Those were the words that drove it home for me and they came from the friendliest customs and immigration agent I’ve yet met. The officer processed my wife’s permanent resident visa paperwork and stamped my and my 20 month old daughter’s passports.
It was the first time I’d been on American soil excluding consulates in more than four years. It was the first time my wife and daughter had come to my homeland. My own first memory of San Francisco was when I was five years old. It was 1976, the bicentennial of the founding of the United States of America. San Francisco was filled with hippies and patriotic fervor as America struggled to come to terms with losing the war in Vietnam, the changes of the 1960s and 1970s and the excitement of celebrating our nation. Those memories are perhaps the most vivid and happy of my early childhood and as a result, I’ve always loved this city.
My grandmother used to sing “I left my heart in San Francisco” and I used to love watching Rice a Roni commercials – The San Francisco Treat. I also remember watching the 1970′s crime drama The Streets of San Francisco with my parents. In the 1980s my high school physics class took a field trip to the Exploratorium and later my brother and sister both went to San Francisco State even though I went to University of Hawaii. Both of them have lived in this city, this wonderful, perhaps most wonderful, of American cities. My sister still lives here, my brother is considering a move back here, and I am also looking into seeing if we can find a way to make San Francisco our home.
My sister echoed the words of the customs officer “Welcome Home”. My wife is going to have to get used to hearing me called Chris. So am I. I’ll always be Vago, but of course, I’ve always been Chris as well.
Still, this is the end of Vago’s Journey. I’m not saying there won’t be another one – but this particular 4 + year jaunt is now completed. Here’s the basics:
I left Honolulu in December of 2008. Traveled across the USA by train. Left New York in January 2009. Landed in Spain. Met my future wife in Morocco in February of 2009. Married in April of 2010. Moved to Turkey in 2010 with the wife. Left Turkey in 2011. Our daughter Sophia was born in August 2011. From 2009 to 2013 I visited most of the countries of the E.U, the Balkans, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Mediterranean. It has been a wonderful 4 years of international travel. Two days ago, after a year to complete the visa immigration paperwork in Morocco – my wife, our daughter, and I boarded an Emirates flight in Casablanca after bidding fond farewells to her family. We flew to Dubai where we saw the tallest building in the world and then we flew over the top of the world, crossed the North Pole and after 17 hours on the plane from Dubai – we landed in San Francisco where US Customs did credit to themselves with their friendliness, helpfulness, and organization.
Thank you Officer Yao. It’s very nice to be home.