04 July 2013

Coming to America

Rutledge Ave., Charleston, S.C.
Repost of 7/4/2009 entry:

For much of my life I felt like what my brother Jim likes to call a "Cultural Nomad". Each time I moved I started over completely with little overlap of friends or family. I had finished high school in India and my family had returned there. I was alone in Canada and by some happy stroke of good fortune was accepted into the Nursing program at Ryerson University in Toronto. It was during the time nursing schools were being absorbed into universities but I found a room in the old dorm at the Hospital for Sick Children.

I'd never had a room or bed of my own, worn any clothes but hand me downs, hadn't eaten a whole candy bar, never been in a bank or driven a car. I had braids down to my waist, dorky glasses and had seen three movies in my life. I was alone in Toronto after being part of a family of ten and I was in heaven. I loved it. I cut my hair, bought a pair of jeans, ate my first pizza and squeezed a lifetime of new experiences into two years.

It was a nasty wake up call to discover there was a freeze on hiring nurses when I graduated. Nothing. I applied everywhere, but nurses were working in book stores and as waitresses that year and half of my class left the country. US hospitals crossed the border to recruit us. We were considered good catches for foreign nurses since we already spoke English, eh.

I naively accepted the first job I was offered, packed everything I owned in a single suitcase and one small cardboard box and ended up in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was immediately assigned to be Charge Nurse on a Medical Surgical Floor. Poor souls.

That was 1977. I married my hippie from Philadelphia and moved into his half built cabin on a mountain in West Virginia. I worked in community hospitals and large medical centers. I had two children, ran a free- standing birthing center in Hurricane, W.Va. and eventually settled in the lowcountry arriving the year before hurricane Hugo.

I've been welcomed, respected, taught by experts and loved in this country. After my divorce I finally went through the process of becoming a citizen and every year on July the 4th I feel gratitude to the friends I've made in this country and for the home I found in Charleston.

34 comments:

Catalyst said...

I think America got the best of the bargain!

Anonymous said...

Happy 4th of July, Joan! This is my husband's first July 4th as a U.S. Citizen. (See you Tuesday.)

Lowell said...

What a fascinating story! And congratulations on walking the walk and doing it well.

And have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Pete said...

Glad to have ya Joan...you do America proud.

Anonymous said...

Happy July 4th Joanie, What a wonderful life you have made for yourself!!!
love Shirley

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Hilda said...

What a wonderful personal testimony, Joan!
Happy Independence Day!

Pixel Peeper said...

Makes me think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fctclmU5hUc

Though I always like to pretend he sings it just for me... ;-)

de said...

Happy 4th of July Joan! This image really evoked a patriotic feeling for me! Thanks so much for your wonderful blog and all your images! It inspires me to go out and practice more with my camera!

Susan said...

You are a real example of what makes America such an interesting and vibrant country! Happy Independence day to you, Joan!

joan said...

What lovely comments. Thank you all. I have been very fortunate. Happy 4th to all!

Frank said...

Your revealing post is so from the heart and just what many of us need to read about the 4th of July. And what it means to differnt people. If you trace your family back to before the revolution, it's easy to not see how very special this country is. Not that we don't love it but not in the same way as you might. (My wife closely watches the stories of Ellis Island for faces of her family who all arrived here from eastern Europe.) We both got teary last night watching Washington's fireworks celebration and the incredible patriotic music as well as the display bursting over the Hudson in NY's harbor. We all have unigue stories but we especially love reading yours. (1977? A hippie in St. Petersburg? Do you remember Beaux Arts in Pinellas Park?) Sincerely, thank you for your post.

Chattahoochee Valley Daily said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I often think 'that born in America' American do not fully appreciate how great this nation really is. You seem to have experienced the best of it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story,(some of which I was aware of) very interesting how unique and wonderful life is for each of us. You have a great gift in the sharing of your life story. Love your blog, and as Shirl says, you have made a great life for yourself. Love always Sally

Beach Bum said...

I agree with Catalyst, we got the better end of the bargain.

Les said...

What a great story. Sparkling, fascinating people like yourself are what keeps the cultural gene pool diverse. Happy Independence Day, and those of us whose folk have been here centuries (with nothing to show for it) welcome you.

Charlestonjoan said...

Thanks folks. What lovely comments to come home to. It means a lot.

Sally, we each had our own story, eh?

Robin said...

Great photo and story, thanks for sharing it....and offering the perspective.

http://robineyephotography.blogspot.com/

Lucia said...

I think Canada lost a good person and USA gained one!

Anonymous said...

Joan,If I remember correctly your hair length was below the waistline.Sometimes it nearly reached the knees.And do you remember the schoolgirl whose hairline nearly touched her ankles? She was featured in the youth magazine known as JS? The three movies you saw must have been the ones sponsored by the school like Ben Hur,The Greatest Story Ever Told,The Sound of Music.On a more serious note I would like to conclude that the word "nomad" may not be quite apt,since you all did not move from place to place in India, where you spent about a decade and that's quite a period.The nomadic do not root themselves.They do not develop a sense of belonging.They are basically motivated by physical survival.Seen from this perspective any aspect of nomadism is not applicable to you all.Yes you all have traversed continents and this has sensitised you all to diverse cultures. Namrata

Rick said...

The US and finally St Francis were the winners here.

Kate said...

Joan, I echo all the fine comments above that celebrated your life with you. You have been a gift to the United States and Charleston, SC in particular. Your energy and love of life is what makes the immigrant experience so important for our country, which I, too, love and appreciate with all its pluses ad minuses. I have been pleased with an ability to travel to lots of different countries, and although love all the experiences this has afforded me, I return to North America with fresh new eyes and an appreciation for all that we have and enjoy. I salute you as a more-than-welcome addition to our shores. Happy 4th!

Charlestonjoan said...

Thanks Rick! Happy July 4th!

Charlestonjoan said...

Thanks Kate! I am the lucky one. Happy 4th!

Anonymous said...

Y O U A R E A N I N S P I R A T I O N ! Happy 4th Joan!

Susan Moorhead said...

Happy 4th! Such an interesting life - but that's what makes you such an interesting person!

Charlestonjoan said...

Happy 4th Barbara!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing some of your life story with us.
Your pictures and post for them are what I look forward
to each night as my evening winds down. Then it's off to
get ready for bed.
Glad you made the move to "south of the border" all those
years ago.
Good night sweet lady!

Charlestonjoan said...

Thanks Susan!

Charlestonjoan said...

I'm glad I did as well. I have been very fortunate.

AbleDanger said...

Very interesting - I liked hearing more of your story :-) Glad you came on down!

Charlestonjoan said...

I did get lucky :)

Les said...

I do like a good backstory. Thank you, and speaking as a lifelong citizen, we are glad to have you.

Charlestonjoan said...

Thanks Les! I am the lucky one.