50. An Unexpected Yet Benevolent Layover in Honolulu

🛳 My ship ticket was booked through only to Hawaii and then

The ship arrived in Honolulu and I was at the thrilling roundabout in my life; time to redeem my sealed envelope which carried the efforts I had been working on most of my life.  Standing in the immigration line still on board the ship, my adrenaline was certainly raised a bit more.

There was just a few of us and now it was my turn to come forward.  The sealed envelope was opened and along with my passport, I was recognized, stamped and received.  “Welcome to the United States.” the immigration officer said to me pleasantly.

I was given my golden ticket (legal resident-green card) and now I could leave the SS Orsova.  As I disembarked the ship, there was a line of island girls dressed in their grass skirts ready to greet us.  Aloha!  they warmly said to each one of us along with a few extra Hawaiian words I cannot recall exactly.  

Perhaps loaa i kou makaikai as they placed fresh and fragrant flower leis around our necks, each with a sweet and lovely smile.  Aloha indeed!  🌸

Going into the Customs Building I found a big locker to store my suitcase.  My flight was not until the night time so first thing on my to-do list, food!  

I called a cab and asked the driver to take me to a decent and nearby Chinese restaurant.  The man’s attitude was pleasantly laid back and he was more than willing to help.  He promptly delivered me to a street where there were a few eateries; I didn’t miss the Chinese writing on many of the business signs.  

I began to look into the windows hoping one would call to me quickly.  As I was looking into the window of this one restaurant, I saw how quickly the seats were filling – it was lunch time and now I am even more hungry because I’m smelling the food too.  

Remember I just disembarked a ship where I was constantly being fed!

As though breaking into my thoughts of a delicious lunch, the front door opened and a caucasian man stepped right up to me.  He said, “ I see you there and I think you were hoping to come in and have some lunch, am I right?”

I replied without thinking twice, ‘Yes I’d love to but I see there are no open tables.’  He smiled and said “Don’t worry about that, if you want you can join me as there’s no one else at my table.”  

I didn’t have to mull anything over when it came to the increasing sounds in my tummy and so with a gracious smile I went in with him, following him to his table.  We sat down and he handed me a menu.  He mentioned his order was already placed.  Right away I saw a couple of items I desired and ordered them.  My food came shortly after his hit the table.

He introduced himself as a basically retired U.S. Marine, having served during WWII and a few years after that; beyond Pearl Harbor, he loved the islands and decided to plant himself in Honolulu.  

This kind-hearted American man, James, would’ve been my dad, by age I mean to say.  He was at least 25 years my senior.  We enjoyed a wonderful conversation over lunch, and yes the food was good too.

James asking me where I was from, where I was going ….I told him I was from Fiji and he said, “Oh I know Fiji!”  and I told him San Francisco is where that evening’s flight would take me.  

Seeming slightly alarmed James said, “Oh Blue you’re gonna freeze over there, especially coming in from Fiji.”  I had to laugh at his unexpected concern for me.  

He thought to tell me that San Francisco is definitely into winter now and it’s very cold there.  He then made suggestion that I consider remaining in Hawaii, “…at least through the winter and let the western U.S. warm up a bit!” he said with a chuckle.

I thought that a marvelous plan but then I had to say, ‘I think that’s a great idea but I haven’t anywhere to stay, I mean to say I hadn’t planned on a detour.”

James didn’t miss a beat. “You should stay with me.  I have a big house and it’s only my wife and our dog.”  Say, that’s a fabulous idea I thought and said as much with a grateful smile.  I think he would read my face.

I agreed and we talked more about what he wanted to do to help me; he seemed to enjoy this very much.  James said he could take me to the office of employment and that he’d help me get on my feet in no time.  “At least we can try, right?” he offered.

James wouldn’t let me buy my lunch treating me as his guest.  That was such a nice thing and I was feeling comfortable.  We left the restaurant together and as we walked towards the parking lot, we stopped at a phone booth to ring up his wife.  He told her he was bringing home a friend for a couple of nights.

We first went to recover my suitcase and then he took me straightway to the Employment Office.  “Might as well get you registered right away.  We wouldn’t want you to miss any opportunities.”  Thankfully that was a fairly quick and easy process.

James drove me around the town, pointing out this and that and Pearl Harbor too as we went by it.  James told me he was grateful to have survived it but was deeply saddened by the losses, some very personal.  

After leaving the town area we began ascending the hills towards his home.  It was such a beautiful neighborhood, lots of green of course and spacious lots with large ranch-style homes neatly placed upon them.

I turned to look in the direction from where we came and the view was sprawled out clear down to the Pacific Ocean, truly a brilliant blue from that vantage point!

We approached a driveway which he turned the car into.  As we pulled in a car was pulling out.  “That would be my wife.  She’s gone to visit her family.”  He stopped in the driveway up by the front door.  

I’m sure you can picture this in your mind’s eye;  the circular drive, the small flower garden in the center and the relaxed laid out home, glorious in its day, fantastic today too I’m sure!  We got out and walked into the house.

James warmly welcomed me into his home, “Well here’s the house.  I’ll first take you to your room so you can leave your suitcase there and I’ll show you around.”  

As I am experiencing an American’s home for the first time in my life, I was wowed to say the least.  It was something like a palace of sorts to me; so spacious and well, just beautiful.  He showed me the bathroom, the kitchen, the den … do you remember dens?

He then walked over to his telephone and I took a seat nearby; at this point we were taking care of changing my flight.  He called Pan Am and after a few words like calling on behalf of his friend who’s feeling under the weather and needs to cancel his flight, it was done.

I remember thinking to myself about who this man James really is when I heard him say to the person on the other end of the line something about his military status, it somehow reassured me in a calm way; it was like he was well known or something.

While we sat in the kitchen I had a soft drink although he had offered me the run of his entire liquor cupboard.  “We had a fabulous dinner last night, are you interested or should we go out?”  James asked me.  

My honest thoughts; I didn’t have a lot of money in my pocket, he had already treated me so kindly and anyway I was feeling tired, I said whatever he had would be perfect.

He attacked the refrigerator breaking out all the goodies.  There was a large, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil package he opened up.  It contained several delicious looking pork chops.  All the trimmings were there and we feasted.  

🇺🇸 Good choice to stay in – first American dinner in an American’s home.

All in all it was a nice night.  I enjoyed it very much including an evening stroll around his property.  And this time I enjoyed looking at the island lights from the opposite end of where I had seen them before, for the very first time; I’ll never forget that feeling, that sight.

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James:  fictitious name for the real mcCoy!  What a sincere, caring human being and what a perfect welcome into American life!  

Sometimes we just cannot help but to say with a twinkle in our eye and a fondness in our heart, “Ah, the good ‘ol days!

 

 

 

45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Friday morning

January 1959

Friday morning at last and yes, go to work.  It would only be for an hour and a half and I absolutely wouldn’t be late for my 10a oath swearing!  This time I had asked the boss, Mr. W for the rest of the morning off.  

He must’ve figured I had some courthouse stuff to tend to.  “Go on then Nand.” he said with a casual smile.  Mr W was a genuine soul, a very good man.

I headed out for my 10 minute walk to the consulate’s office.  After Theresa acknowledged my arrival with a smile, I sat and waited for a few minutes.  She then called me to the back office for my appointment.  

In my presence the gentleman briefly looked over everything one more time and said to me, “Mr. Masala.  I see you’ve paid your fee and we’ve got your valid passport.  Along with all the proper forms and required documents, everything is in order and you’re well on your way.”  My excitement was mounting and it was time to take my oath.  

Yes and while this whole thing took place ever so long ago, I can tell you it consisted of this basic idea:  to uphold the laws of the United States of America, strive to be a model resident, and not take advantage of the system but earn the privileges.  One day I’d be able to apply for citizenship through the process of Naturalization, etc …

This gentleman then signed a couple of papers, put everything into an envelope and sealed it officially.  He reminded me to not open it.  “It must only be opened by the immigration officials in Honolulu at which time they will issue you the proper identification, granting you legal access to reside and work in America.”  

My face was a tale of delight to say the least.  I stole a quick glance Theresa’s way with a satisfied grin.  She was smiling.

The officer continued, “God bless you Mr. Masala and all the very best to you.  United States is a big country,” he spoke so sincerely.  “Good luck and be sure to make the best of what America has to offer you.”  He shook my hand firmly and honestly.  I was moved by this experience I tell you.  

I came out of the office with Theresa and into the reception area.  I was on a cloud for sure! and it was time for me to be on my way.  I wanted to say goodbye to her with a hug, I was so happy you know.

Instead, I thanked her warmly for her wonderful help.  “Good luck with all you set out to do!  I have faith in you Mr. Masala.  There’s a part of my that still cannot believe the speed with which you did this!”  Her smile was infectious.

“I’ve got to tell you, after the determination you’ve demonstrated with all of this, I know you can make it big!”  And there was my verbal hug.

C - Salinas mountains' Honeysuckle -signed (12 x 18)

What a morning!  I returned to work.  I felt all eyes on me, at least on the big envelope under my arm.

Jules knew what it was and I’m certain she quickly read the look upon my face and came right up to me with a great big hug.  “Nand I cannot tell you how happy I am for you!”  

Back in the workshop my uncle asked me what was in the envelope and I said, ‘It’s my visa to take to the United States!’

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Thursday

January 1959

Thursday morning.  I got dressed with a little more spring in my step, enjoyed my breakfast and made sure to grab that bag with those documents before heading out the door.

I looked one more time into the bag, making sure I had also put the $10 American cash (which I had saved from previous American encounters) and my British passport.  I did.

I went directly to my job.  I worked for an hour and a half and then, it was tea time!  Taking advantage of this leisurely break I excused myself and went straight to the U.S. Consulate’s office.  

Theresa was there at her desk and she greeted me with an adorable smile,  “Nice to see you again.”  I put my bag upon the counter, removing all the papers and such, placing them there.

She just looked at me.  She didn’t touch them.  I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me, still Theresa is not touching them.  

“You know what?”  she asked.  ‘What?’ I replied.  I waited for her to say something else.  I am smiling and I don’t know why.  The suspense was a bubble just waiting to burst.

She finally spoke, “I am dreaming. I don’t believe it.”  Theresa tapped the papers.

‘Did I do something wrong?’  I asked her.  “There’s no way possible!”  she said.  

“I’ve never witnessed anything like this since I’ve worked with the Consulate’s office.”  Now she’s beginning to flip through the papers.  Seems to have met her approval.   

“You know Mr Masala, I have worked with this office, first in Noumea and now Suva, and I have never had a case like this where the paperwork was completed so rapidly.  Usually it’s 3-4 weeks and sometimes more!”  

Making a neat pile of it all, she took from me my passport, the American cash for the processing fee and all the paperwork back into the other office; the Office of the Consulate General.

About 10 minutes later she returned.  “Okay that’s it!  You have an appointment tomorrow morning at 10am sharp to take your oath!”  Theresa seemed excited for me, well it certainly sounded like that.  “Then you can collect your visa.”

Theresa sent me on my way with, “Such determination and great follow through Mr. Masala.  Good day!”

I could feel it, I was ready to fly!

Now I returned to work and stayed put for the rest of my shift.  But not before giving Jules another great big hug.  “Nand, come back soon and take me with you!” she told me as she hugged me back.

Passing on the celebratory cold Guinness temptation, I needed to get home right away this evening.  I was even more determined to relish in my family time.  

No developments or questions.  It was to be like any other evening at home.  I wasn’t expecting to see Noori until the weekend as that has been the normal.

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