Danu is my regular weekend hiking buddy. He’s been in the US for twenty years, but before that he was a mountain guide all over the Himalayas and has guided summits of Everest. As you might imagine, he has a thousand stories. He’s been back in Nepal for the last two months, and I have missed hiking with him, so I was happy to meet up this morning for our first hike of the new year. But that’s the end of the story…
In October Danu asked me to help him with some paperwork. He had spent two years working with a lawyer to complete immigration paperwork for his son, who is now 15, living in Nepal and raised by Danu’s sister. He wanted nothing more from me than to help him navigate the myriad of government forms to complete the third and final component of the family visa and immigration process. If you know me well, you know how much I “love” this sort of bureaucracy and red tape. But I willingly took it on. Actually, I was honored that he asked me. I sat down with him in October, filled with pride to be asked to help in this way.
We worked together over three or four meetings at a library, after Danu’s work days finished, poring over reams of paper, and hammering through online forms. You pay the fees, send the ridiculous pile of docs, hoping you did it right, then you wait. During our work sessions, I often asked if he was angry at the lawyer for charging triple her quoted cost, and then leaving him without a submitted application after all that time. I was certainly mad at her and the mess she left. “I just want it to be done, sis. I don’t feel angry at anyone.” That’s Danu.
In late December he sent me an excited note that the paperwork was received and accepted, and it was time to schedule an interview for his son at the embassy in Kathmandu. He immediately booked plane tickets, got medical requirements in order, scheduled the interview and flew to Nepal. The interview was scheduled for late January. Then Trump did his border/immigration bullshit. The interview date passed silently but the next day, Danu sent me a text saying his son had passed the interview, including the date they would be coming back. I remember how tempered my reaction was, knowing that this was no longer the hard part. I replied optimistically to his message, told him about the immigration ban, which had only happened a day or two before, told him to be patient (yes me, telling a Buddhist to be patient – ha!) and then I held my breath for almost two weeks.
Last weekend at this time they arrived in Seattle after 22 hours of flights, and went through the standard immigration questioning by officers. I’ll not go into the details of what I heard this morning, but suffice it to say, traversing our borders is a terrifying experience at this moment. After watching others attempt to pass through, Danu and his son stood in front of the officer, who opened the sealed envelope and looked over the contents. He asked a couple questions of Danu, then stamped the paperwork, handed it back and said, “Welcome to America.” I still can’t even type those words without tearing up. I gasped when Danu told me this today. Then I asked if he cried. “In my heart I did, sis.”
His son starts school (as a high school freshman) on Monday.