I remember where I was when I heard the news. In school, as I rested my head in the palm of my left hand which I placed vertically on the desk, and making every effort not to doze off while the math teacher passionately explained problems on the board. Suddenly, I noticed my cousin standing outside of the classroom, both hands on his knees and gasping for air. “Aunt sent me to take you home because there is an emergency,” said my cousin with a casual voice. After rushing home, I heard my mom in the kitchen as I walked pass the narrow hallway, she was singing some old Bangla song while cooking. She turned around and reached for the big wooden stirrer on the shelf behind her and she saw me making my way towards her into the kitchen. She kissed me on the forehead and said, “You and Mac are moving to America to stay with your father and your sister will go later.” She seemed happy, but the tears in her eyes were waiting patiently to escape at one blink of her eyes. Much like myself, my sister had to overcome learning English, learn to assimilate with kids her age and overcome the stereotype. I could understand the obstacles my sister was experiencing after coming to America because I had walked the same path two years before her.
The day when we received the news, my mom had most of our friends and relatives for dinner to celebrate. They showed up with gifts, sweets and new clothes for my brother and I. As we gathered for the feast, sitting in a rounded table, displaying the delicious foods in front of us; my little cousins chased after each other as they played tag around the dinner area like bunch of monkeys running wild. Their faces covered with Allou (Something like Pasta but with some spice added). Which my mom had bought from the market as she usually did for any special occasions. It felt like a Thanksgiving dinner.
The first obstacle I faced coming to America was learning to speak English. Where we stayed, there was an Indian family living in the next apartment. Whenever my dad made mouthwatering Jalabies for us, he always invited the Indian family over, since, they had a son that could speak English quite well; and my dad thought he could teach us. Jalabi is a Bangladeshi sweet that made by drizzling a basic butter into a pan and keeping it until it turned dark red and crispy. When I recognized my sister trying to read people’s facial expressions to learn English; I had flashbacks of myself not talking to people because I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. Therefore, I thought it would be better to not say anything at all, just interpreting their body language to figure out what they were saying.
When my sister returned from her basketball practice, my brother my dad and I were sitting in the living room watching basketball on T.V. “I don’t want to play basketball anymore. I feel stupid just nodding my head when I didn’t even understood what the coach was saying,” said my sister as she throw her bag underneath the steps and stormed into her room. Instantly, the memory of myself trying to lean everything by demonstrations threw me back two years. I thought to myself, two years ago I said something similar. When I played basketball after coming to U.S. I had to learn everything from watching others first. For example, how to continue dribbling a basketball keeping my eyes ahead, as I run forwards and backwards without losing the ball to gain better control. Clearly, assimilation with kids our age wasn’t a walk in the park for both of us, because we had little knowledge of their culture and their lifestyles.
Stereotyping was the hardest task I had to overcome as a young new immigrant. Therefore, when my sister told my dad that everyone in her school thought she was from Indian she didn’t like it because she’s from Bangladesh. When I heard that, I felt like watching the same scene twice of a movie. When I first came to America people would automatically assume I was from Indian or Pakistan. For instance, everyone in my high school thought that I was from Pakistan. During a basketball game against Barrington, I could see their players looking at me in a funny manner, and then looking at each other. I could hear their players making racial comments about me; as I chased after the player on the other team, who just made a steal and headed the other way to score.
To conclude, the journey to America was a great experience for us. Today I feel extremely proud of my sister, as my dad once felt for me when I overcame the language barrier, made friends in a new country, and most imperatively when I overcame the stereotypes of a typical Bangladeshi child. In any case, watching my sister grow up was like looking at my own reflection in the mirror.