Transcription translated from Hyderabadi Urdu:
[On her first day in the United States, at the airport during a layover.]
A Customs officer stopped me and started questioning me. He asked for my passport. I had brought my Quran with me and it was in my hand. He asked me to open it. He asked questions like, “What is that?” I said, “My holy book.” He said, “Alright, keep it.” That was my first shock.
My flight was at 4pm...
Before my journey, I was told that people usually travel to a new country with someone by their side. But I came alone.
When I was applying for my visa, I did try to look for a family to travel with, but plans and potential travel partners kept falling through. I couldn’t find anyone through the Embassy to travel with.
My uncle had sat me down and asked, “What are you going to do if, when you get to America, your husband does not show up to the airport?”
On the plane, I was very afraid. I was alone. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I thought, “What is this food?” I didn’t eat out of fear that it was not halal, even when the labels read “halal.” I was mistrusting and anxious. I cried hysterically. It’s a difficult thing to leave your country, your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, your every relation… And yes, there was joy in coming to America. We always prayed for a visa. We prayed so hard, and then we finally got it. After coming, though, you start missing home, your country. You want to be home. You feel divided.