On Wednesday, October 18, 2006, I rode into Charlotte, NC in order to take my test. After some long and less-than-pleasant hours of riding the bus I made it to the financial capitol of the state. We braved the morning traffic and actually got to the Dept. of Homeland Security building early.
I managed to get through the security check-point without having to submit to any cavity searches, and took my seat in the waiting room with other unsuspecting specimens of foreign nationality. Suprisingly, it didn't take long for my name to be called. And, fortunately, the officer who interviewed me was an attractive blond woman with an Eastern European accent, so I guess that made me feel more comfortable.
Is that innapropriate? To find your USCIS officer attractive? Well, whatever. She was nice, okay? Anyway, she went on to confirm all the info on my application and asked me a few questions. Things like, "who said 'give me liberty or give me death?'" I think there was also "what was the first holiday the pilgrims celebrated when they came to America?" I answered "Patrick Henry," and "Thanksgiving," in that order.
Oh yeah, there was also the mandatory "please read this English sentence out loud" and "write down 'I studied for my test to become a US citizen.'" Basically it all went well and turned out to be quite simple. The only thing was that my immigration photos were wrong. Go figure. I got the ADIT photo spec sheet right off the USCIS website. Turns out that, at the time of my application, they hadn't updated that since it was changed about two or three years ago. Of course now it's all up to date.
Nevertheless, I passed the test, went to get new pictures taken and brought them back. I was scheduled to be sworn in that same day at two o'clock in the afternoon. That caught me a little by surprise, but I was glad to get it all done with.
Upon our return, we went into the ceremony hall, where the same crowd from the other waiting hall gathered once more. I was trying to figure out what to do to get pictures taken of this event. None of us had a camera, and I had pretty much figured that that was the way it's going to be. That is, until I saw an man, presumably from India, with a digital camera. In my most sincere tone I asked if he would please oh please take my picture during the ceremony, since I was so unprepaired for this impromptu swearing-in. He kindly agreed, and hence the above photo. Thanks George, you're a good man!
The head of the department was the one to do the ceremony, and gave us a little talk on what we can do now that we'd be getting our certificates. He cracked some jokes, and was overall entertaining. We recited the oath, and as a reward for years of waiting for this moment had to endure our illustrious leader, the president, speaking on the projection screen. More propaganda followed, and at last we were free.
It all seemed so streamlined and, dare I say, anticlimatic? Well, whatever the case may be, I am still glad. Now I get to vote. And now I get to get a passport. That passport will allow me to go back and see my extended family and my home country after twelve years of waiting. And that is something to be celebrated. Rest assured, it will be celebrated when I step into that Polish house which awaits me across the Atlantic.
Update: User Comment -- Blogger Michael, who commented on this post, has another interesting account of going through this process at Translate This! Unfortunately, the person in his posts has had to wait a bit longer between the test and the oath ceremony.