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  • Writer's pictureFern


Updated: Jul 9

I will forever remember the day I got off the airplane at Orlando International Airport. It felt as if I had woken up with a bad hangover. You are sober, but you also think what is in front of you isn't real. You suddenly hear people around you speak a language you couldn't understand. You see, people act in a way you weren't familiar with. 

After ten years of living in America, I still feel out of place and occasionally get lost. The word "foreigner" would jump into my head when I see a person who looks different from me walking on the street. Then I realize, "Oh no, I am the foreigner!"  


If you reside in a place long enough, you develop a shared sense about what it is and why it is. For instance, I was my own Yelp in the city where I came from, where I attended college and lived for more than ten years. By looking at a business's location or decoration, I can make a sound judgment about the place. I could pass by an alley and see if there was a good, tasty noodles restaurant. 

I don't have that kind of good intuition anymore because I am a foreigner. I don't have a connection with this land; instead, I rely on my gut feeling. There are chain stores everywhere in America. I sometimes wonder if they run these businesses like this on purpose. So, the people who go to Target in their neighborhood can go to Target in another city, precisely the same as the one they were used to. The familiarity brings people comfort when they are away from home. 


I wouldn't experience that kind of comfort by going to Target, CircleK, or McDonald's here. I find comfort in listening to the songs I used to listen to.  


When I have a particular day, something usually makes me sad. I listen to some music sung in my native language. I drive and listen like I'm with the old me from ten years ago. My getaway is listening to the old songs I listened to before I migrated. 


Half of me gets lost in reality, and the other half is stuck in long-gone history. I can't tell if I lived in the solitary I had dreamed of or the loneliness I feared. 


There is a saying that immigrants' memories of their homeland are like amber. You know how these little insects got trapped in a resin drop on a sunny day; their life paused and became enteral. That's how my memory from my first 30 years became after the terrible "hangover" on that plane.  


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