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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Green Card

It's been a long wait - ten stressful months that pushed my blood pressure up to dangerous levels. However during the last few days of February I attended my Government Medical Examination and three days later an interview with an official of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Yesterday in the mail I received notification that my permanent residence had been approved and that I should receive my Green Card within two to three weeks. It actually arrived in the mail today, and I can now legally work in the United States.

I've learned a lot since leaving South Africa at the end of April last year, and much of what I have learned you will find in previous postings. My opinion of several airlines has hit rock bottom. Emirates is one of them. They would not even answer my emails, even after advising me that they had found the laptop that went missing in Dubai, and would forward it to me without delay. I also got to fly on Aer Lingus. Their Shannon to Logan flights are little more that cattle wagons, with three ageing flight attendants trying their best to serve nearly 200 single class passengers (there are no Business or First Classes on these money-saving flights).

After 42 years in southern Africa I have been thrown into the deep end of continental American winters. Yesterday the daytime temperature rose above freezing point for only the second time in almost four months. Thankfully this time it looks like staying in the 40's for a few days - not nights though, which will still be below freezing. The 2 - 3 feet of snow lying in our yard (garden) has started its slow thaw, but will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we can next see the grass on the lawn. Another thing I have learned - not to let your central heating furnace run out of oil - likewise the pellet stove out of pellets. And I have learned how best to conserve the two fuels so as to keep down costs.

Now that I am able to look back at my last few years in South Africa, I can see it with a completely refreshed mind. I see a country that has openly practiced reverse-apartheid since it became independent, a country rife with nepotism, corruption and bad management, and a country with a president who apparently needs his head examined. In 1998 I was privileged to meet and shake hands with the late Nelson Mandela, a complete opposite to today's president, and a total gentleman. But we've seen it before, haven't we? Up in Zimbabwe, for example, and in the majority of newly independent states in sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly many of the whites left in South Africa have nowhere else to go. I was lucky - I have a British passport (when I first came to southern Africa in 1972, I vowed never to give it up), and I have an American wife, daughter and grandchildren. My heart, prayers and love reach out to those of you who are now stuck in that country.  At least you have the beautiful countryside, climate and wine to enjoy.

America is vibrant. The economy is back on track, and the price of gas (petrol) has recently been at its lowest for many years. You learn things by just watching television ads though - apart from the fact that the models are better looking than those in SA. It seems that at least 50% of television ads are for drug companies. Ads that market expensive prescribed drugs for heart disease, obesity, shingles,  a variety of vaccinations, COPD and many others. With the buoyant economy, many of the ads are for motor companies such as Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, and Jeep (not so many); and there is a dearth of vehicle insurance ads. Naturally, all of the big fast food chains are regularly represented.