” Why did you leave your country? If I could go to America, I would never look back at this country. If they let me in I would work very hard and never leave. I have a dream to go to America and if you could help me I would never forget you.”
For nineteen year-old Lama, Nepal is the land of dreams… Dreams deferred. When a person tells me his or her dream, and Nepalis announce their dreams more readily than their first names, it tugs my special little red, white, and blue heart string.Lama asked me for advice on how to immigrate to America. It is very difficult for a Nepali to do so. Some of his friends were selected in a visa lottery, but for him those odds are unlikely.
Lama attempted twice to join the British military. The UK offers 8,000 applicants 226 spots in an all Nepali regiment in British Army. This tradition has existed since the Kingdom of Nepal sent troops to aid the British in suppressing the First Indian War of Independence. These positions in the Royal Army basically go to top graduates.
Lama has researched Australian immigration, but even a rejected applicant costs $2,000. He isn’t going to throw those dice yet.
Lama, only nineteen, was inspired by his girlfriend, my student Anita, to try and immigrate to Japan on a student visa. Lama and Anita study Japanese together and are hoping to start new lives together in Japan. Anita has agreed to marry Lama in the future. Of course, I think they are too young to marry, but given their circumstances they gotta do what they gotta do to survive.
Lama is skeptical of Japan. He has figured out that life will be very busy and stressful for him in Japan. Assessing his bold personality, he may not mesh well with Japanese society. Anita will be successful in Japan, she seems flexible enough to learn how to bow.
Lama, still fixed on the USA, asked me how to apply for asylum in America. An option that could work if he is able to get to the border of the USA. There are plenty of asylumees from Nepal in America.
Jokingly, I advised him to walk over the Mexican American border. (Some Nepali people do hire coyotes and enter the USA through Mexico.) Then declare himself a refugee. I warned him that he may have to live in a refugee camp for many years before he can enter the USA and he risks deportation.
He doesn’t take the suggestion seriously. Instead he scans through my Facebook friends and asks if I could arrange for him to marry any of the single ladies for citizenship. Maybe his interests lay where most teenage boys keep their interests, between their pockets.
Lama told me that , “Every night I stay awake and worry about my future. I don’t know if I will like Japan, it is not like the USA. ”
Lama has stuck a strong point. Much of the fanfare around immigration to Japan is for wealthy passport holders. Japanese society isn’t nearly as inclusive for non-white/non-Americans. Non-white/non-Americans move to Japan aware that there is a cold shoulder and a mountain of work waiting for them. I’m challenged to prepare them for a side of Japan, I never experienced. Being white and American, I lived in another world of privilege that won’t be as welcoming to them.
I’m humbled by how much Lama desires to immigrate. At only nineteen, Lama embodies the struggle of young Nepalis, wanting a life that is all over TV, but a royal flush away from reality. Looking him up and down, I hope he’ll gamble everything. For that God bless his hand.