On April 16th, 1976, I flew out to the U.S. from England after traveling across the world from my home country of Bangladesh. Before coming to the U.S., my friend and I had actually biked over a lot of the world together. I wanted to escape and travel was a way to get out and follow the calling of adventure. I went across many different countries with him before coming to the U.S. I went across Romania, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Holland, and other countries and ended my biking journey in England. While I did bring my bike with me, the U.S. was too crowded to actually use it, especially since I landed in New York. I wanted to go to the U.S. with someone I knew because I was worried about knowing how to get my passport and visa. I didn’t want to do it alone since I knew that it would be a very difficult experience all by myself and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that. Luckily I was traveling with a friend and we could go together.
I landed in New York, and the first thing I noticed was that it was very busy. All the people, noise, and crowds were overwhelming. We got picked up from the airport by a Bangladeshi family. We didn't know them, but someone we knew called them, and they agreed to help us. A lot of people helped us when we came to the U.S., and a lot of people we didn’t know that well. But because we were Bangladeshi and they were too, they wanted to help us get settled in and get a good footing in the country. It was nice to have community and some familiarity in a country that was so new to us. While I was a bit worried about going to the U.S. with only one person I knew, the kindness of strangers who shared a home country with me made me realize there was a community I could find here and comfort I could take in that.
That first day, we rested at that family’s home in the Bronx, but the next day we went sightseeing. The main place we went to was Times Square. It felt completely different from any place I had been to before. The beaming lights, the big skyscrapers, everything felt larger than life. Bangladesh had been loud, but in a much different way than where I was that day. New York was bright and the sound made the city come alive. While I was used to the hustle and bustle of Bangladesh, New York was a new, shiny, awe inspiring place that I had yet to fully explore and I really did feel like it was a world of potential.
After that we went to a restaurant, both to grab a bite to eat and to drop off the bikes that we had taken with us from England. Once we put the bikes in storage, we went to eat a meal at this restaurant. It was an Indian restaurant, and even though I was Muslim, I didn’t check if the food was halal because I didn’t want to be a bother. I knew that I wouldn’t always have the option to get halal food and would unfortunately have to get used to it.
While my friend and I wanted to travel to Canada to see the Olympics, that didn’t work out and we ended up staying in New York for a while. I didn’t know too much about what New York or the U.S. was really like before coming here. All I knew before coming was from movies, TV, and newspapers. There was one particular movie, which the U.S. directly used to promote the country. There were screens all around us, and the movie would show a view of walking through the city. It went past the White House, the Capital, and the Washington Monument. I came to this country because there was this attraction to the U.S., everything we saw about the U.S. was that it was a dream country.