Chapter Seven 7

Having in mind, the fact that I didn't have the money or the time to build this engine of mine, I knew right then that in all reality I had nothing. My financial reality was very plain to see, and if at the time I would've stop working even for a month, most likely I would've have to go back to my mom Mercedes house. Good thing I had a mom with a house, and a heart big enough to give me a place in her home. Chilean families many times have no other option but to let their kids back in the house.
I had no hope to get money out of my invention, at least in the short term, and I wasn't sure a 100% if my invention will really work either. Anyhow to build that prototype for me was enough to understand in a deeper way the idea I had in my mind. I realized that just like mathematicians always say, "Instead of feeling like you discovered something, you are just uncovering something. Math is everywhere and all around us." What I saw on that prototype was a formula of energy, and that formula told me that God could exist.
All the excitement that followed that Eureka moment, and the building of a prototype soon faded away, and my life went back to normal as usual. I needed time to reassess my thoughts and I said to myself, "Take it easy. You might be wrong about what you saw. Remember your brain fills the blanks, and you might be seeing what you want to see." So I did take it easy, and I started saving money so I could buy me a new pair of shoes. That was my reality at the time, and that is what I did.
As a dreamer was hard not to think about it; I wanted to talk about it, but like I wasn't sure if my invention could work I just had to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I couldn't help myself and I talked to Veronica about my invention. She couldn't have enough of rubbing it on my face. She rubbed in my face the fact that my prototype didn't work, and she would say things like, "Are you going to be rich now? Hah!" I said back to her "I wish, but I am not a fool. If I had an invention worth something, in this country it will be taken out of my hands in a heartbeat. I will die just like the guy who invented the Helicopter poor like a rat, and that would be in the best case scenario. That would be the case where they had decided to spare my life." When you live your life in a place where there is no democracy, even your thoughts belong to those in power.
For some reason talking with Veronica about my invention got me in a very negative mood, and I remember going on one of my negative rants saying things like, "Secret programs, Rulers! They all are in the business of breeding the most profitable animal of all, humans! Humans are the one animal that produces the most, and it is the most dangerous too. That's why the powerful in order to be where they are they have to have the power to kill you." And things like that. In none democratic systems there is no such a thing as "Social Contract." Imagine that many have become millionaires just breeding cattle. Those who breed Humans are ancient monopolies, and they have been around for millenniums." She said back to me, "Why are you so negative Daniel?"
I guess I was in pain. I was just sad to realize that I lived in a very violent and primitive society. Look on the street, don't you see the people without nothing at all. They are the very proof that there is no democracy. Those on the street don't even have a country, less you can say that they live in democracy. To have a nation is to say, "We the people for the people, and nobody should be left behind." At the individual level is where a nation begins, and exactly where a nation ends.
One individual by himself is nothing at all, that's why it is a blessing to be part of a nation. Being part of a nation makes that individual as big as his nation. Now in a true democracy nobody is left aside. Everybody has rights, and there is justice for all. In a true democracy nobody is left behind, nobody! You don't turn your back on your nation, because that's treason, and that is what a flag means. A flag flying high meas, "Watch it. This land is part of a nation." The Flag in itself is nothing but a piece of cloth with colors. What a flag really represents is one of the greatest achievements of the human mind, and that is the great concept of humans coming together to form and be part of something greater than themselves.
Democracy, God, Freedom, and justice for all, I want them all! So, "How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?"
Veronica didn't care very much about anything related to my invention, not even the part that involved God. I have to admit that I wish our relationship was better than the one we had, but I had faith that things were going to get better.
Pressure was getting the best of me, pressure on our relationship, and pressure at my work. Everywhere I turn around there was pressure, and everything was so hard for me. Like I said, maybe I am just a wimp.
Back in the real world at my work, I got late for the fourth time. This time I was really late. I was late almost half an hour that day. As soon as I entered the building, I was called to the manager's office very quick, and I was given the news that because of my tardiness, my temporary contract at the end of three-months was not going to be renewed. That for me was devastating. That was the end of my career, my future, my hopes to have a family, and I really felt terrible that day. No contract renewal for me.
The expiration date on my three months temporary contract was going to expire in two weeks. They give me right there the two weeks termination note. Ouch! They were ready for me that day. They had the letter and everything ready for me.
That day after work walking home with a taste of defeat in my mouth, in my mind and in my heart, I started walking and every single thought I had was pretty nefarious. The only thing I was glad about working in that company, was the fact that I had at home a passport with a visa to come to the U.S.A., but I was devastated that day.
When the manager was telling me the bad news I said to him, "I deserve another opportunity." He said back to me, "I'm sorry to let you go, but rules are rules. Company policy and company rules are for everyone including me. As an advice to you Mr. Carpenter, in any other future job you may have, you better make sure that you show up on time." I wish I could've have said to him, "Hey you know what? I have a sleeping disorder, and for me is really hard to wake up in the mornings, and that all mattress that I'm sleeping on right now is not a good one. I need a new one, but I don't have the money buy me a new mattress. That mattress is going to kill me one of this days, besides that, my new hot girlfriend does not understand that I need to sleep. Since I started working here, jealousy wise she has been worse than ever." I was upset, and a bit pissed, but besides of my wimpy kid excuses, he was right, regardless, you get to work on time.
I went to work the next two weeks and I was on time. Even if I was getting fired, at least I showed them my appreciation for giving me the opportunity to work with them. For some reason instead of being mad, after the initial shock I was okay, actually I felt relieved and hard to explain, but I was feeling just fine.
I didn't know where I was going to get my next rent money or check from, but after the initial shock, I was happy in the inside. It was weird. It was like an immense weight has been lift off of my shoulders. I started to remember that since I started working at that job, I had nothing but worries, headaches, and extreme hard work.
Soon after I received my last paycheck from Fusa Financial, and thanks to the fact that I was very frugal with my money, I had enough money to last me for one month. I had one month to find another job. One month to get my next rent money and in a third world country to find a job, sometimes might take you years. I was proud to say that I was twenty-three years old, and I was not living with my mom. My brother Luis, he was almost forty-years old at the time, and he was still living with my mom. He had a disability though, he suffered from schizophrenia from time to time, but still, not an uncommon story in my country. Being an adult and still living in your parent's house is the signature of a sub-developed country.
One of those days I was thinking while walking on my way home, saying to myself, "Now that I received my last check I cannot afford not even to buy me a hotdog. Now that I am without a job, I need to save every single penny." It felt Just like when you are in love and you give your best, and your best is not good enough. I was walking home after receiving my last paycheck, and on the middle of downtown a guy approached me and said to me, "Hey Daniel, is that your name right?" I said "How do you know my name?" The guy introduced himself to me and said, "I am a Saint Marry Retirement Account Associate Supervisor, and I've seen you working at the main office of Fusa Financial since they opened their doors. You are the guy who lends money. You are the Money Guy." We laugh and he continued, "A lot of people knows you like that, and that's good. In this small town for people to know your face is very good." I said, "Well I hope so." He said, "Why you are not working today? Are you going to the doctor or something?" I said, "No actually I just got my last paycheck, because I've got fired from my job. I've got late a few times, and they fired me because of that." He said, "Have you been looking for another job?" I said to him, "Well I tried to get my old job back, but it didn't work. The manager was quick to explain to me, "Once you quit a job, you cannot expect to have your job back." I went over there anyways and at least I gave it a try. Doesn't hurt to give it a try, right?"
All these businesses in downtown were very close to each other. Lots of businesses, and all of them, concentrated in a very small area of downtown Arica so like I said, "In a small town if you don't know somebody, at least you have seen them."
We joke for a bit and he said, "Hey Daniel today may be your lucky day." I said, "Sorry but I'm a straight." We laugh and he said, "What I mean is that we have a job opening over here at this branch. This is Saint Mary financial a big retirement account Administration Company, and maybe you will be interested on working with us. We have an opening right now and this job that just opened is a very good one. Have a lot of benefits, you can go out of town to Santiago, and with all the expenses paid for your initial training. You have the potential to make a lot more money here. Why don't you give it a try" I said, "Sure I would love to fill out an application."
After I filled out the application, I gave him my sincere appreciation for offering me an opportunity, and I kept walking home with the only difference that now I was happy as happy I could be. That day on my way back home I had a big smile in my face, and now in my mind I was celebrating my stroke of good luck. To celebrate that day on my way home I bought me a hotdog. I went to my favorite place and I ordered a hotdog and a beer, and I said to myself, "Thank you God! Love you!"
A few days later after I filled that application, I went back for a personal interview and the interview went well, and I said to myself, "I'm back!" I was back in the business of lending money for profit.
Remember for profit not to help people get out of their problems or to improve the overall state of the economy. I was lending money for profit. At training of course they tell you, "How can we help people to reach their dreams?" Now, this is the key of a good sales speech, "Do you want to fulfill your dreams today or tomorrow?"
I was all into sales techniques, body language, eye language, and everything related to the art of sales. I do remember the famous Burger sales technique, and the lemon theory. They are classics in the Sales World. Like everything, nothing was as simple as it seems, and there was a lot to be learned. In the other hand you become that person that target friends as possible customers, and I really don't like when a good friend targets me as a customer. In a way I became a button holder, and I really didn't like that, but I had no choice.
When I applied to the job they asked me about what they called, "My warm market" Warm market is a list of all your friends, family, and people you know, and let me tell you numbers matter when you are applying for a Sales job. Everything went very well, and I couldn't wait to start working in downtown Arica again.
For me to continue working in downtown wearing nothing but suit and tie was nice. Downtown the coolest place in town!
I knew right then that this job wasn't going to last forever, and no matter what amount of money I was going to make, it was not going to be enough to plan on having a life with. Maybe for a few months, maybe a year at the most, I already knew the Sales business world. I knew the game by then, and in this world was all about the quarterly report, blue or red? If you don't reach your goals in that specific quarter, or your minimum quota, you were out, sorry and next, next lemon, next victim. They know that once your warm market runs out, it becomes very difficult to reach your quota, that's why I said, "Next Lemon" Because they squeeze every referral out of you, and when you run out of your warm market you are out. Just like a lemon that ran out of juice."
Some salespeople can really make a living out of it, but not many. A job in Sales is like being self-employed, a very rough-road with many ups and downs, and if you want to make it as a salesperson, you have to be a much disciplined and mentally strong individual.
Working in this business you meet o lot of people, and it is hard to believe that many of them at one moment in their lives have worked in Sales. You hear many people saying, "Oh I worked there. At the beginning was really good. When I had my warm market going for me it was good, but after my warm market was gone, got really hard to make the minimum quota. Good luck to you."
That kind of work is very volatile, and it does have a very high rotation rate. My work situation was shaky to say the least, especially when it comes into consideration the long term aspect of any job.
My relationship with Veronica at that moment was shaky as well and something was missing, I couldn't get over the fact that we couldn't connect spiritually. Something was missing between Veronica and me. We were really different on the inside, and those little details that didn't matter much at the beginning, now they have become a heavy burden. Always details do matter.
One of those days in a moment of reflection I went for a walk (Have I mentioned that I love to walk and think) I asked myself while walking, "If you love kids, why don't you have one of your own." My answer to myself was, "Still haven't found what I was looking for." That thought really give me the chills. I realized at that moment that I was changing my answer, at a moment I thought Veronica was the one, and now for the first time I had a change of hearts, I hesitated.
They answer was, "Yes I do love kids, but I don't want to have one with her, at least not right now." I said as well, "If I don't have the financial meanings to afford a family, why even try to think about what I want." My heart was in a limbo, but in a moment of clarity I thought, "I have to keep my options open, this relationship might not end well. I was hesitating and that by itself was not a good omen."
This new company sent me to the capital in an airplane with all my expenses paid, and I had two weeks of intense training. Two weeks doing nothing but living in a luxurious hotel, and going to school during the day.
The hotel was a tall tower right in the heart of the capital, and had a tennis court on the roof it had a terrace where they had a tennis court. The only problem was having to go to get the ball downstairs. Just kidding. The hotel had a nice swimming pool by the bar, and it was one of the coolest places I have ever been. That was one of the coolest times of my life so far.
After training was over I started working with the vengeance, and everything was good again.
Back in Arica, "One of those days" I was walking down town and I saw Mike, now my friend from the U.S., the boyfriend of Veronica's best friend Sigrid, and I stopped him and we started talking. While talking to him I found out that he was thinking about going back to the U.S.A., and I said to him, "You know one of my dreams is to speak another language, and I would love to go to the US for a few months to try to learn the language. Would you let me go with you? That way you could give me a hand over there, because I don't know anybody over there, and we could share the expenses." Mike said, "I have no problem traveling with you to the U.S. if you want to." I said, "You know that going with a local is always the best way to experience a new culture, right?" I ask him, "If I get the money to buy me a ticket would you let me go with you, and help me to stay a bit there so I can learn English?" He said, "Sure I don't mind. I'm going over there to see if I can get my old job back as a firefighter. Sigrid and I are thinking to move to the U.S. permanently." He said to me, "Over there you have to have your own money though, you know is the U.S. and over there is hard to make it, and everything is really expensive. I don't know what you think about the U.S. but let me tell you, if you have any problems over there, I couldn't help you even if I wanted to. Over there is tough." I understand I said and I added, "Mike I grew up listening to thousands of stories about the U.S. with my father Luis, and he was a big fan of The Reader's Digest magazine like you know. He has been talking to me so much about, "The Greatest Democracy on Earth" that I would love to go and see it with my own eyes. At the same time I will have the opportunity to learn the language, and being over there, is better than going to the best English Scholl here in Chile." He said, "I'll take you over there. I have no problems doing that for you Daniel. I can give you a hand with whatever you might need over there as long it is not money. Now over there everything is so different from what you have heard that the only way to understand it is being there. It's not like in the movies."
We talked for a while about coming to the U.S. together, but it was just a friendly conversation, nothing serious. That conversation though got me thinking about coming to the U.S. for real.
Later on when I mentioned the idea about visiting the U.S. to Veronica, she didn't like at all. In my case I have never been so excited about something in my life. For the first time in my life I was contemplating the real possibility of visiting the U.S., and that for me was like a dream come true.
In a moment I had to myself I started thinking about the words of my dad Luis used to say to me, and it came to my mind, "If you ever have the chance to go to the U.S. don't hesitate not even for a second. One time I had a boss, and she invited me to come to the U.S. but I said no. I had the opportunity to go, but I never did, and now I regret it." My dad Luis used to talk to me for hours about how his life could've been so different if he would've come to the U.S. He used to say to me all the time, "There in the United States you have a real democracy in place. There are opportunities for everybody regardless of your color or the way you dress. There you can wear a half of a watermelon as a hat, and nobody would even care. Over there even the handicap doesn't end up in the street begging for money to have something to eat like you see them here. In the US they take care of the less fortunate with dignity and humanity in mind. If you see a chance to go to the U.S. go! Don't be a fool like me."
A couple weeks later Veronica and I went to a ride on the weekend with Sigrid and Mike. We even got the dogs with us, and we followed the Costanera to the "Corazones beach" There we hike for a bit and enjoyed a very nice time by the ocean. On that ride Mike and I started talking about the trip to the U.S. and he asked me, "Do you want to visit the U.S. or you want to migrate to the US?" I responded, "To be honest with you throughout my whole life, I've heard that over there you can work and study at the same time. You know I don't have much money, but I would love to stay over there to learn how to speak English. I would love to stay over there for six months or a year if possible, so I can learn the language. In my case with a second language as part of my curriculum would be great for my career. That is what I have in my mind, and I am not going to denied that maybe if everything goes very well, I could send the money for the tickets to Veronica and Sebastian, and we could be neighbors over there. Wouldn't that be nice? That sounded to me very cool at the time, but Mike said, "Everybody here puts the U.S. way up there, but is not all that. You'll see, if you go with me you will get to see the real U.S., and there is still a lot of racism, and black people they are even more racist than the white people. Is hard to believe but I wish you get the chance to see it with your own eyes. I know how much you do like the U.S. and sometimes you need to experience things on your own, to find out if that was what you really had in mind or not." I said, "Amen to that! I wish I get the chance to experience the U.S. with my own eyes, and find out on my own what the U.S. is really all about."
At that time in my life I was double motivated. I had a good job, and I wanted to visit the U.S. While working really hard for this new company of mine I made so much money, well for me that it is. The first month I made over 5 times what I was doing at Fusa financial, and I went from three hundred bucks a month to fifteen hundred dollars a month. I was out of my body, so happy, so proud of myself, and the ones closest to me were very happy for me. At the same time I knew deep inside my heart that this situation was not going to last long, so I kept repeating to myself, "Enjoy it while it last, and be wise and frugal with your money. Two more months like this one, and you could say, "Watch out U.S. because here I come.""
The world goes around, and the world sometimes turns in a dime. I had that in my mind all the time, but whatever that was, that first paycheck I was able to save enough money to buy the half of the ticket to the US. Soon after that I was planning the dates with Mike to buy the airplane tickets to go together to the U.S.
At that time in my life I used to pray to the living God. At that time in my heart I still believed that there was a living God, a God that listen to you when you pray with your heart, and I used to pray in a very simple way, "God thank you for all your blessings. I say this with all my heart, and like always let it be your will and not mine." I used to add at the end, "And I leave this to you in the name of your son Jesus the Christ Amen." I used to.
I had faith in a living God, and I was convinced that I really didn't have a clue about life. I didn't have a clue about who I was, and my place in society. How the people look at me. I was so clueless, and I used to look to everybody with God's eyes, meaning, "We are all equal, regardless of social status, gender, color or race."
For some reason my view of the world was so different compared to the view that my friends had at the time. My dream was simple, I wanted to prove that God really exist, and I had a hint. For some reason I believed that my daddy Oscar couldn't be wrong, because I knew that for him there was a living God. When I was little I saw something in my daddy Oscar. He had something especial on him, and with him. Hard to explain the feeling but I still remember, and I thought if I never find God in this life, maybe I will find God in my next life. I used to say, "Who really knows!" Anyways regardless of what I believed, I wanted to live my life without having to choose between a job and God. I wanted to make my living in an honest way. For me living in honesty was the only way to live life. Because of my belief in God, the living God, the one that knew what I was doing, at every single moment of my life, because of that, in a way, God was always telling me, "Do not steal, do not lie, do not kill, and as far as my understanding of the wisdom of God went, I should not use my intelligence to deceive others. Your intelligence is for the sole purpose of survival, your survival and the survival of all living creatures.
One of my favorite stories of the Bible is the story of Noah. In my books the story of Noah is pretty much the voice of mother Earth pleading for mercy to all humans.
I wanted to be able to live in a place where I could exercise my freedom of religion, and to love and serve God anyway I wanted to. God was never for me something about who is right, and who is wrong. God was for me that common thing that can unite us all, even if you were an Atheist. When it comes to a true nation, what you are in your heart it does not matter, that's why in a true nation you have the separation of Religion and State, because the rule of law is blind, the rule of law does not care of your gender, social status, or how much money you have.
Every time I heard people talking about God on TV or radio, blood started gushing out my ears and eyes, and many times I could not believe to what I was listening. I used to think how that person can be saying that. That's not what the bible says. When I heard someone talking about God, in my eyes that person had taken the name of God, and if you do take the name of God, it cannot be in vain or just to sound pretty or to become famous.
In my country you see classes of people and I knew one thing only, I was not a part of the privileged class. Since 1973 my family had a strike of bad luck, and had no good prospects either. I saw my family go down in the social ladder, slowly but surely. People in my county were still afraid of talking openly about social issues, and after so many years things have not chance much. People was still afraid because they could be called communists, and all of the sudden lose their job, and never find another one, at least not one that allows you to have a life, and send your kids to college. Like always in a non democratic society you don't know with whom you're talking to, and you never know if you are in the black list or not.
How ridiculous is to believe that you live in a democracy when there's people still living in the streets, and there is people still being assassinated on the streets, just as if they were animals. How can we call this the future if women are still being raped, children are being sold as sex slaves or exchanged for weapons, and how can you call this the future, and how can you call a democracy a place where things like the ones I just mentioned are happening all the time.
Fascism doesn't put chains on your ankles to make a slave out of you. Fascism makes you work and work hard. Fascism uses you, just because you are more valuable alive than dead. That is the only reason why you are still alive. They make you produce, because whatever you produce is money for them. The one who works all his life to the benefit of others is in essence a slave, and the best way to find out if you are a slave or not, is to became old and receive your pension, and if you worked your whole life, and when you retire you still live in misery, you have been nothing but a slave. In my country I always felt like a slave. For some reason I couldn't believe what the TV was saying. For me the TV sounded too good to be true.
I studied a bit of economics, and I had the opportunity to work in the middle of a big social change. I was working while a change of historical proportions was still taking place, and that was the change from Medicare to Private Retirement Accounts. This experiment has been tried before, and it has been a disaster. The subject is very interesting, and the idea behind it is even seductive, intuitive, and logic, but don't get lost in the names, always look at the results. Consider always the Facts and not the interpretations.
I was working for these new created companies in the private sector, and I saw with my own eyes the transition that took place. These new created companies were responsible by law to manage your retirement money. They were created after Pint-of-shit was put in power by the U.S., and he brought into the country a team of economist, the well known "Chicago Boys" Retirement accounts the latest creation of the Chicano boys was bound to happened we like it or not. Let me give you an example of how bad these personals accounts are.
A principal of a middle school when he retired after serving as a teacher his whole life, under the new system he started receiving a hundred dollars a month, that was his whole pension, a hundred bucks a Month.
What was the idea behind taking your retirement money and give it to the private sector. What was so attractive about this new system? What this retirement account administrators were supposed to do for you? Like always the idea was beautiful, but the results were terrible.
That was my work back then, switch people from the old system into the new system. Here in the U.S. it would be the equivalent of passing everybody from Medicare, one by one to individual accounts where if you lose your money is to bad for you. They do it one at a time because they need you to sign the document. Everything has to be done by the law, just like in the Holocaust. In this case they had to have your signature of approval in a document, in which you approved this change to a private system.
I was having a conversation just like that with my friend Mike when we switch to a happier subject, a way better subject, we started talking about the trip to the U.S.
Mike said, "Well actually Sigrid and I are planning to move permanently to the U.S. I already submitted her application to the US Embassy for her to be a permanent resident of the United States. We are tired of working so hard just too barely make it. There is no incentive to stay here in Chile for us. Like you know Daniel, I'm going over there trying to get my old job back as a firefighter, and Sigrid really like the idea of you going to the U.S. with me. She said to me that she's sending you as a personal chaperone of mine, so I don't do bad things over there. We both said out loud, "Girls." Girls are always so jealous.
I remember at that time in my life I was being very happy, something not usual in me since I moved to Arica. Many times I felt like if my world would've been the music, my life would've been the blues, yah, I got the blues, like I always say, "Mental and Sad, but Social."
I considered myself lucky to have them as friends of mine. I loved their sweet company. Jose Feliciano, Pueblo Mio.
Mike and I didn't know each other a long period of time, but it has been easy to be good friends between us. I could tell Mike was a good man. We all had fun every time we were together. I guess is true the old saying, "Good people good times."
Now that the possibility of coming to the US was real I don't know why, but I started remembering all the good things that my father Luis use to say about the U.S. things like, "In a country with a real democracy you have nothing to be worried about, other than being a productive part of society. Take care of your Nation and your Nation will take care of you. Even if you die defending your nation, you know that those who you left behind, they will be taking well taking care of, at least there will be a roof over their head, and a plate of food over their table.
The Founding Fathers once said:
""Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness", "And for which governments are created to protect."
I pledge alliance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
God's first lesson: God will never impose itself on you. Never! Freedom of Religion.
My dad Luis passed away when I was about twenty four years old, and growing up I used to have to listen to him. I used to think that all what he used to tell me was nothing but nonsense, but now I was twenty-five-years old, and I was starting to understand what he meant.
Growing up in a country ruled by a dictator since I was six, I have experienced firs hand the meaning of oppression, and the meaning of fascism.
One of the biggest symptoms of oppression, and fascism is the lack of education. My Dad Luis once said, "…that's why the best way to take the voice of the people away, is not allowing the people to learn to speak, and to achieve that is easy, have public education that don't teach them how to talk. Make them believe that talking and speaking their own language correctly is not cool, and problem solved. Bad education in public schools is like putting a tape over the people's mouth. In the other hand good communication skills bring people together, and if you want to stay in power, and control the people by all means, you need to separate them as much as possible. Fascism says, "The people must be as ignorant as possible, and to achieve that fascism will keep all the drugs illegal, so they do not pay any taxes. The crime on the streets must be high, that way you hide the "Other crimes that fascism commits" You got to make sure that the people are busy trying to survive. That's how you turn one against the other." My dad had no hope for the world, none what so ever, and I was starting to understand why.
By that time in my life my dad Luis was already gone, and I remembered that whatever happened between my dad and I, I knew he would've been happy to know that I was coming to the U.S. We were very distant from each other, I never did look up to him, but I knew one thing, he was no fool. He was an inventor, and he was always inventing something or reading the Readers Digest in his spare time.
The thing I like to remember about him the most, are those few long walks we had together just him and I. Talking to him while walking I enjoyed to hear his points of views. They were always at least interesting. He taught me how to play ping-pong, and he used to say, "Ping pong is the family sport." One of my best memories I have with him was the time when I was a teenager, and he took me along with him to buy a car. He wanted to buy an old ford Pinto, but he was not sure if he could fix it or not. He took me along with him, because like I used to be very good at fixing stuff, and he wanted my opinion about a car. We looked at it and we agreed that the car could be fixed, so he bought it. Later on he parked it in front of the house, and challenged me to fix it. The car had an electric problem, but we couldn't figure it out. I had a friend at the time that was studying car mechanics and I asked him to lend me a few books about car electricity. He did and I read them, and I figured out the problem. After I fixed that car my dad Luis let me go for a ride around the block here and there, and going around the block including the road by the ocean. At the time behind my house, there was just an old dirt road by the ocean, and when I went for a ride on that car I felt like I was in heaven. That was the first car I ever drove, I had super fun times in it, and I know Claudia remembers that car too. That's how I prefer to remember my dad Luis.
At my new job I have been working really hard for a while, and it's hard to describe the feeling in my heart, when I finally got the airplane tickets. As soon as I got the money for the tickets I talked to Mike and we set up the date together. We bought the tickets, the date was set, but I had no money left to spend in the US. I bought the tickets knowing that I had no money, but I had faith that somehow, someway things will work out at the end. I didn't know what to do, and it was a really tense moment for me.
Through my work I had the chance to ask for a loan, and I applied for it, but they denied it. They asked me for a co-signer, and at a moment I was thinking, "I can't go to the US after all, I have no money and I am going to lose the money I already spent buying the airplane tickets." Talking about this problem with my co-workers after a meeting we had, one of them offered to me to sign up as a co-signer on my loan. I was blown away, I wasn't expecting it but he did, and they approved the loan just on time.
The day of the flight to the US came faster than I ever thought possible. At my job I asked my boss for a leave of absence, and he approved it, but for 30 days only. I was asking for six months with the possibility of being extended up to a year, he said to me, "If you're not back in 30 days don't ask me to give you your job back. You know how that goes right?"
Everything was going just the way I wanted except for that little detail about the leave of absence. That meant that if for any reason my trip lasted more than 30 days, when I come back, I will be without a job.
Finally the day came to fly to the U.S. and for the first time in my life I was going to fly out of my country. I was so excited, and I used to say, "See the U.S. then I can die in peace." This trip it was going to be my first international trip. I wouldn't consider going to Peru as going out of the country. Peru was only 15 minutes away from my house in Arica.
The day of the trip at the airport they asked us, "Smoking or non-smoking?" At the time still you could smoke in an airplane, and I thought how cool it would be to have the pleasure of smoke a cigarette seated in an airplane that is flying at 30,000 feet above the earth. I told Mike very quick, "Let's go in the smoking section." Mike told me, "Many Americans smokers are not like you Daniel, they are heavy smokers. Instead of one cigarette here and there, they smoke one cigarette after another, and they don't stop." I thought, one cigarette is bad enough, why somebody will like to kill themselves that badly, especially if that person is an American, a person from a more advanced civilization. How a person from a more advanced civilization would do that. In all truth, like I didn't believe Mike all that much. Mike like always so polite and agreeable, he did the best he could to accommodate my request. He found a couple of seats, the ones right behind the first row of the smoking section, and he said to me, "This is okay. I can survive this even in the worse case. These pair of seats is just one row behind where the smoking section begins, and the air is coming from the front to the back." So he got the tickets in the smoking section, "Oh yeah!" I said. I was excited and I could see myself up in the air in a moment of indulgence, seated in the airplane with my legs crossed, taking a puff out of my favorite cigarette.
That day it was a very memorable moment for me, and it was a very romantic moment too. I got to say good bye to a girlfriend at the airport, right before a long trip. We said good bye, and from the door of the airplane, we waved good bye to Veronica and Sigrid, as we got inside the airplane.
There we were second row on the back half of a 747. Once in the airplane we sat on our seats, and right after we were seated, right in front of us a pair of Germans sat in the seats right in front of ours, and from the moment they sat in front of us they started smoking one cigarette after another. The airplane was getting ready to take off, everybody was seated, but it took at least 45 minutes before the airplane started moving. These Germans had the whole airplane covered with a thick cloud of smoke. I had never before in my life had so much second hand smoke, and not only the smoke of cigarettes, these people were smoking cigars too.
Things got better after takeoff but we already had a head ache, and I wished that we were seated in the none-smoking section, by the way, my favorite part of the flight is that moment of rapid acceleration before take-off, and like I am kind of a chicken, I have to imagine in my mind that I was about to go in a very fast car, where I am the driver, and I am in control pushing the pedal to the metal, that was the only way I could go in a roller coaster too. When I heard the engines roar and rumble, I pushed the pedal to the metal in my mind, and enjoy the ride, as if I was in a joy ride in a very fast car.
The worst part of flying especially for the first time is when the airplane after takeoff go down for a bit, sometimes it feels like the airplane is starts to free fall, and then it comes back again to go up. It makes you think that you are going to die over and over again. It is weird to know that if something happened to the airplane in mid air you are history, and it is weird to know that your chances of surviving an airplane accident are pretty much close to zero.
Finally after a long twelve hours of flying we landed in the US and the first thing I heard when I got out of the airplane, it was the slogan of the Miami international Airport, "Welcome to Miami." For me was like a stepping forward 1000 years into the future. The airport of Miami was huge and beautiful. I have never seen before such a variety of nationalities. I was pretty much staring to everybody. I was nicely surprised to say the list when I got here to the U.S. for the first time.
While waiting in line just like a cow in the butcher's house-I truly have something against treating people like animals and making a line. How uncivilized! However at that very moment the girl right in front of me, started rising her voice to the customs, and the customs call for help. A translator showed up, as far as I could tell something was wrong with her passport. A guard came over and asked her to follow him. As the girl was leaving with the guard, I heard for the first time, "Next!" Mike said to me, "Daniel is your turn. You are the next person."
The custom looked at me; looked at the passport; asked me how long I was going to stay, and the reason of my visit. I said, "Business and tourism. Just like my visa said." Okay he said, grabbed the stump and when he was ready to stamp my passport, I saw out of the corner of my eyes, a black guy rushing towards us saying, "Wait!" I don't know who this guy was, but he interrupted the custom that was checking my papers, and asked me, "Where you're coming from?" I said, "I am from Chile." And I don't know why but at that moment, I started to get really nervous. For a second the only thing that crossed my mind was, "Okay, that's it. You're history. You're going back to your country and all that money that you owe…" I got really nervous, the guy was asking me one question after another very quick, and he didn't even let me answer them, "Are you here for pleasure or business? Do you even have a checking account? Do you even have a credit card?" I had to interrupt him to say, "Yes I do have a checking account." I showed him my checkbook, and he said, "Checking account with no credit card?" He was right, I didn't have a credit card, but I showed him one of those department store cards, from my private retirement account, and he swallowed. He looked at it and thought it was a real Credit Card. I don't know what this guy had in mind, but I could tell that he was looking for excuses to send me back to my country. For some reason, something was wrong with me.
I was by that time already sweating, and almost shaking. I was overwrought for sure. He gave me an order saying, "Follow that girl that was in front of you to that office where she's going, and wait there for me." I got my papers and I heard Mike saying to me, "I'll be waiting for you at the baggage claim area" okay I said, and followed the girl to the customs office.
They grabbed my passport and ordered me to have a sit, "Seat down." the guy who took my papers said at the office. I sat there for more than half an hour. For sure that was the longest half an hour of my life. I have never been so tense before. Trying to help myself to relax I started to stare at the clock right in front of me, and I said to myself, "So what? So what if I they don't let me in and send me back to Chile. So what! Want be the first time that something that could've been fantastic, ended up being just another dream that never happened, so what!" I was getting pissed, but mainly sad, worried and disappointed. Finally I found my sweet spot in my mind saying to myself, "Let it be your will and not mine." As soon as I got there in my mind my heart started to slow down and started to breathe easier.
The girl that they took right before me, she had a false passport and they took her by the arms and told her, "You need to come with us." They took her inside a room with dark windows, and after all that, I don't know what happened to her.
I was seated in front of the counter, starring at the clock with my head leaning a bit to the right; I had my legs crossed; my right uncle was resting on my left knee, and my right elbow resting on top of my right knee. I had the back of my hand on my chick holding my face, and I looked, and I looked at the tip of my right shoe rocking up and down. I wanted to use the restroom as well, but I didn't want to ask. While waiting I wondered what kind of face I had at that moment. I wish there was a mirror in front of me or a way to take a selfy, but no cell phones back then. I think that selfy would've been a very good one. I just couldn't imagine the expression on my face at that moment. I know my face can be very expressive sometimes, especially when I'm worried. I could tell at the time something was not right with my face. Finally after a good half an hour they asked me to grab my passport, and told me that I was free to leave. They told me that in English of course, and I didn't understand a word of what they said, but I did understood the word free, and with the passport in my hands it was time for me to run. I'm sure I almost did.
When I reached the baggage claim area to pick up my luggage, I was looking for Mike, and I was still afraid, and a bit paranoid. I have to say I was a bit "Duro." I felt like at any moment they were going to come and arrest me, or something. After that experience at airport I got the creeps, and I couldn't find Mike.
In the middle of that almost panic attack Mike found me saying, "I was just about to leave the airport and going get a room in a hotel, and then come back over here to pick you up. I didn't know how long was going to take you. I thought for a moment they were not going to let you in." I said "Oh! I was so worried!" Mike said, "What's wrong with that black bro? I don't know Daniel, I have never seen a custom go after somebody so directly like he did with you. He wasn't even in your line. He came all the way across the floor just to mess with you. You are not going to believe me, but black people are even more racist. You'll see!" I replied to him sarcastically "No! Really?" and added, "I already know my friend, tell me about it." Mike said "He was convinced that you came to stay." and I said "And he was right!" We laugh and decided to shake it off going to eat something. Eating does relax me, and I had to try the famous American sandwich, the famous American Hamburger.
One way or another being in the U.S it was a wish come, and eating a hamburger at a McDonald's a hundred percent real McDonald's, was more than what I could wish for at the time.
Dinner at McDonald was okay, but the size of the sandwich was not even a quarter of the size of a sandwich back in my country. The other thing that disappointed me a bit was the flavors of the food. Such array of new flavors overwhelmed my taste buds, the bread, the meat, the oil, the salt, even the Cola drink tasted different. Such a strong flavors, and none of them familiar to me, but not bad, a whole new experience for sure.
What was wrong with that guy at the airport Mike said, and we talked about for a while at that McDonals. I still remember my first meal in the U.S. in all honesty at that moment, I was not thinking on staying here in the U.S. it was not possible for me. I really didn't know if I could even think about staying, the only thing I knew back then, is that I wanted to see with my own eyes the greatest democracy on Earth, and learn as much English as possible.
Next step was renting a car. After that big scared I had at the airport it was nice, actually very nice, just to look around and see with my own eyes, a world that you have seen only on TV.
When I stepped outside the buildings at the airport the humidity, and extreme heat really hit me hard, it felt almost like a slap on the face. It was like stepping into a hot sauna, but I was so happy living a dream.
How can I forget my first ride by South Miami beach, just like in the movies, beautiful girls in short shorts, skating, running or playing volleyball by the beach, it was phenomenal, astonishing I should say.
After we rented the car and went for a little joy ride, we started looking for a place where to stay. Mike the only thing that he had in mind at the moment, was to find the most affordable place he could, and I could see the frustration in Mike's face, but he kept his cool like always. Finally after hours of looking and driving around all over Miami, he found a place. It was a room with two beds, and a kitchenette with a little countertop on the side. That little humble but clean room it was more than what we needed, so we took it, and paid it on halves.
I don't know what I would've done without Mike's help. This Hotel was right in front of the Beach, right in the heart of South Miami Beach City. Mike explained to me that the city of South Miami was home of the well-known Art Deco style. I never heard of it before, but I really liked the style. First time I heard that a city was built having in mind a specific architectural style.
After we organized our stuff in our room I did the math to find out how long I could stay. Now that I had real numbers to work with I could do the math. Right after I did the math, I find out that I had enough money to for barely one month, one month only, and I wanted to stay at least six months. I was blown away to find out how expensive everything it was here in the U.S. I wanted to stay at least for six months so I could learn how to speak English. That was the reality I was facing at the time. I was terrified to find out that all that money I borrowed back in my country, would only last for a month here in the US, and being frugal that was. In my country with that money I could survive for a whole year, and to pay back that money, it would take me a decade at least with all the interest they added on top. That was a tough reality to swallow, but that was what it was.
One of my dreams of my life was to learn how to speak a second language, and English was a language in the top of my list, along with German, yah?! French or Russian, it didn't matter to me I just wanted to speak two languages.
I was so happy that day to be here, and I was terrified as well, terrified to realize how little I could afford here in the U.S. That night after one of the longest days of my life, I said a prayer with all my heart, given thanks to God for all its blessings, and I went to sleep like a baby. I'm sure I woke Mike more than a couple times at night for sure with my snoring.
Next morning at breakfast time, Mike told me, "Now we need to find us a car Daniel. We cannot afford to be renting a car for ever. We need to buy a car and pronto!" I couldn't agree more, and we started looking for a more convenient, and economic transportation.
Here in the U.S. "No Car, no legs!" The distances are so big in between one place to the next that a car becomes a necessity.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I started to see what America really looked like. Everything was bigger and nicer than in my little town. I was in awe and I said out loud, "God Bless America! Amen! Amen to that Mike said. We were happy that day. What a pleasure to meet you America.
After a couple very exhausting days of nothing but looking for a car, we found a cheap, dependable, and decent looking car. This car under my standards was a beautiful car. For me was economic, simple, and had no luxury. This car had only what was needed to move from point A to point B, and it was standard, had no automatic transmission, and had a wimpy AC, but AC none the less. Mike didn't like it that much thought, and he said, "This car is a ghetto car, and has a terrible reputation." I said, "So far mechanically and all around is the best car I have seen within our budget."
Our budget was very limited and that car was the only thing that we could find. It was a car I have never seen before in my life. I never heard the brand name either. The car it was a "Yugo." I tested the car and it was running like a clock. I said to Mike, "This car out of all the cars we have seen, is the one that have the best working engine, has no oil leaks, and has a standard that makes it more economic." I added, "Mechanically-wise is perfect!" Right after Mike said, "I think is okay. Okay let's buy it." We bought a seven-year-old Yugo. For those who don't remember a Yugo is a car considered one of the worse cars ever made in the history of cars. For some reason the one we've got was running like a Swedish clock, and for me it was not a ghetto car. In the contrary that car to me was the coolest ride ever! And I was riding it on the streets of Miami, FL U.S.A. Never been happier in my life!
Regardless of the details of how I got to the U.S. I was in a super cool place; I had a car; I was sleeping in a hotel room, and I felt like, "Life is finally happening to me."
We bought the car in halves with the compromise that if any of us had to leave or go back to Chile, the other person will have the option to buy that other half. It was my first car ever, well half of a car in all reality.
Here in the U.S. the cities were gigantic in comparison with my little town where I came from, and here having a car was not a luxury, it was pure necessity. The distances are so big and the points where you have to go were so far apart from each other, that no public transportation will take you there. In the U.S. if you don't have a car, you are a handicap.
Mike has been making phone calls to the fire department to see if he could get his job back, that was his job, and I my job was to enjoy the ride, and get to know the U.S.
One of those days Mike received a call back from the fire department early that day when we were still at the hotel, and I was trying to understand what he was saying, but I couldn't understand a word. After that call he remained very quiet. I could tell he was upset, later on I asked him, "What's going on Mike, why are you so quite?" He said right away, almost like waiting for me to ask him about it, "They are just giving me excuses, but I know one thing for sure, they are not going to give my job back, at least not in the short term. What a fucking B.S., excuse my English Daniel, but they told me one thing, and then another, and another, is like they cannot tell you, "No we don't have a job for you." Instead of telling you straight up what is going on, they just keep making you call them back over and over, bummer! Now I'm being forced to use my plan B, and that is: I'm going to the Veteran's Administration to see if they can help me to find a job." In the meantime he said, "I think I can help you to find a job if you want me too." Sure, I said.
A few days went by, and the Veteran's Administration didn't give him very good news either, so very soon we realize that we were just trying to find a job, any job. He said to me, "I never believed that to find a job was going to be this difficult, and here in my own country. F#@$." For Mike the chances to get one of his old jobs back were getting slimmer by the minute. Mike said, "I think is time to make use of my Plan C. I can't believe that I have to use Plan C. Once I was in the Navy and the only thing I did all day long, was nothing but painting every single day of my life there. That is all I did paint and paint all day long from early in the morning till late at night." Mike said, "Actually I do remember the golden rule in the Navy, "If you don't have to salute it, you painted it."" We laugh and we started looking for a job as painters. Mike said to me. "You could apply for painter's helper, and I could apply for a Journeyman. Do you mind painting?" I said, "You know me Mike, work is work, and I always been sort of a handyman. I don't mind to be a painter. Any work is better than no work at all."
We started looking for jobs every day from early in the morning till late at night. That was all we did for weeks, we went from office to office, job site after job site, filling application after application. We did put a ton of miles on that Yugo. We drove that car every day from early in the morning till late at night, and the car didn't gave us any mechanical problems at all, and by the way, the Yugo was still running like a Swedish clock.
For me coming from a third world country, I thought we were never going to find a job, at least not that quick. We needed to find a job before our money was gone, and that was going to be in about two weeks. My inner self went from flying high to a very disappointing situation very quick. There was a lot of pressure involved in this job hunting. In my country sometimes to find a job could take you years, so I was not very optimistic, but for sure I was doing everything I could to find one.
Mike like always so polite, I could tell he was upset and disappointed, but he was very patient with me. I was so obnoxious, and I didn't mean it, but I was asking Mike every single minute, "Mike what's that? What's this? What does that means is? Mike here and Mike there." I was like a kid in a field trip, being overexcited. I was so impressed with the U.S. Actually I could say I was falling in love with the U.S.A.
Now that I look back, I really appreciate Mike's patients with me, in many ways for me it was just like a field trip to the future in my first car. For some reason there I was, with a smile on my face from early in the morning till I fall sleep. Mike had the patients to explain me, and teach me as much as he could. Those actions are the ones that awaken hope in the bottom of my heart for humanity, and I still have hope and faith, and even if I didn't understand a word of English, I could see the progress everywhere I did go. I was amazed to see so many people, so many cars, so many buildings, and everything was so nice.
Two weeks went by and no luck finding a job. We were getting very worried. Mike said, "My thoughts were that by now I was going to be working as a firefighter or in the worse case I was going to get a job through the V.A." None of those jobs came through and they told him, "Sorry Mike, but we don't have anything available for you right now, call us back next month. Maybe in the long term will have something for you" At that moment I thought in my mind, "Oh man! If it is hard for Mike to find a job, how much harder would've been for me to find a job on my own, and if I would've have come over here on my own, I think it would've been something close to impossible to find a job."
I was overwhelmed with the complexity of coming over to a complete different country. I didn't know the language; I didn't know my way around, and I didn't know even how to make a long distance call on a paid phone. All of these things for me were mind boggling. I was so glad that I had Mike giving me a hand trying to find a job. He was trying to help a poor Chilean kid trying to stay a bit longer so he could learn how to speak English. How nice of him.
By the middle of our third week, we went job hunting early in the morning. Our first stop was a construction site where we didn't even get close to the trailer office, about a block away a couple of guys standing outside the trailer yell at us, "No work, no job go way" so we did.
What a way to start the day. Was a rough start, but we kept filling applications at different places anyways. We were getting to the point of giving up when Mike got a buzz in his beeper. Back then a beeper and a payphone was all you needed to stay connected. Back in those days very few people had a cell phone, and if you happened to see a person with a cell phone on their hands, it was a phone as big as a brick and heavy as one as well. For a reason they called it "The Brick." Mike told me, "I don't recognize this number." He stopped at the nearest payphone and called the number back. Back then payphones were the closest thing to a cell phone, and there was a payphone in every single corner. Mike came back to the car after a bit and said, "Good news Daniel. Tomorrow morning we have a job interview at a painting company." Alright! We said, and had a happy high five. We were happy, but we kept filling out applications for the rest of the day anyways. We were not sure if we were going to get a job or not, but we were exited, and optimistic about it.
Back at the hotel room after a long day of running around, we had a very scrawny meal. We were running out of money, and we were trying to save as much money as possible.
After dinner I sat by the window, and I was looking down to the busy street. I was looking down the window when a big black guy with humongous biceps caught my attention. He was seated by the edge of a small brick wall, and I could tell he was dealing something. Here in there someone will come to talk to him, and he received something on one hand, and gave back something with the other. Very clever I thought, and I entertained myself looking out the window of my hotel room. It was so much fun just to look out the window of my hotel room, and see such a diverse group of people. I really liked that. I always loved to explore my surroundings, but there in Miami I didn't dare to go out on my own, especially after sunset "No way!" For some reason I didn't feel safe. For me to be in this whole new world was a very exciting adventure, and everything was totally new for me.
Next morning on the way to our job interview, I started to admire the landscape outside of Miami
City. Coming all the way over here from a rocky desert, with empty and grey hills, is quite impressive to see how much green there was everywhere I looked. The other thing was that there is was not even one hill or a mountain in sight, everything was so flat, so flat that your eyes can see the horizon no matter in which direction you looked at. The most beautiful thing was to see the clouds in the sky getting lost in the horizon. Some of them close to you, some of them far, far away just like in a children's book. The landscape it was majestic. What a sight. The contrast you get from being in the middle of jungles of concrete, and then to go out on open spaces, and then back again into a jungle of concrete, was memorizing. From the hotel you get in the highways at least four lines wide, at seventy five miles per hour, and in places the highway is over seven stories high, it's unbelievable!
We arrived to our destination after a forty five minute drive on the Palmetto Highway. We found the place, and it was a very small warehouse. Outside the warehouse there it was a couple of guys loading paint onto the back of a truck. One of them said hi to us and said, "You must be the guys looking for a job right?" That's right! Mike said. We introduced each other, and sat over some empty 5 gallons buckets. How can I forget that moment, how can I forget the guys name either, Chris and Juan. Chris Newton was the boss, and he was the typical white person, tall and thick with a nice smile, polite and friendly. I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying, and he started talking to Mike. While Mike was talking to Chris, I was talking with his business partner-a Cuban American named Juan. Juan said to me right away, almost making feel a bit uneasy, "By the way you smile you must be a good man, and I don't care what you know about painting, but if you are willing to learn our way of painting, you are hired." I said, "Sure no problem! I still can learn new tricks." The interview went well and as simple as that, from one moment to the next, I went from not having a job to be hired as a painter helper. That was the very first job ever, here in the U.S. for me.
Mike told me, "You have been hired as a painter helper, and I have been hired as a journeyman painter." I said "Alright!" And I asked mike, "Hey did they tell you how much they are going to pay us? I forgot to ask Juan about that, well actually I didn't dare to ask him." Mike said to me, "Daniel that is the first thing you ask here in the U.S. before you say yes to a job that has been offered to you." I said, "So tell me how much I'm going to be making an hour." Mike said, "Most of the people over here start at four dollars an hour, working as a dishwasher or so, but I did my best to get you as much as possible, and they are going to give you six dollars an hour to start with, and with the possibility of a raise depending on how fast you learn how to paint." I said again, "Alright!"
After we said goodbye and left that place, and we were alone, we started celebrating and feeling pretty good about the situation. That day we were both very happy, but at the same time, Mike was not all that happy, he said, "I can't believe that not even in my own country I can find a decent job." Like he said it, "What in the fuck, is going on with this country!"
I was as happy as happy you can be. I remember that day on my way back to the hotel room, I was so happy that while Mike was driving, I started to singing out loud inside the car, and back then, I was tone deaf, so finally after a few verses Mike found the right moment to ask me in a very polite way, like always, and he said, "Excuse my French, but why don't you shut the fuck up!" and we laugh out loud. Remember he's American.
I was so eager to find a way to stay a bit longer in this country, that I didn't care what I was doing, as long as I was learning English, it was okay for me. Like they say, "There's nothing better to learn another language than interacting with the natives. Because that way you will associate a word with a real situation and that is the fasted way to learn." In my mind I was getting paid to go to school Woo hoo! Again. That day we went home early. Mike had some errands to run, and I didn't find anything better to do than going to the beach that day.
For the first time in my life, I was going to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. It was phenomenal! It was a perfect day to go to the beach, and to top it all, coming out of the water I saw walking towards me a beautiful girl in bikini, she was tall, skinny, blond, and when I looked at her for a second glance, I realized that she was topless. What I sight! I looked at her from bottom to top, at least I tried to look at her face, that was a beautiful face by the way, but my eyes were stuck. She smiled at me and said hi. I said hi back to her, and we kept walking. I wish I knew how to speak English then, so I could've tried to start a conversation with her. What a day!
For the first time from the moment I got here to the U.S., I felt like I was starting to have fun. After all the pressure of the trip, all the pressure that I went through just to get out of the airport, and then finally to find a job, for sure has been a daunting job, but so far so good. That day I was all relaxed, happy, cozy, and very excited to start my first job here in the U.S. For me to be able to stay here in the U.S. was like getting accepted to a very prestigious university. I was being presented with the opportunity of studying a major degree in English, and I was going to get paid for learning.
I have to admit that at that moment, I knew what I was doing was wrong, because my visa was not a work visa, but oh well, that was my chance, and I took it.
Our first day of work was great! We had our brand new painter's uniform, and that day we had a very good start. They left us alone painting the drip edge of a roof, in a one story home. We needed to put a very stinky stain blocker, and we did a very good job at it. When Juan came and check our work he was very happy with it, and he said, "Well you did a good job, so instead of giving you a check, and say good bye to you guys. I have to say good job and I'll see you tomorrow again." Mike explained me that if we didn't do a good job in a reasonable amount of time, we could've got fired in the spot. Next day I had to paint the bottom of the concrete ramp on a three-story-high concrete parking lot. I have never seen before a whole building dedicated just to park cars. I was blown away. Juan came over that morning and hand me the tools. He gave me a brief introduction on how to paint, and got me started. I followed his instructions to the letter, and after a couple hours he came back and said to me, "Break time." He looked with a lot of attention to everything I've done so far, and then he looked at me, and said, "Good job! You're doing a very good job. My only advised to you it would be to try to put more paint on the wall, and less paint all over you." He laughed and left. I had paint all over me. Good thing I was wearing white, and the color of the paint was light pink. Beige pink-a very common color in Miami. It's like the color of the flamingos, but not that vivid. After the break was over he came over, and gave me a few pointers on how to paint without me being under the roller. I didn't realize it at the beginning, but I really had a lot of paint drops all over me.
That day was another hot and humid day in Florida. I was starting to learn the painting trade. Juan said, "Today is going to get over hundred and ten, so go and get something to drink, and try not to take more than 15 minutes on your break." I said Alright! I really liked the American way of work. After two hours of work you get a break. I loved that.
Painting at the beginning was okay, but as the days went by, I was just starting to get really tired. It was not too hard, but after a few hours pushing that roller up and down, you started getting really tired. Just like holding a brick in your hands, at the beginning is absolutely nothing, but as the time progress you realize that you cannot hold it anymore. It was a good thing for me to have been swimming all those years. I have to admit that I was a bit out of shape too, after working on sales for so long. Working back in my country as a paper pusher got me soft. Swimming and painting they do have a lot in common, you gotta move your arms a lot, and in different motions, but you gotta move them a lot. Definitely it was a good thing to know that soon I was going to be in a great shape. Working outside in Miami is like working inside a sauna. I thought great! I'm getting paid to exercise, and to learn English, awesome!
Juan talked to me in Spanish, but all the names of the tools, he called their names in English. That in itself for me was a free extra English lesson. He treated me with respect, and explained everything very well to me. I really like that. He said please every time he asked for something, every time he called me he did call me by my name, and I really liked that. Back in my country I was always called by some nickname, but hardly ever I was called by my real name. I really liked that here in the US.
Back in my country they always find a nickname that becomes your name. They throw nicknames at you until one of them sticks to you. I never liked that. I could see here in the U.S. that people in general had better manners. Chris, Juan and all my coworkers they call me, and call each other by their name, and I really liked that, very much so.
After a few days I asked Mike, "When do we get paid?" He said, "We are lucky Daniel. This week they closed the payroll, and we get paid for whatever we work this week this coming Friday, and after that we get paid every other week." I said, "Nice!" I was so used to get paid once a month over my country, that this was awesome news for me. I asked Mike, "Don't we have to pay our rent at the hotel next week?" Mike said, "Yes! That's why I'm telling you we are in luck, because I am running out of money." I said "Me too, actually this weekend I'm out money completely. I don't know what I'm going to do next week." Mike said, "Me too! I don't know what are we going to do my friend, but at least we have a job!" Totally! I said. I was so happy, thrilled and motivated and every day that went by I learned something new.
I remember Mike talking with the owner of the hotel about our rent money. He had to talk to the owner of the hotel because we were not going to have the money on time. Mike had to make an appointment, and we were very worried about it. Mike came back to me and told me, "Okay we are okay, we can pay the rent a week later but not a day more." What a relief, I felt so lucky to have Mike as a friend. I don't know what I would've done without his help. The hotel where we were staying at the time was the Haddon Hall Hotel in South Miami Beach. I'll never forget that.
Anyhow we were not out of trouble yet. We solved one part of the problem, but we still have to eat and survive one more week before we could receive our first check.
That week was tough, we were working hard, and the food we had was all gone. The last couple days at home we ate nothing but toasts with a little bit of vegetable oil and salt, and at work our lunch for a few days was nothing but a two litter Coke that we shared on halves, and some plain bread.
Finally after a lot of hardship, payday was upon us, finally! And we had a problem, so I thought. I thought that I was not going to be able to cash the check, because I didn't have a checking account. Mike said to me, "Don't worry Daniel" Mike said not to worry, but at the time I have not even a valid U.S. ID or any proper identification. In my country that is the first thing they ask to cash a check. I was just panicking. I have been always a bit anxious.
In a lighter note I have been dreaming all week long, about receiving all that money in American dollars. In my mind I started making the math comparing how much money I was doing here in the U.S. compared to how much money I was doing back in my country. After I did the math, I was blown away! In one week of work I was making as much as I did in one month back in my country. Wow! I said.
That payday I was very excited, I couldn't wait until the moment where I could cash my check. Chris showed up at the last minute that day, and he gave me an envelope with my first check. My first check ever in the U.S. and he said something to me that I was not expecting, he said, "Thanks for your help, and thanks for your hard work." He took me by surprise, but I was even more surprised to realize that I did understand what he was saying to me in English. It felt great to receive the check and realize that I was learning another language. I smiled and said to him in English, "You're welcome"
Here I do appreciate the complexity of every human been. At that time in my life I was experiencing a duality. This duality had in one side the spiritual chasm that I was going through at that moment, and on the other side the pure struggle to survive. Both of these things were very strong experiences, they were happening at the very same time, and they were both life changing experiences.