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Feeling a deep frustration today with the world. I am quickly realizing how lucky I am to be able to travel and discovering how little opportunity Hondurans have to do so. For the average Honduran, it is difficult to leave Honduras to visit another country for fun, let alone work. Immigration laws and VISA and passport requirements are so easy for Americans but so complicated for others. I like to imagine a world where people can come and go as they please, if anything, just to be able to explore. Maybe then humanity would have some understanding and compassion when it could see we are more similar than the differences that keep us at war.

Americans can do things so easily, but their government constricts the rest of the world. The people of the USA have no clue just how lucky they are to have the opportunities they do. Instead, they sit in front of their TVs watching the world go by and judging it without ever exploring it. Some Americans give themselves a pat on the back for donating $20 a month to a child in some third world country, and these programs do help. But what is the root of the problems in these countries? It might be worth it to look a little deeper at the history of America and find out, to see how willful ignorance is causing much of the suffering in the world. Programs like this make Americans feel they are so generous but don’t give them the perspective they need to see what is at the base of true and positive change for the world. If anything these programs give Americans the sense they are somehow better than the rest of the world because they are so giving with their money to those less fortunate. This results in an “Oh those poor starving children in Africa.” mentality instead of a “How can this be happening?” and “Why?” mentality.

The USA’s immigration laws keep families separated and punishes desperate people who need understanding and opportunity to follow their dreams. The US government spends about 5 billion dollars per year detaining and deporting immigrants, most who want the same opportunity American ancestors had just one hundred years ago. If undocumented immigrants who needed work were allowed to enter legally and easily, that is 5 billion per year the USA could be putting into more jobs and using to pay off it’s outrageous debt. Three months of minimum wage work in the USA would be about what a Honduran makes in a whole year. The USA could be helping these people, who typically have families, feed their children, build a house, get an education and have the basic things Americans take for granted. Meanwhile, that money could be taxed if these immigrants were legal, adding to the cash flow for the economy. The truth is big businesses and farmers in the USA don’t want immigrants to get legal status because that would mean they would have to pay them minimum wage and/or benefits. Obama has given large sums of money to the Honduran government and the USA is training its military. If the Honduran government is so intertwined with drug trafficking in Honduras, why would the USA be supporting them under the guise of fighting the war against drugs. It is contradictory no? Shouldn’t that money be going directly to the people of Honduras to help improve their education system and living conditions giving Hondurans the opportunity to make their own country better for all their friends and family? The truth is keeping Hondurans uneducated and poor benefits the Honduran government and its few rich landowners who can take advantage of powerless people while also allowing the USA to have a stronghold in Central America and a place where American businesses can take advantage of cheap labor. American foreign policy continues to rape poorer countries so that the USA can take advantage of these people while Americans live rich lives disconnected from the rest of the world. This only drives more immigrants to the United States where the cycle of abuse continues with poor working conditions and separation from family, living every day in fear of deportation.

Many immigrants have no desire to stay in the USA. They want to return to their families and culture, but they don’t have the resources to have the future they dream of in their country so come without papers to the USA. Often, undocumented immigrants end up staying instead of returning to their families because the risk of being caught is too great to return to Honduras. If lucky enough to get in, people try to stay in the USA as long as they can to save as much as possible for their families back home. But families can only survive so long when separated, and they are destroyed by this system. Undocumented workers in the USA find themselves lost in a new culture and language, never fully able to absorb into the culture because there is always a level of fear of deportation or jail. They are away from those they love and often lonely. When they return to Honduras, sometimes it is to divorce, death, and heart break.

I challenge others to look at the process for a work or visitors VISA from Honduras and see for yourself why people come illegally. Imagine if you had limited funds to travel to a big city to visit an embassy or limited access to internet, how would you apply, especially if you can only apply in English? If you made on average of $3000-4000 a year, working six or seven days a week, and had a family to support, when would you find time? If all your parents could afford was a high school education for you, and for a VISA, a person needed to have a skilled job requiring a university degree, how could you even begin to imagine leaving Honduras legally? If most of the work illegal immigrants do isn’t even work that requires a university degree, why is the US government keeping these people out who are doing jobs educated Americans don’t want to do? This year is an opportunity for immigration reform in the USA. I challenge people for just one day to put on the shoes of an undocumented immigrant and see how your perspective might change. I am amazed every day at how my ideas of the USA and the world transform while being here in Honduras. It is a lot harder to judge people when you are sitting right across from them at your dinner table.

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At the Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY after red-eye flight

New York is a buzzing sea of endless possibility. The phrase, “Go big or go home,” comes to mind. Potential is not enough here. People live, eat, breathe their dreams. There is no lying around in bed wondering what could be. These swarms of ant-like humans suffuse themselves in dreams bigger than reality; the impossible seems possible. The power behind the complete commitment and purpose is intoxicating. I want to be part of this organized madness.

~

Arriving in New York on September 11th by red-eye flight has not made for the most relaxing trip. What would it be like to die on a plane, boxed so high above the ground, no place to go? I feel claustrophobic, scrunched between two men, one larger, stuffing Reese’s peanut butter cups in his mouth and drinking corn syrup out of can, a constant crinkling as he digs into his potato chip bag, the other younger, stretching out for a nap, eyes already closed. I do not sleep.

As I get off the plane, I feel a sense of freedom and relief. Gratitude washes away much of the grimy feeling typical of being in a space with stale air and limited moving room. I am in New York, I am jobless, I am free. My dream has turned into reality, no longer buried in a dusty box of memories.

My first New Yorker encounter is a taxi driver who does not give me a fluffed up description of New York. But this honesty is what I value most in people. It is spoken from the heart, not marred by the thinking brain. I feel lucky he is willing to share with me, but perhaps this is just the New York way. When I ask him what he loves about New York, he tells me that his home is in Pakistan, not here. That is where he longs to be, with his son, his mother. He does not miss his wife. His mother and child are his blood. He works in New York for them. When I ask about his son, he tells me of his own father dying when he was young and how this has been hard on his mother. He left his own son some years ago, now only visible to him by Skype, to work until he can return with enough money to buy land and provide a better life for his family. He does not want his son to suffer as he has. He is an educated man, an accountant, but his Visa was not renewed a couple years ago, so he works as a taxi driver. It is still more money than what he would make back home. He doesn’t want to experience the city that never sleeps. His family is more important. New York bores him. Several times, he has taken passengers to Times Square. He has no desire to go himself. He must come to the airport two hours early and wait in line to make the day worth his while because of the huge fees to work there. I am his first customer at 5:45am. Here illegally, he will be deported some day. He shrugs as though this is a joke and responds, “At least the ticket home will be free.” He will turn himself in when he has finally made enough money for his family; he hopes only five more years. His son will be eleven then. As he drops me off in Brooklyn, I wish him well. He smiles at me and says thank you for talking to him. I am a nice change from the men in black suits yelling into their phones. Looking at him one last time, I imagine the day he returns to his family.

Brooklyn is a mesh of color. I feel out of place with my pasty skin. I am the minority here. Seeing my friend in his apartment makes me happy. It has been his dream to be here; he told me the first day we met eight years ago. I know he will do well here. His apartment is cozy, flatmates unique and interesting. Although I have not slept for twenty-four hours, I am hungry, and we eat in a diner that reminds me of an episode from Seinfeld. I want to see the sun, and so we walk to Prospect park and soak in the vitamin D. How can one sleep during the day when there is so much to experience, and I am here only a week?

My friend has a class tonight, so I wander around East Village alone and happen upon some comedy and good company. One of the comedians, who interacted with me during his bit, takes me out for coffee after the show and puffs up my ego, encouraging me to delve more into my creative side. “If I were an agent, I would book you,” he says. “You have charisma! People want to be around you! Go for your dreams! If not now, when?” The compliments are endless. He pays for my coffee, leaves me a list of comedy hot spots, and tells me to go after my dreams of being a writer and throws in a few more nudges to do something on stage. I sit in the coffee shop speechless and beaming several minutes after he has gone; I feel like a million bucks, and I hear Frank Sinatra singing in my head “New York, New York.”

~

“Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York

These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I want to wake up in that city
That doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

My little town blues
They are melting away
I gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in that city
That never sleeps
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the list
Head of the heap
King of the hill

These are little town blues
They have all melted away
I am about to make a brand new start of it
Right there in old New York

And you bet [Incomprehensible] baby
If I can make it there
You know, I’m gonna make it just about anywhere
Come on, come through
New York, New York, New York”

“New York, New York”-Frank Sinatra

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