Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Reasons for Leaving Home

November 29, 1897

It's so cold today. I sit on a suitcase packed for my brother, Glenn, and me, Norah. I am from a small town in Ireland called Cobh, and I live there with my mother, father and little sister. Glenn is my older brother, three years older than me. Oh, and I'm sixteen. I guess you could call this feeling anxiety, but it really is more than that. It feels like I'll never come home, and I'll never see mother and father again. Everyone says (well, if you can call the newspaper editor and his wife everyone) that America is "paved with gold" and that "endless opportunities" await anyone who goes. But the stories I hear are about parents going first, and sending for their children after their fortune is made. Which leads one to believe that my journey will not be like other people's, and that Glenn and I will be more alone than we have ever felt in our lives. Well, actually, he is perfectly thrilled to be going, while I am so scared of being lost, or seperated from him, because he is the only home I will take with me. He is stubborn most of the time, but I trust him to keep us safe. Glenn says our reason for leaving is that so many oportunities and chances are just up for grabs in America, wherever you go, everything is new and ready for the taking. I know that the only reason my parents were alrihgt with it is because we were about to lose everything. Our farm, if you could call it that, could barely support us as it was, and when my father broke his leg, we sold our animals except for a cow and several chickens, and this is the only remaining alternative to starving to death. Anyway, America does hold some interest for me in the way that I know becoming a schoolteacher will be so much easier there, you know, once I get over the fact that America, and New York, are totally different places, and far ahead of my sleepy town's time. We are sending for my parents as soon as we have "enough money to keep more people than ourselves from starving to death" as Glenn says. Either way, I can't admit that I'm not excited, because I am! I know it'll be exciting, and I maybe I'll make some new friends, since all my old ones will be staying here, of course. The ship is ready for us to board. I might be able to write later, but I hear it is very dark most of the time on the ships. So we'll see. Bye for now.

My Image of America Before Leaving

December 6, 1897

I'm on the boat. It's dark, and I can't see what I am writing well at all, so excuse me if my penmanship is sloppy. I thought about it, and decided that I should record what's going on, because I don't want to become senile and forget everything once I get old. Glenn told me that he has arranged to get a job at a dock once we land. We are only a week or so in to our voyage, so I can't exactly start complaining yet, seeing as we haven't even reached the halfway point in our journey. I'm trying not to allow myself to look forward to living in America too much, in case it isn't all I hoped it would be. But I can't help it. I stand on the deck and imagine being able to teach school, and have a job, and live in my own house... and I get get carried away, and then I remember that it could be a month before I am even able to become a citizen. All is I hear is stories of having absolute freedom in America, cleanliness, fairness, and equality. But most of all, I hear about money. It's everyhere, they say, ready for making your fortune whatever way you please. I'm sorry, this entry must be shorter than most. I forgot to say that Glenn has fallen ill, but it seems like it's just a flu bug, and hopefully he will be better soon. Hopefully.

My Voyage to America

December 12, 1897

I feel wretched from all the rocking and turning of the ship. I thought I'd get used to it, but it feels like it's gotten ten times worse. Glenn is sicker than ever, with a fever of one oh two for the past three days. I can't even think of how I'll manage alone if he... Well, if he wasn't with me anymore. I feel like I can complain about the conditions on the ship now. It stinks, there are NO toilets, no fresh air, no room, no fresh ANYTHING, including water. The only thing we have an abundance of is noise, 24 hours a day, children screaming, babies crying, old people squawking and speaking in different languages. I can't hear myself think, let alone compose my conscious long enough to figure out what I'm trying to write. Maybe Glenn will die. I have just started to think about this possibility and I'm so scared for him. He seems peaceful though, and he just sleeps all the time. The smell makes me want to vomit my guts out, I feel so sick, and I can't tell if it's from the stench, the rocking, the terrible food, or the stress. Maybe it's all of those things combined. Please let us arrive in America soon, because I can't take much more of this. I know I will not be able to write again until I land.

My Arrival in America

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

This is what the Statue of Liberty says, at the bottom, her inscription. It gives me such hope that all the rumors will be true. We got off the boat at what could only be the infamous Ellis Island. My stomach is twisted in to the biggest knot ever. I can't eat, I can't do anything but think of what will happen if I'm not well enough to pass health inspection. I have already heard the saddest stories on the boat. I haven't really brought myself to write it here yet, but I guess I have to, since nothing would really make sense from here on out... Glenn died on the boat less than a week ago, but I really think he went peacefully, and all the ladies and myself said a prayer before he was tossed overboard. I thought about going over with him, but now I know he would have wanted me to go ahead and live life in America. The nicest woman I have ever met bunked with me on the ship, named Elena (from somewhere in Russia, sometimes I have a hard time understanding her) and she has two adorable little boys, Dmitri and Quintis, I think they are just 4 and 5 years old. Anyway, she knows about Glenn and she offered for me to stay with her at her house, and she would only ask that I help with the boys.

It's time for me to go through the inspection. I'm nervous beyond belief. More later.


I have passed. It happened faster than I thought it would, they even got my name mostly write, but alas, I am now plain Nora Connell. I passed the reading and hearing test easily, but the worst part, the absolute WORST part was the health inspection. Everyone must strip naked as the day they were born, and have them check you out. I was fine, but then they flipped my eyelids with buttonhooks to check for pink eye, etc. and I swear it took all I had not to just fall over and yell from the pain, and uncomfortableness of it. Well, I have to go catch up with Elena now, and I'm going to see where I live! I'm truly one hundred percent happy for the first time in weeks.

My Neighborhood and Home

I haven't written in two and a half months. I know that's terrible, but I have been SO busy. Elena and I live in a house not to far from the city, with an elderly American couple who are very nice but mostly keep to themselves. Let me see... our house is an off-white sort of, with reddish shingles and a windy stone path up the front. There is a pretty big garden in the back, and I help Elena with taking care of it, because the old woman cannot anymore. We have carrots, peas, turnips, potatoes and everything else you could imagine. The only thing I hate about it here is how mean the men are. Whenever I go in to the middle of the city for anything (the other stores do not let me shop there because I am Irish, so I have to go far for flour and other things) they push and shove and whistle and catcall like I'm a child or a dog or something. But I ignore them, and sure enough, they grow used to me coming around them, and they generally leave me alone. I live a little ways away froma small ghetto of Irish boys, I guess you could call it, and there are some girls who are my age, maybe a little younger, and sometimes I go and spend time with them, just so I have someone from a familiar place to talk to. There is even a little girl from a town next to mine, and it's so comforting to know that Ireland is still there, still waiting for me when I want to come home. The place where I live is a home, but I know I'll always belong in Ireland. I miss it so much, the beach, and the weather, and how green it is there, how open and clean it seems compared to here. I am constantly having to go get water to heat up for various things, cleaning, cooking, etc., but I definitely don't mind. On that note, I think I'll have to go do that very soon. I'll write again later.

My Job/Career/Profession

I'm writing less than a month later, so I suppose that's pretty good. I have some exciting news: I got a job in a laundromat a few blocks away from my house,pressing linens and shirts, bundling up clothes, heating up the water for the wash, things like that, so now I'm also bringing a little bit of money in to the household. I see an English boy who's a little older than me come in almost every day, and he seemed nice enough, so I asked his name. He smiled and told me his name was Edward, and I guess you could call him my first real friend that is my age here. It's pleasant talking to him about things that I'm thinking about, and I like listening to his accent. Sometimes men are mean, and say "Get outta here, Limey" but he says he has gotten so good at ignoring them that he doesn't even hear them anymore, and that I ought to do the same. Well, I am still hoping that I can become a schoolteacher soon enough, as a new little schoolhouse is being built as I write this, not far from where i am working now. I hope they have not found a teacher yet, as I would LOVE to be considered. Everyone tells me I ought to go for it, because I'm sharp enough and bright enough to take on the job, and I'm extremely good with children. I'm trying to teach Edward more complex words and phrases, because he barely knows how to read and write. More later.

A MONTH LATER

This is honestly one of the best days of my life. A man came by our house and asked to come inside. I let him in, and he took off his hat and sat at our tiny kitchen alcove. He was heavysat, with a giant blonde moustache and a shiny, pink face. He had a big voice, and he explained how my application was the best out of the few who applied, and I am to be the new teacher of the primary school, after several more interviews. I was speechless when he turned to go, and he smiled and told me good luck. My first day at the school is the following Monday, and I can hardly sleep at night from all the excitement of just thinking about it. I can't wait to tell Edward.

The Problems and Hardships I've Faced in America

2 AND A HALF YEARS LATER

I cannot believe I have found this diary. Edward and I were moving furniture, and it fell out from a crack behind a wall, and I recognized it instantly. I remember hiding it there, so Quintis and Dmitri wouldn't find it and tear it up. Looking back on what I had written, it seems so long ago. There were so many hard times throughout my three years here so far. People have not gotten nicer. The Irish are still degraded, left to do the most foul and unsanitary jobs, at very little pay. I look back and realize how very lucky I was to be given that opportunity of being a teacher, especially when I was so young! I've had to work for absolutely everything the moment I left Ireland, then twice as hard because of how I look and the way I talk. I always wanted to break down and cry, and give up, but then I think of Glenn and how he made me want to come here in the first place. I still miss him so much. I really can't write much now, because I still have work to do, but I couldn't resist writing in here just once more. I promise to write more later.