two of them on their way to town, one of them on his way home. They stopped in the corner, right across from our yard. I remember the military jeep stopping right next to them, heavily armed and looking like something out of a movie. They dropped something on the ground, the jeep left, and the men started running, and coughing.

My sister and I weren't sure what was happening but it was scary. We got up and started to run towards the house, that's when we felt a funny taste in our throats. It was tear gas.

It was scary to see how we had lost our right to be free; simply because of the ambitions of one man.

3) Moving to Costa Rica. The situation in Panama had gone from bad to worse after the military threw out the results of the elections and put a puppet government in its place. The decision was made we would move to Costa Rica. We were to cross the border, undetected, and ask for political asylum. We rode to the border, as many people do, in a bus. People went there all the time to buy things, trade things, so it wasn't suspicious.
We crossed the border in an area that wasn't patrolled. I was terrified. What if we got caught?
Once on the other side, we headed to the immigration headquarters, located right on the "safe" side of the border. I remember my parents doing all the talking, signing papers, our passports were stamped, and we bought our bus tickets. We were allowed in.
That first night in our adopted home was scary. I was terrified "they" were following us. What if they found us? What would happen to us? I hardly slept. I remember being cold. San Jose was at a much higher elevation than my hometown and the nights were pretty cool. I remember walking out of the little hostel the next morning, and admiring the beautiful mountains that surround the city. I knew a new life awaited us.

4) December 1, 1990. Our plane had reached its final destination. New Orleans. So much had happened in the past year and half. Here we were, another country, a new home, and the promise that our dreams could finally come true.

5) May 1997. Bachelor's degree. Chemical Engineering. I had graduated 6 months before, but since there was no graduation ceremony in December, I was invited to participate in the ceremony in May. By now, I had a job so I thought I would go and "walk" to give my mom the satisfaction of watching me graduate.
As we started to walk into the coliseum where graduation was held, the magnitude of the moment hit me. I had to fight the tears, I had come such a long way since I had left my home 8 years before. The world awaited.