February Challenge Part 1: My Life In America - An Immigrant's Story

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First, thank you both Carol Williams and Anna Banana Kruchten for your invitation to participate in the February Challenge Part One. Also, many thanks to those who inspired and encouraged me to write. 

This is my story.

I was born and raised in Chiang Mai, a mountainous northern Thailand city founded in 1296. It's home to hundreds of beautiful and historical Buddhist temples, including the famous Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep, found on the mountainside. 

The construction on Wat Doi Suthep began in 1386, and according to popular legend, the temple was built to hold a piece of bone from the Buddha's shoulder. With carved serpents to guard the relics. 

My Journey To The New World: America

In 1972, as a student from Thailand, I arrived in New York, United States of America. Alone. By myself.

The Statue of Liberty. The New World's welcoming committee of one was at the ready when I, yet another among the tens of millions before me, was prepared for my new life and unlimited opportunity. 

My dream had come true! Standing before me was the magnificent Statue of Liberty, Symbolic of Freedom. This journey was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Standing in front of the Statue and watching her kind face made me smile. I could think only of the new possibilities and had no idea how long I stood there, unaware that tears were streaming down my face. Tears of joy, to be sure. I stood there watching boats, people, and their pets, enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City, and marveling at the wonder of it all. I wanted to scream and yell at the top of my voice. Instead, I let my heart sing. What a day!

The Struggles

Once my excitement waned as the days passed. I felt "let down" and lonely. Soon I became homesick. What might as well have been half a million miles away, my family was indeed half a world away. Not a word of how frightened, wary, and miserable I was in this exciting New World. Not a word of how I longed to return home.

I learned later that nothing could have prepared me for the new life I had long yearned to have. Since I was nine years old, it was a childhood dream to go to America. As I got older, I had learned so much about the vast horizon that guarantees nothing.

I continued to struggle to live and adjust in my New World. I learned to understand the value of American money, American slang, and a grasp of the English language without constantly translating from English to Thai and vice versa. I never understood why Americans didn't use the metric system. I had always thought everyone else would drive on the right side; it was legal to drive on the "wrong" side of the road in America! 

The Triumphs

I graduated from D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, Boston, MA. In addition to my BS in Business Administration, I spent an extra year and received a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship.  

I met Yuriko, the Japanese marathon runner who would come to the U.S. to run every Boston Marathon since 1976. She inspired me to participate in the Boston Marathon race. The qualifying and training for the marathon started two years before the race. The process was intense, challenging, and exhilarating. It was the most incredible experience I had ever encountered and never thought possible!

I was ready. It was the 1985 Boston Marathon when everyone marched eerily in silence to preserve the energy toward the race's starting line. During the race, I was working hard and looking forward to getting over the worst of the hills. The heat was taking its toll; my hamstrings, Achilles, and calves told me they were unhappy. I kept trudging on. I was relieved to be through the hilliest section of the course unscathed but knew I was in for a tough time in the last 10k. My pace dropped considerably as my legs tightened, and I had to slow down for several minutes to catch my breath. I followed the lines down the middle of the road and finally crossed the finish line with all my legs still intact!

"Dear Heaven, I have just completed the Boston Marathon!"

I thought nothing else could give me more "bragging rights" and make me proud more than the marathon experience seven months later. In November 1985, my application for Naturalization was approved. The immigration officer interviewed me and happily confirmed that I had met all the requirements and passed the written citizenship test, and he asked me the last question.

"Could you name three things you like most about America?"

I looked at him, smiled, and answered without hesitation: "Yes, sir, the three things I like most about America are Men, Money, and Big Mac! "  Finally, at the Oath Ceremony, standing before me was the most beautiful American Flag, and I swore my allegiance to the United States of America.

America has taught me how to take what I've got and grow once more without compromising my identity as an immigrant. Thank you, America! 

Here's My Story Part 2- My Professional Journey.

Comments (54)

Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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You're welcome, Rocky Dickerson. I'm so glad you're here!! 

Feb 18, 2022 05:36 PM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Myrl Jeffcoat 

I make a mean "Tom Yum" and "chicken curry" with coconut milk lemongrass. Yuummmm! Let me know the next time you need a Thai chef! I used to teach Thai cooking classes. The pandemic and my age got in the way, so I had to keep my "day job." :)

Feb 18, 2022 05:40 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Retired Home Stager/Redesign

Aura- I have the greatest admiration for anyone who goes to another country and begins a new life there. Running in the Boston Marathon is quite an achievement. You can be proud of all that you have accomplished!!!!

(Your post made me crave Thai green curry chicken. )

Feb 18, 2022 06:41 PM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Thank you for your kind words, Kathy Streib. I am sure your parents or grandparents had a similar experience when they first came to this country. I wish I could bring my parents here to visit. They were so worried about me being here alone. I have made friends and created a family as I meet them. I learned a long time ago that "friends can become family" when we open our hearts and keep them in our path. 

Feb 18, 2022 07:22 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Hahahaha, I just loved your response as to the 3 things you loved about America. Guessing that list has changed by now? Or not. :) Loved learning more about you, Aura. 

Feb 19, 2022 08:46 AM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Hi, Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, 😄 Well, while I'm not active in the market for "Men" so much, I do love  ALL the men in my life. Money is always popular, and the Big Mac had changed to "Happy Meal" when my daughter was little. So, I still like Mickey D, but I have changed the menu and down to "Quarter Pounder with cheese," At this age, I have to omit anything "Super Size."  So, I am still and will continue to LOVE America at heart!! I forgot to mention that when the officer asked why in that order, I told him I was single at the time, and, yes, at that point, American MEN took the priority!! LOL!!

Feb 19, 2022 02:02 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD

I LOVE it. Good for you. :) 

Feb 19, 2022 02:04 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

It can be such a gift to see the world with new eyes just because it’s new to you in a way that is special.

Feb 20, 2022 04:16 PM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Laura Cerrano, you're right about that. It was a dream and to have a chance to see things and places you used to read about was unbelievable! 

Feb 20, 2022 07:01 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Aura loved reading your post,  just on a side note we came to the US in 1967 so you were not far behind.... then to boot around 1986  I came to Boston and my office was on Copley Square right past the finish line of the Boston Marathon... oh by the way we had the task of providing Security for the Boston Marathon:)) clearly we have been either before or after each crossing our paths.... you know the "six degrees of separation?"  truly amazing, Endre

Feb 21, 2022 11:29 PM
Eileen Burns
Trans State Commercial RE Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FLorida Real Estate Connector

Aura Alex what a wonderful journey manifested in childhood.  You are a brave warrior and enjoy living your life.  Looking forward to reading the next chapter!😎

Feb 22, 2022 06:46 AM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Endre Barath, Jr.,

Yeah. I know about the "six degrees of separation" through Broadway play in the 90's "A Play by American Playwright, John Guare (not sure of spelling). I knew of it from the Tony Award which the play was nominated. I didn't see it because we were visiting some friends in NY city but couldn't stay long. Isn't the concept so interesting?

I stayed with friends in one of those Copley Square apartments during my marathon training (the last 4 months before the race). I ran from Hopkinton along Rt 135, which turned to Rt 16 through Newton and ended at Commonwealth Ave. I can't remember much anymore. Just a blur, but if I was there today and drive (not run), I could probably remember it again! I only missed you by just a few degrees!! Spooky, eh?

Feb 22, 2022 04:32 PM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Eileen Burns, it's one of those "lifetime experiences" that I will never forget. Thank you for your compliment. 

Feb 22, 2022 04:35 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Aura had to come back, and let you know I shared with Diane your story and she was in awe.... now with that said I had to comment on your foggy memory of the Boston Marathon... I am sure Heartbreak Hill caused the memory lapse:) I know the route real well, since we provided security to the Boston Marathon and I saw the ones that finished what they were doing on Copley Square:))))) now with that said having bee a Cross Country Runner and Track runner I totally get what you went through:))Endre

Feb 22, 2022 09:07 PM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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OMG! 🤣Endre Barath, Jr., you were there, weren't you? Only those that got on the Heartbreak Hill (the 4th Killer Hill) would know what the runners went through! The "do or die hill" determined the winners and the dropouts! I was in between those two. 

What did you think we were doing on Copley Square, playing a game of ping-pong? I was trying to figure out how many legs I've got left when I felt like a caterpillar with 16 legs! I couldn't have run all those miles with 2!!! You cracked me up!! 😂

Feb 22, 2022 09:36 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Reading this has brought tears to my eyes Aura Alex 

I can only imagine how excited and yet let down and lonely you felt. You overcame so much and made your childhood dream come true.  You overcame all of your struggles adjusting to a place vastly different from what you knew. 

Feb 24, 2022 09:06 AM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Awww Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist, thank you for your words. The thought of disappointing my family was so great I had to find ways to remind myself daily why I came here. I was determined not to give in or give up, but to give it everything I've got!!! Some days were better than others. 

Feb 24, 2022 05:02 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Aura Alex - Although I ran in the Chicago Marathon, that was the end of the road for me. To run in the Boston Marathon is such a GREAT honor. I was feeling your pain! My daughter told me how magical of a place Thailand is. She says it was the most beautiful place she ever visited. 

You are truly amazing and courageous too! You know what you left, and even though you did your share of mourning, you rose up to the many challenges you faced alone and I admire that in you. I can only imagine your bravery and perseverance and I wish you all the American dreams you wish to have always!

Feb 26, 2022 07:02 AM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Wow! Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, thank you for your heartfelt comments. I am glad to learn you ran the Chicago Marathon! 

The "struggles" taught me to grow stronger. The opportunity was there before me, and I knew I had to step out of the box and seize the moment by its throat!

While you can't take Thailand out of me, I practically grew up here in America. When I began dreaming in English, that was when I knew "I made it!" 💛

Feb 26, 2022 09:14 AM
Ann Hayden 636-399-7544
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri - Chesterfield, MO

Aura Alex ,

Everyone in America should be asked what three things they like about America!  What a great journey so far!

Mar 03, 2022 04:34 AM
Aura Alex
CloseMyDeal, LLC - Seattle, WA
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Hi, Ann Hayden 636-399-7544, I had to "sum it up" in three words. But, if I were to elaborate on the three things I like about America, it would be enough to make a movie out of it! I hope everyone realizes how lucky we are to be an American. 

Thank you so much for being here, Ann. I look forward to learning about and from you. 

Mar 03, 2022 09:40 AM