Friday, October 31, 2008

“It is a Sunny Day”, or How I Passed My Citizenship Test

Congratulate me, guys! I am only one oath away from becoming an official American citizen. I passed my citizenship test.

My naturalization interview (or exam, whatever you prefer to call it) was one of the most intimidating, silliest and easiest things I’ve ever done.

We (hubby, Aiden and I; Sasha stayed with grandma) arrived at the USCIS around 7.30 in the morning. My appointment was at 8.20 am. We live about an hour and 20 min. away, but I was so freaked out not to miss it that I insisted we leave at 5am. I was too excited and stressed to sleep the night before, so you can imagine how I looked and felt when we finally arrived. I was wearing a light gray suit, which was blending well with the color of my face and accentuated my red eyes.

On my way there I was so freaked out that I could not move my jaws. I knew the test questions by heart and I haven’t done anything illegal that would prevent me from getting my citizenship. But it didn’t matter. My sick imagination was more powerful than my true senses. I was imagining that somebody else with my name committed a crime and I wouldn’t be able to prove that it wasn’t me. I was imagining a scary looking immigration officer who would have a strong accent and I wouldn’t be able to understand him. I was also imagining embarrassing myself by forgetting all the answers for the History/government test. I thought the officer would not trust me if he/she sees my hands shaking (it happens when I am stressed out)….
I was trying to pray through all these terrors and I asked hubby to help me pray. I was still afraid, VERY afraid.

The officer, who ended up interviewing and testing me, did not look like the Hulk with Dracula teeth, waiting to eat me any moment (as I thought he would). What a relief! Skinny, middle-aged, white guy without a heavy accent was in front of me. I felt a little uncomfortable, because he didn’t smile (I am used to Americans that always smile), but he was still way better than I imagined.

-Do you swear to tell the truth?

- Yes, I do.
I felt like I was in a court hearing accused of some serious crime.

We sat down. He asked for my green card, passport and started looking at my papers. I started calming down as it didn’t look like he was going to eat me, or even arrest me.

- What county do you live in?
- Actually, I am not sure. I always mix it up between X and Z. I know it’s X Valley. My husband would know, he is the smarter one in the family (I hope hubby will read this).

There is nothing worse than telling a joke and people look at you with a stone face. This happened to me.

- That’s OK if you don’t know, it doesn’t mean you are not smart.

Okay.

Then he asked me a few questions about my background, my current occupation, the number of kids, etc (by the way he already knew all of this because he had my file in front of him).

- Did the Soviet Union still exist when you were born?

- Yes (I wanted to say that it would be nice if I were born afterwards. Ahh, being 16 again…But apparently the guy didn’t have a sense of humor.)

- Have you ever been a member of a Communist party?

- Um, no.

- Have you ever been a part of a terrorist organization?

- No

By doing research online I knew that the next question would have been Have you ever been a prostitute? Either I looked innocent enough or didn’t look good enough to be one, he skipped this one.

Gradually, my fear transformed into almost absolute confidence and peace. Heck, I can do this. I am not a prostitute, or commy or a terrorist. I’ve been in college for 8 years, I passed hundreds of exams, I’ve published articles and my GPA is 3.98 (don’t mean to brag). I can pass a History test and of course I can pass the Reading and Writing part of the exam. I think.

-OK, - the guy said.- Time for the test.

In anticipation of showing of my deep knowledge of the American government and history and my English language skills, I smiled to myself.

-You are not going to get me, guy. I know my stuff.


I am not going to torture you will all the questions he asked me, but he asked me 6 questions (you need to answer 6 out of 10 to pass) and if I didn’t study at all, I would have passed the test anyway. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know where the White House is located and what it is. I also haven’t met a person yet who didn’t know the current American president.

After I answered six questions in a row, the officer gave me a piece of paper with these questions and asked me to read one.

“Who created laws in the United States?” I read and answered: “Congress”

- You don’t need to answer. I just want to see if you know how to read.

??? You know that I am a senior in college and a community college graduate. Of course I can read. But I guess the guy didn't trust American higher education system.

- You passed the Civics and the Reading tests! - the guy announced.

What do you mean I passed?! Aren’t you going to ask me to name the first 13 states, or the numbers of amendments that mention voting rights? Come on now, I studied all weekend!!!

But he just attached the sheet of paper with my test results to my file.

-Okay, Writing test.

Finally. Now he can see that I am one heck of a writer!
I was hoping he would give me a topic and I would have to write a short impromptu essay or something.
I love writing impromptu, so I was hoping to put all my wit, idiom knowledge into one short but touchy little essay.

I grabbed a pen and looked at him.

- Are you ready?

Heck, yes!
-Yes.

- Write for me, please: “It is a sunny day.”

I did and looked at him to wait for further instructions. He looked at me.

- Can I have the paper back?

I handed him the paper.

- Congratulations, you passed!

Huh?

Still puzzled I was starring at him while he was explaining that I passed all the tests and that now I have to wait for a letter with the notice when my oath of allegiance ceremony would take place. Then he got up and walked me towards the door.
I still couldn’t believe it was over. Then he smiled (for the first time!) and I realized that it was really time to leave. He was not on duty anymore.

I didn’t have a choice but leave. Amazingly, I didn’t feel relieved. I felt like I had some unfinished business. And the not-even-a-complex sentence “It is a sunny day.” is stuck in my head to this day.


And if you think I am strange, that’s fine. I know I am.

5 comments:

Sean said...

Congratulations! Great story.
I laughed several times.
It certainly is a sunny day.

Faith said...

Congrats! You are now smarter than the average American. What a let-down about that writing test though... :)

Bethany Streng said...

yay! i just chuckled quite a bit:-)

Darlene said...

ahhh. it sounds like you are now fully qualified to join in at all of the government lines that are so good at wasting our time....

but before I sound cynical, which I really am not, I am so excited for you! So glad to call you a fellow citizen (almost!). What a great story.

I love, "It is a sunny day." Sounds like a symbolic twist.

Ron said...

congratulations

My mother became a citizen of the US in the early 50's .. She met and married my father while he was an Air Force sargeant station in Germany .. She has been back to Germany many times over the years .. she went back recently .. she talked about how different it is from here .. she says she could never live there again .. she is fully an American ..

Welcome to our home .. take your shoes off .. get comfy .. make yourself at home (seems you have.).. after all .. it is a sunny day