I got the opportunity to ask Miki a few questions. After meeting her future husband on the internet, they decided to start a new life together in California. Enjoy!
Why did you decide to move to America and what do you do?
Even though I always felt like an alien in my own country, I’d never thought of moving to America up until I met David. This is going to sound a tad hackneyed, but it wasn’t to me at the time, we met on MySpace, back in the day when it was awesome and I was just starting to grasp what social media was. David had (and still has) a music page on that site, we started talking, hit it off right from the get-go and the next thing I knew he was traveling to Buenos Aires to meet me. After that first trip, it was pretty clear that our goal was to start a life together and it made more sense for me to move to California than the other way around.
As for my occupation, I used to work as an ESL teacher and translator in Argentina and I’ve been working at a city library here in Ontario for almost 2 years, I started off as a library page and have just been promoted.
How did you get your visa/green card? Tell us a little bit about this process.
We applied for the fiancee visa, formally known as the K1 visa, and it took us over a year to finalize the paperwork. I sometimes wonder if the red tape is actually completely over, ha.
David hired a lawyer to make sure we were complying with every single requirement, we gathered all the documents, proof of relationship and everything else we were asked for; we filled out forms and submitted our thick envelope to the US Embassy in Argentina. We encountered a couple of mishaps (e.g. a few photos were not acceptable because they were not fully profile, so we needed to submit different ones), but looking back, it wasn’t all that bad. Once I was legally able to move and then settled down, things ran very smoothly, we got married and I was granted my green card without trouble. I could go on forever telling you about the specific details, but it’d be too boring and long; if there’s someone going through this process right now and would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact me .
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
I think the worst part of the process was not knowing when I was finally going to be able to move and figuring out how to move Dimitri, my cat, with me. Dealing with a public official in the first American airport I set foot in (Texas) was not the most pleasant experience, but I can’t complain.
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
I started taking English classes when I was 8; I think it’s the only thing that I asked my mom to sign me up for and that I stuck to. I didn’t care for sports or ballet or even Japanese (my dad is Japanese). I also studied English/Spanish legal translation and worked as an ESL teacher for over 10 years. I can’t remember what techniques worked for me, but as a teacher, I make sure I teach things I would’ve liked to learn back in the day. For instance, I remember that when I was a teenager I had a hard time understanding certain words uttered by native speakers, way later I realized it was because they were glottalizing or flapping, two concepts I didn’t get to learn up until I was in college. I try to teach these concepts as understandably as possible and most students appreciate it. As a learner, I always carry a notebook where I write words and expressions (mostly idioms) that I did not know.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I miss Buenos Aires city, its architecture, its cafés and stores, the public transportation system and the fact that you see people hanging out in public places regardless of how late it is. I certainly don’t miss the weather, though!
Have you had a culture shock yet? Please share some examples.
I don’t know if the following examples qualify as a culture shock, but something that never ceases to amaze me is how towns in Southern California are designed for drivers and not pedestrians; more often than not, I find myself walking down streets that have no sidewalks! I’m currently working on getting my driving license, though, so that won’t be a problem anymore, but I love going for walks or window shopping and that’s not so easy here unless you go to certain places. Another thing that strikes me is how big this country is and how many different things there are to see within California. I also used to be surprised by how easily Americans resort to disposable tableware and tend to make everything and anything as practical possible, I had never seen a drive-thru at the bank or post office before.
What are the biggest differences between every day life in Argentina and America?
I think that overall, I have a more comfortable life here, back in Buenos Aires, I’d have never thought of buying an AC, for example. I now have dinner way earlier (at about 6PM) and don’t go out for walks as often as I used to because it’s hard to get by on foot.
Have you found a good source (in-store or online) to buy Argentinian food in America?
There are 2 different stores that are within walking distance from home and sell a good number of Argentinian products.
Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to Argentina from the USA.
Security. Good customer service (in most places, anyway). An unbelievably wide variety of everything. Awesome deals and promotions in stores. The fact that people don’t care about what you’re wearing. A reliable and affordable postal service.
And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from Argentina.
It would be swell if all of Southern California (not just LA and bigger cities) had a better public transportation system and if independent stores sprouted everywhere.
What are the most important steps you would advice every new expat to take right after immigration?
I would say be prepared to face the unexpected. I know that sounds too vague, but as someone who is embarking on such a great journey, you’re probably trying to anticipate all the possible different scenarios you’ll encounter and maybe challenges that lie ahead, but there are always going to be things you had never imagined you’d ever had to deal with, unforeseeable hurdles, and that’s all right, that’s exciting. Be willing to ask for help if you need to. Don’t be scared to go and explore your new surroundings even if your command of the language is not the best. Open up your ears and pay attention to different accents, learn new idioms, slang. Volunteer! That’s something that has helped me a lot; I started volunteering at a library and that circle of people become very important to me because they were “my group”, the only people I knew that my husband didn’t. I also got hired by this library a year later.
You’re blogging at MikisScrapBook.blogspot.com. Why did you start a blog and what are your plans with it?
I used to blog over at MySpace and then it become natural to open a proper blog. I created Miki’s Scrapbook in 2010, before moving to the States, as a journal to document every step of the process and to show the world all the amazing things there are to see in Buenos Aires and now in California. I also talk about the differences between Argentina and the US as well as my interests such as street art, having pen-pals, music, movies, etc. For an introvert like myself, it’s an awesome way to connect with people from different parts of the world and I’ve been lucky to even meet some fellow bloggers in person. As for my plans for the future, I’m not sure exactly what I want; I could say being able to offer more giveaways to my followers, but I’m very careful about that; I don’t accept a deal with a company if it involves writing about something I don’t care for. I love to have a blog because it lets me connect with people and share opinions, and sometimes exchange mail. I feel I can truly be myself there and only write if I have something to say or show; I haven’t been blogging as regularly lately, but that’s because I only blog for pleasure and don’t want to make it a chore. I believe it’s an awesome way to express yourself.