Metamorphosis Diario

Friday, September 14, 2007 - It was 20 years ago today-ish


Well after 20 years of permanent residency in the US today was the end of the road for this immigrant. This morning during a cermony at  the Los Angeles Convention Center I was sworn in as a US citizen.

The ceremony start time was listed as 8AM and I arrived just after 7:30 paid $15 rip-off parking at a lot just opposite and proceeded across the road with my approval papers and green card in hand as requested. The night before and early that morning I had mixed feelings. I feel British and have never really wanted to be American, however with 2 sons born here I thought it was the practical thing to do, especially if I ever wish to leave ironically.

There was already a very large crowd gathered outside the convention center and I wondered if that was the correct place or if there was a conference, turns out there is a morning and  afternoon ceremony held once a month in Los Angeles and there was 4507 people attending the morning one and another 4500 people scheduled for the afternoon.

Outside I chatted with Obi from Nigeria who asked for my help to fill in his form with his name, address, city and state where he signed it. He seemed to be unable to read English which was a little surprising and amusing given that the ability to understand English is part of the N-400 test. Nice guy with those tribal marks scarred into his cheeks. Another Asian lady asked for my advice what name she should use on her form as she was in the process of changing it.

It took an hour to check all 4507 people into the hall where we surrendered our green cards and took a seat in front of a large American flag with a stage below it. On the seat where a booklet on US history and famous naturalized citizens such as Einstein, John Paul Jones, Alexander Hamilton, Igor Stravinsky and even Knute Rockne, a welcome letter from George Bush and the White House. There was also supposed to be a little American flag,  but curiously half my row had theirs missing, it almost seemed like some kind of omen as I looked around at the people waving their little flags during the ceremony, apart from me and a handful of my neighbors out of thousands of people.

At about 40 minutes the actual ceremony was 20 minutes shorter than it  actually took to get the people into the hall, it consisted of a judicial ceremony, speech about American values, pledge of allegiance, someone singing the national anthem, a short welcoming video from George W. Bush and a cheesy pop video about America.

Interestingly the stage person read out the number of people attending ( 4507) and the top 5 countries for people being sworn in during today's ceremony, which were;

1. Mexico

2. El Salvador

3. The Phillipines

4. Vietnam

5. Korea

After the ceremony we collected our Cerificates of Naturalization complete with ugly passport type photo and I took the opportunity to register to vote for the first time in my 42 years. All that remains now is to apply for an American passport, then I'm sure jury duty will beckon.

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