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!

 

 

 

46. Saturday at 28 Mal Street

It was an ordinary Saturday morning spent washing, breakfasting and some light-hearted conversation with all those present.  My elder sister had come from her home to spend a couple of days with me, otherwise our normal comfortable routine was there.  

An occasional neighbor would stop in during the course of the day to say goodbye, expressing their regret of not being able to attend my dockside departure but certainly wanted to make known their good intentions and well-wishes.  

For the better part of this Saturday it was a do nothing day.  I had already decided to save my packing for the next morning as my sailing was in the afternoon and so I mainly rested, daydreaming mostly.  

Besides it wasn’t my day to catch the chickens for dinner so I just continued plotting my near future.  What would I do the first few days of my arrival in San Francisco, U.S.A.?, this I wondered.

I was departing Fiji with a heavy heart, one not completely happy inside because something was missing and that something was someone named Noori.  We loved one another very much.

It was about noon when I saw her for the first time that week.  My little sister must’ve told Noori the day before when she first learned of my plans.  

She spoke gently only her eyes were anything but happy.  “Gary, I am feeling shocked.  You’re really leaving us tomorrow?”  

I tried to smile in the presence of those eyes and I tenderly told her, ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without you and your loving support Noori.  I had been consumed by much anger and I feel there’s no telling what might have happened next.  It would’ve involved more pain though, I’m almost sure of that.’

I know I didn’t need to remind Noori (but I did anyway) of her compassion which, time and time again had pulled me through my darkest hours, other than that moment on the docks when I realised I couldn’t return to Sonia.  

I had to experience that one through completely on my own.  Besides I hadn’t met Noori at that time.

And then I felt it; the similarity in which this scene was beginning to play out.  I had hoped with all my being this wouldn’t be a repeat.

Our moments together had allowed our feelings to blossom yet unfortunate was our timing; still very real was the actuality of old fashioned views all too present in the form of a solid wall.

You, my seasoned readers, know all this.  My family had quickly come to stand by me where Noori was concerned; this intelligent, beautiful and dynamic Muslim girl was a part of our family already.  Our love however stood no chance to exist where her family was concerned and so ….

Still I made a promise to Noori and shared this objective with my family; I would travel back in two years time, if not possible sooner, to make Noori my wife and return with her to my home in the United States.  

After successfully achieving this goal, I could begin bringing the family there one by one.  If that’s the way I had to do it, then that’s exactly what I would do.  

I long since had memorized the delicious smells coming from the kitchen of my family home, so comforting indeed.  That night the aroma registered in my mind of a final evening meal in my place of birth, my childhood home filled with the ghosts of my youth, making it all the more intense.  

For safe keeping I felt the need to preserve it in my consciousness.  

Journeyed abroad before, I certainly had.  Only this time it was final – I was moving away, really leaving home.  

It was a difficult good night Noori and I shared, one with some serious lingering questions which really couldn’t be answered.  After dinner my brother and my sister walked Noori home.  It was the way we always had to do it.

And so it was the end of Saturday at 28 Mal Street in Suva, Fiji Islands.

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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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