Oath ceremony … very touching “A Thousand Splendid Suns”

Written in the night of Mar. 24, 2008 and later on Apr. 4, 2008 :
 
Hi,
 
My oath ceremony finished at 11:20 this morning and by ~12:15 pm or so, I’ve already made my US passport application in the US post office in our Lab. and mailed voter registration, after I showed the Naturalization Certificate to our Human Resources etc.  Efficient, right ? ( Of course, I did the forms already a week ago or so. )  It’s almost a perfect execution except that I forgot to bring my checkbook to pay part of the payment going to the Dept. of State which doesn’t accept credit/debit card.  ( It’s the State Dept. which issues passports, not CIS of DHS.) I’ve had to pay $1.05 extra for the money order in the post office (… didn’t bother bank …).   I thought I was thorough but ….
 
Most of the time was spent in waiting but the guy sitting next to me was originally from Jordan.  He told me that he submitted his application on Jan. 14 this year (!) and he was with me (who applied > 2 years ago) in this ceremony today ! 
 
From my "investigation", each naturalization oath ceremony is slightly different.   The most interesting part is one concerning the "national anthem".  Roughly speaking, there are 4 possibilities (that I know of) :
 
  (1) Everybody sings (or pretends to sing) the Anthem together ;
  (2) A kid (could be adult I guess) sings when the Anthem is played whereas the other just listen ;
  (3) Nobody sings but just the Anthem is played;
  (4) The Anthem is completely absent in the entire ceremony !  — This may be more of the case if it’s in a court rather than a CIS facility.
 
To my satisfaction, my case belongs to category (4) Smile
 
Other interesting bits of my version of oath ceremony (which are different from other versions that I’ve heard) :
 
(1) My oath ceremony was in a Fderal Court in Long Island and the Judge told us that this was ONLY the 2nd time that naturalization oath ceremony was held there.  There were only ~150 or 160 people today, smaller than other ceremonies.   I was told that it could be ~1000 in a USCIS facility (which would probably be done by people other than Judges).
 
(2)  Each of us was given a US flag.
 
(3) At the end of the ceremony, the Judge (a blonde) shook hand with each of us !   A bit time-consuming … I hope she’d wash her hand after the ceremony.  That was the first thing that I did even before I went to my car.  The ceremony could have been finished much earlier if we hadn’t needed to wait for this Judge for ~45 minutes.  She started her "lecture" by telling us all the Judges in their court ….
 
(4) During the actual oath/pledge, the clerk (not the Judge) who recited the oath and we repeated after her actually mis-pronounced "allegiance" as "alliance".  The first time I thought that it was me hearing something wrong but then there was the 2nd time and then I was pretty sure about it.   I guess this was at most her 2nd time and there was room for improvement
 
(5) Today, certainly the White were << 50% no matter how you count (even including the Arabs etc.).   Probably not the most typical, the largest groups were from Central America followed by South America, the Judge said 16 were from El Salvador, more than 10 from Jamaica, and more than 10 from Ecuador … We knew the nationality because this Judge told her clerk to call the name together with the person’s last nationality.  Though I’m not positive, I didn’t remember hearing Mexican … I was certainly the only guy from Hong Kong (my last nationality) and I didn’t even seem to hear anyone from China/Taiwan or even Singapore …. There are several from India, Pakistan …   USA is probably the best in this diversity aspect but just the education system can’t keep up with all the challenges … — on the way back, the radio was discussing about home-schooling … the parents just don’t trust the US public school system ….
 
(6) This is probably a common phenomenon but I didn’t realize before today.  Many people made use of the naturalization application to change their names.  There were like almost 20 or so.   Some or many may be changing their names to their husband’s etc.  But the Jordanian American (now) sitting next to me changed his first name from "Ala" to "Patrick" for "obvious" reasons.  One would have thought that he should have more problems with the FBI name-check, right ?! …. there is just no generally applicable "rules" in the game of US immigration …  Maybe, recently, the naturalization application has been much quicker ….
 
    ++++++++      ++++++++++      ++++++++     ++++++++++    ++++++++++
 
I’d like to blame part of my imperfect execution today to the fact that I had spent a lot of my time reading a book called "A Thousand Splendid Suns" duing the weekend ( so that I didn’t really think over everything again yesterday).
 
The author, Khaled Hosseini, is an Afghan American who was born in Afghanistan.   I don’t think I’ve ever had so many tears before while reading a book.  Hosseini skilfully spans his novel across 30 years of Afghan history from early 1970’s to ~2003 in which there were the Soviet Union’s invasion, warlords fighting each other after Soviet Union left and then the Taliban before Americans helped to kick them out after 9/11.   In addition to a violently emotional drive or enjoyment, I probably have learnt a lot about Afghanistan in this book.   It’s a good shift from my recent excessive reading of modern Chinese novels.  The shift is both in terms of culture/ethnic/religious and the aspect of middle-class vs poor.   Often, in US, when I looked for "foreign" stuff, it’s mostly ~Chinese …
 
There were two women, Mariam and Laila in this novel.  Mariam’s entire life is a tragedy whereas Laila is probably a symbol of hope and/or future for Afghanistan.  In a couple occasions in the weekend, even while I was making my meal or doing some washing, massive tears came down of my eye or I even choked when I suddenly thought about the tragedies in Mariam’s life.   I kind of feel and comprehend more what Ruby Lin (and probably other actors) said : "戲/故事 是假的, 感情是真的。".    Probably I don’t have other outlets for my emotion, I allow myself to have genuine emotion while reading books and watching films, to sort of unhinged at the end.
 
To me, Hosseini’s reserve of vocabularies is huge …especially in those different sounds … I wrote down some of them such as tinkle, clank, clang, creak, clatter, croak, cluck …… baa, bray etc. etc.   Certainly quite a bit of dictionary surfing (though it didn’t take very long for me to finish reading the ~370 pages).   In the book, Hosseini also used a lot of Arabic words (Farsi and Pashto) such that I would probably remember things like hijab or burqa (veils for covering women’s face) for a long while.   In the book, it’s pointed out that during the rule of Soviet Union or by their puppet, it’s like the best time for Afghan women.  At that time, girls got to go to schools and in the schools the teachers would be able to say that women had the same right as men.   This somehow reminded me that when I first travelled to Mainland China from HK (many years ago), I somehow noticed the abundance of female bus-drivers in Mainland China, compared to HK at that time.  Not a logical/appropriate comparison … but it’s kind of a funny bit.  Just like probably no Afghan women would really said that they wanted the Soviet Union to stay but those women probably would secretly reminisce the days when the Soviet Union was there …
 
The main part of what Hosseini has illustrated was that, no matter how harsh and impossible the life has been or will be, the Afghans have found and will find a way to live ….
 
Everything is relative.  While reading it, especially in contrast to Mariam’s life, I feel enormously more how lucky my life has been.   I’ve probably cherished my obtaining the US citizen today more than the guy from Jordan because I’ve gone thru’ such a long time and put in so much effort.  If I had gotten my US citizenship in 2 months, I probably wouldn’t even bother telling you.   In part 3 of the book, the chapters alternate between Mariam’s view and Laila’s view when the time axis moves forward.  As a reader (who is a physicist), I feel like examining a particle collision from a center-of-mass frame and then examining it from the laboratory frame, and back and forth.   That’s an interesting and skilful writing.
 
Hosseini has been a doctor in internal medicine.  His only other book is called "Kite Runner" which has made him famous and it’s been made into a movie.  The movie right to this new novel seems to be bought by Columbia Pictures already.
 
I most highly recommend this book.
 
Kin
 
——————————————————————————————–
 
 
Written later on  Apr. 4, 2008:
 
Hi,
 
Have you got any news from USCIS/FBI ?
 
A lady from the USCIS customer service just called me.   Do you know why ? I wrote a 2nd letter to the CIS Ombudsman ~12 days before I got the
notice/letter to take the oath.   I said that USCIS hadn’t replied to me even though you (Ombudsman) said on Nov. 9, 2007 that USCIS should reply to me within 45 days but they didn’t … and also my FBI name-check has been completed.. ( I discounted the "FBI finger-printing as I thought it didn’t give me any real information but just speculation. )    This Wed., the Ombudsman wrote to me (took him a month) and said that he’d do a 2nd inquiry and also asked them to "expedite" !!  I  emailed him that
evening to inform him that I’ve already taken the oath. 
Anyway, apparently, the lady from USCIS called me also because of the
"urge" from the Ombudsman. She just wanted to check with me that I had really taken the oath.  I told her that I had done so and she wished me
to have a good life 🙂
 
All these are too late to be useful ?!

I think the "Ombudsman" might have done something for me … likely more so than the First Lady/Congressman.  Formally, you need to file the form DHS Form 7001 in order to complain to him — the correct protocol for complaint towards USCIS.    But here is his email address :

 
Kin
 

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About kinyip

An experimental particle physicist ...
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