The American Consulate’s office had arrived on Cumming Street in Suva, providing a green light at my crossroads. It was a Monday morning when I headed towards their front door and there was only one thing on my mind, immigration to the United States.
I seem to recall a 3-story building housing a Chinese restaurant on the street level, the consulate’s office above taking the entire 2nd floor, with the 3rd floor being irrelevant to me.
A short hike up the stairs and I was inside the office, looking curiously around. There was a woman sitting at a desk. She looked up at me and asked in a kindly voice, “How can I help you?” I responded, ‘This is the American consulate’s office?’ She smiled, “Yes.”
‘I would like to apply for a permanent resident visa so I can live in the United States,’ I stated eagerly.
She got up and excused herself going into one of the rooms somewhere behind the front office. She returned with a stack of forms for me. I met her back at the counter.
“Read all the requirements, fill all these out and be sure to gather the necessary documents which are listed on this page..,” she was pointing to the list. “…and when you’ve completed everything, bring the entire packet back here and we’ll move to the next step from there.”
I told her my name and asked for hers; Theresa, she told me. I extended my hand to shake hers and left the office. On my way down, at the last step before I exited the premises with my stack of forms, a thought hit me like a thunderclap. ‘Wait a minute,’ it started. ‘Didn’t I do this years before?’
I turned right around and marched back up those steps with even more determination than before, feeling a whole lot closer to my goal. Theresa was at her desk and she looked up at me again, just as before and this time she said, “What? You’re back again!”
She was grinning at me. “Did I forget something or maybe you’ve got something for me?” I shook my head and with a return smile I stated, ‘Not really but I have a question.’
“Go ahead,” she said. I asked her if the consulate kept old applications. In an assured voice Theresa replied, “We keep everything.” The look on her face told me she couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say.
I explained I had submitted a similar application years before; it was the spring of 1953. I told her I had mailed it to the American Consulate in Noumea, New Caledonia. She wrote my name and the year on a piece of paper. She got up from her desk and said she’d go in the back and look for it.
Theresa suggested, “Why not have a seat Mr. Masala. This might take a while.” It may have been 15-20 minutes before she returned and with my file in hand -how about that! She took it straight to her desk to spend a few moments reviewing the old application.
Theresa asked me why I had not completed the application before. I explained there were various particulars including timing and financial reasons. She nodded, adding and subtracting pages, re-sorted them and restated what I needed now.
It was the same as before really; the doctor’s bill of good health, no disease and such to include a chest x ray looking out mainly for TB, and financial letter of sponsorship. Also needed would be a letter vouching a promise of accommodation when I arrive in the United States and lastly a police report clearing me as safe, respectable and without record person.
I knew I could take care of the list for I would be persistent in changing the direction of my life. Theresa wished me success, “I wish you all the best Mr. Masala. I think you are really ready for this and so we will see you soon, I expect.”
I smiled and thanked Theresa. This time I actually left the building and I went straight to work. It took me all of 10 minutes on foot.
At the end of the work day, I stopped to have my ice cold Guinness Stout with an excited feeling following me about. I took the evening bus towards home.
Theresa of course is a ficticious name for a truly helpful, sweet and kind person.