On the 131’st day I was very tired and sleeping during the day because I had been restless at night. I was laying in bed when I heard the phone ring and someone leave a message on the answering machine. I thought I was dreaming. The message said that there was a package for me at the FedEx center in the embassy.
When I got to the FedEx center the man gave me my package.
“Can you open it and tell me why I was denied?”
“You didn't even open the package.” He responded. “How do you know you were denied?”
“Because I’ve already been rejected three times. I don’t have high expectations.”
The man opened the package and said, “Congrats you have a visa!”
I didn’t believe him. I turned around and asked someone else to tell me why I was denied.
“You’re not denied.”
I couldn’t believe it – I just broke down crying.
I went from the FedEx center to the nearest airline office to get a plane ticket. Then I went home and told my mom I was going to America the following week.
“Oh this wasn't a joke!”
My parents knew I submitted the application but didn’t think I would actually go because I am completely blind and didn't speak any English. In the meantime my dad had also lost his company, so my parents told me they couldn’t afford to support me in America. So I borrowed money from a friend and promised to repay him.
I flew from Jeddah to Dubai to Los Angeles – a total of 32 hours. When we were descending towards the LA airport I was overcome with fear.
“My god” I thought to myself, “Why did I do this? How shall I communicate with people?”
I didn’t speak any English, I had limited money and no idea of where I was going.
When I went to the immigration officer at LAX he started to interview me. All I knew how to say was, “No English.”
He asked me one, two and then three questions and to each I responded, “No English.” He just took my picture and let me go. This was strange because I am from Syria – a country full of crisis and ISIS – so the interview process usually takes 12 – 24 hours. The immigration officer could have called a translator but instead he just let me go and three minutes later I was standing outside of LAX.
The immigration officer had given me a small piece of paper that I threw out as soon as I exited the airport because I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was maybe a phone number in case I needed help. But it turns out that small piece of paper was my I94 document – a document you need to present when you depart the country.
A worker at the airport saw I was blind and asked me where I wanted to go. Another phrase I knew was ‘taxi’ so that’s what I said. He brought me to the taxi stand and I got into the taxi. Another word I knew was “hotel” so when the driver spoke I just said, “hotel.” He asked me what hotel and I just said, “Hotel. No English…”
I still dislike that taxi driver because he took me to a very expensive hotel – it was $160 a night! It had been a long and stressful trip and I was exhausted, so I took a shower and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning at 5:30 AM and I was terrified because the check-out was at 12:00 PM, so I needed to either book another night, which I couldn’t afford, or leave my room in six hours. I didn’t know where I would go. I had $1,200 to my name and if I spent all my money on the hotel I wouldn’t have enough for food.
I went to the lobby and used Google translator to tell them I was going out to meet a friend and asked if I could store my luggage at the front desk, which my friend would pick up later. I knew I couldn’t be walking around LA with all that luggage…