Weepy Post

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Let me forewarn you: This is going to be my 'weepy' post. The one in which I indulge in melodramatic self-pity and sob and shout and shake my fist about.

So yes, it's a little bit like drunk-dialing, I suppose. And I believe everyone should be entitled to do it at least once (or so... let's not limit ourselves. I might end up enjoying it so much that I'd want to make a habit out of it).

As I sit here tonight, I feel drained and defeated. On the one hand, I have so much to be grateful for. For one, I've recently found out that my one sister is coming to visit me! She'll be arriving on my birthday and staying until the 18th of September, and needless to say, I can't WAIT, because I haven't seen her since 2000...

Yes, that's five years.

But that's not the worst of it. I haven't seen my dad in NINE years. My other sister in six years, my mom in four years, my other sis in a year.

This is why.

You've often seen how I refer to myself as an "outlawed alien," and recently many people (more than I could've ever expected, thank you!) responded to my appeal to sign that very naive Green Card petition I had written on my own behalf, but I've never really told you how I ended up being an illegal immigrant in the first place.

So, in case you've ever wondered how a person manages to achieve the same legal status as a Cuban cigar in the States - other than rafting in or outrunning the BCIS (formerly known as the INS) - here's your answer.

Back in 1996, when I was 21 and still living in South Africa, I was a recent graduate from journalism school and found myself working for the press office at the local Egyptian Embassy.

My room mate had just returned from Washington D.C. where she had worked as a nanny. I was forever interrogating her about the States. What is it like? What are the people like? Luckily for me, she had been seeking an audience for some time, so she was more than willing to talk about her experiences with me.

One fine day, after I had moved out and into my own apartment, she phoned me at work, almost too excited to speak. Eventually, I managed to decipher the gist of her news. A friend of the family she had worked for in Washington was also looking for a nanny. Since they had gotten to know my friend quite well throughout her stay in D.C., they wanted her to come back and work for them, but since she'd already 'been there, done that,' she told them about me instead.

"You absolutely HAVE to go!" she said. "You'll have the best experience, and besides, they are willing to pay for your ticket and everything, that's how desperate they are to find someone."

She eventually managed to persuade me. It didn't take very much, mind you, because I'd always dreamed of travelling and living overseas for at least a few years of my life. Since I've always been more of a dreamer than a doer, I recognised this as just the push I'd need to bring at least one of my ambitions to fruition.

So before long (and it all happened really fast... within less than three months) I was in touch with my future boss, and after exchanging a few e-mails, letters and phone calls, the deal was done. They were going to buy my ticket; I only had to quit my job, move out of my apartment and store my furniture, and then get on the plane.

The only time a visa was ever mentioned, was when I asked about how I should go about getting the correct one. My prospective boss was very quick to tell me that I needn't worry too much about such details and that I should just get a tourist visa and get to D.C. already.

I was bitterly, bitterly naive and didn't see any reason to question this. Besides, according to my friend, this family was wealthy and really well connected in D.C. So without much of a hitch, I managed to get a tourist visa valid for one year and on 9 November 1996, I left South African soil. Little did I know for just how long...

The transition from sunny South Africa to a very chilly Washington D.C. was incredibly tough.

For one, I didn't know a soul, so I was incredibly lonely. It also didn't take me too long to figure out that the couple I was working for (by looking after their only son) had not been happily married for a long time. In fact, by the time I got there, their marriage was pretty much on the rocks.

I lived in the house with them and sometimes the atmosphere in that mansion was chillier than the D.C. winter blustering outside.

It was awful. I received a very small salary - far below the minimum wage, which was probably why they never cared so much about my visa status - and I worked way more than 40 hours per week. Some weeks they simply forgot to pay me, and I never had the nerve to remind them. (Yeah, I guess one could say that I'm not much of a business woman.)

After three months of this, and what was probably one of the worst Christmases of my life (during which the FATHER flew into a rage because he hadn't received the gift he wanted!), I found employment elsewhere.

This is where you are probably going to think that I'm making this up, but believe you me, if I really did have such an imagination, I think I would've used it to crank out a best-seller a long time ago.

Even though my responsibilities increased by one child, two dogs, a cat and a few more household chores and errands, and even though my small stipend didn't increase, life with Family Number Two seemed like paradise in the beginning.

The atmosphere in the house certainly felt a lot warmer than I had been used to. Little did I know that they had a huge skeleton in their closet...

Please don't hate me, I swear I'm not doing it on purpose, but all this purging has worn me out. I promise to continue this later.

14 Comments

Michelle said:

RED! One of these days I'm seriously going to boycott your blog until you finish a story on the same day you started it.... :)

kyknoord said:

"...sob and shout and shake my fist about." And what about the hokey-pokey? Isn't that what it's all about? Seriously though, I hope things improve in short order.

kim said:

OHMYGOSH RED! what are you doing to us? *whine*

you know, the nanny-thing is SERIOUSLY an option i've been thinking about maybe doing [i wouldn't live-in and overall i think i may be a better "business-woman" than you are, so..] but just to have a job to start with. i'm not thinking about overstaying my visa at all. i wouldn't have the nerve to do that anyway. we'd probably marry before i would do that even though it'd be not very romantic but since we DO wanna get married anyway why not soon and make our life so much easier? especially nowadays, taking the chance of getting in serious trouble and maybe get banned from the US is not an option...

thanks so much for you last comment and now FINISH THE STORY ALREADY!!

kim said:

and i hope you and the boy can work things out soon. i can only imagine how horrible the situation is... but at least you're with him, which is a big plus! *hugs*

deeleea said:

Hee Hee... Not keeping me in suspense... been there done that!!!

Hey, it's 45 mins since you posted comments at Helen's... you must still be on line.... TALK TO ME..

We are long overdue for a chat babe... And I am a little tipsy and not working right now... check in please... I miss you!!

TimT said:

The Red is back. All hail the Redness!

Hey Red, you say you're more of a dreamer and doer, but the fact that you went overseas and did this proves that you've got more guts than a lot of people, myself included. I'd love to go overseas, but I still haven't worked up the guts to do it.

I'm on line too. Give us a buzz! timhuwtrain - at - hotmail.com. Get rid of the dashes and change the 'at' into an '@' symbol, usual thing.

emily said:

You are evil and you must be stopped.

Onanymous said:

Is it later yet?

pylorns said:

um.. the words "dumb" come to mind..

pylorns said:

mwahahahaha

martha said:

..... I understand the weariness from purging...that's why I haven't written much lately - can't even find the energy to start purging. We're here whenever you are ready...

and now of course, after reading the above comments I find myself wondering what im program you're on and why we've never chatted....

Red Dahling,
Take your time. And continue when you are ready.
I feel privileged because I know how the story goes. I remember when you told it to me over a cup of coffee at the MegaBookstore. We both shared our stories of how we got to where we were.
I want you to know how proud I am of you. Bob Marley has a wonderful song called "three little birds" listen to it until you believe it. It will cheer you up. Also let's go out drinking while your sister is here visiting. I would love to meet her. Or we could go anytime that you want. Drinks on me. I know of a bar with a cute bartender. Both of our weakness.

kim said:

course it's easy for you to say "take your time" since you KNOW THE STORY ... so i hope you're writing the rest of the story right now in word, re-read it and then POST IT!

well, really - i hope you're having a good weekend and take it easy. but after your done taking it easy TELL THE STORY already. prettyplease ;o)

Chris said:

Oh come on, Red! You can't do this to me! I was all ready to find out about the skeleton in their closet and then...to be continued. ;-)

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about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Chris : Oh come on, Red! You can't do this to me! I was all ready to find out about the skeleton in their cl... [go]
  • kim : course it's easy for you to say "take your time" since you KNOW THE STORY ... so i hope you're writi... [go]
  • bookstorediva : Red Dahling, Take your time. And continue when you are ready. I feel privileged because I know how t... [go]
  • martha : ..... I understand the weariness from purging...that's why I haven't written much lately - can't eve... [go]
  • pylorns : mwahahahaha... [go]
  • pylorns : um.. the words "dumb" come to mind..... [go]
  • Onanymous : Is it later yet?... [go]
  • emily : You are evil and you must be stopped.... [go]
  • TimT : The Red is back. All hail the Redness! Hey Red, you say you're more of a dreamer and doer, but the... [go]
  • deeleea : Hee Hee... Not keeping me in suspense... been there done that!!! Hey, it's 45 mins since you posted... [go]
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