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My life as an immigrant
Anders emigrerer fra Norge til Amerika på slutten av 1800-tallet.
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The year is 1872. It is a grey and windy September morning in New York. People are busy doing their daily jobs. You can hear shouting and the clicking from horses passing by. An enthusiastic merchant is trying to sell his articles. In the New York Harbour a ship is steaming in. The water around it is hiding some of the damages from the long, long trip. Hundreds of exited immigrants are crowded on deck. The different people talk different languages. But this morning there is only one word on their lips – “America”. Anders is standing among the crowd. For about two months he has been waiting for this moment. In front of him, lies America. “All men are created equal” he says quiet. “Am I really going to have my own house and my own ground?” he thinks. He can’t believe that he is really there.
Only half a year earlier, Anders had been in Norway. Actually without even knowing that in six months, he was going to be on the other side of the ocean. He got to know about this America a late night in March. He had just finished feeding the sheep, and was going to eat some salted fish with his family. Anders, his mother, father and his three sisters sat in the dark, cold living room. Outside they could hear the wind moan. They all looked tiered. They worked too much. Anders knew that. They worked with a hope of getting richer, and have a better life. But deep inside, they all knew that the situation was never going to change. Poor people were poor people. That’s it. End of story. But they still worked. All the time. It was the only thing they could do. If they didn’t, they would be thrown out of the house. And end up homeless. “Anders, pass the salt please!” his father said. “The salt…” “Knock, knock!” Everybody looked confused. Who is visiting the smallest farm in town in this time of the day? Anders rose. Walked anxious to the front door. “Knock! Knock!” There it was again. Only stronger this time. He opened the door. A man, some years younger than his dad, stood there. His hear was blowing in the cold wind. He looked tiered. “What can I help you with? Anders asked curious and scared. “I need a place to sleep. And..” The man tried to smile. “It’s ok.” Anders’s dad said from behind. “Thanks a lot!” The man said grateful. And it didn’t take long until they got to know his story. For the last days, he’d been walking in the mountains. And the next week, he was going to America. He talked about this great country on the other side of the ocean with an enthusiasm that gave Anders a hope. A hope of being released from the life as a poor son of a smallholder.
“Sssss” the water is pouring. He wakes up from the day dream. “Ellis Island” he can hear someone say. Suddenly it feels like all of his blood is leaving his face. “Ellis Island – Isle of Tears”. It lies in the shadow, and it is where an immigrant will either be allowed to enter the United States or be sent back to Europe. His heart is pounding, but luckily for the immigrants, they passes trough Ellis Island quickly. In the next second they find themselves on the busy streets of a confusing city, where the people speak a foreign language. Anders looks around. In all different directions it’s people. Some people with lovely cloths. Other with their hair full of salt, and dirty clothes. Probably from an America boat too. “Want me to carry your stuff?” he suddenly hears a man from behind say. “Ehm…” Anders can’t understand what he’s saying. The man, who by the way looks like a thief, is pointing at Anders bag. Then he remembers. Jonas, the man that had introduced America for Anders, had told him not to trust anybody. “Especially not when they offer to carry your bag” he had said in one of his letters. It was namely Jonas that had helped Anders to get to America. He had given Anders a hope. And the day Jonas had left his farm; he’d given Anders his address. “I’ll do it for free” the man says again. “No.” Anders says to him. The man spits, and walks a bit angry away.
Anders looks in his pocket. There it is. One of the letters from Jonas. “… You can live at my farm until you have enough money to get your own. My farm lies in the countryside. Not with the coast. It’s in the Midwest. I don’t think I have mentioned the people that live some places here? What someone calls Native Americans? Well anyway. Their skin is red. They are painting their faces, and are riding on horses. I was really scared when I saw one. People say they are dangerous. So you’ve got to try to avoid them. Luckily for me, there live a lot of people from Norway and Sweden here too. We talk a language between Scandinavian and English. But let’s get back to more important stuff. I’ll guess you are reading this letter when you are at the harbour. Now you have to follow the people from your boat. They are probably going to the Midwest too. Look for some horses with a carriage. Go there, and say “Midwest”. If the people there nod their heads, give them the rest of your money. Stay with the carriage. The trip will last for about 2 months. When I’ll expect you here, I’ll start looking for you and your travelling companions.
“The people from the boat?!” Suddenly Anders feels totally alone. He is in a world where nobody can understand him. Where is everybody? He looks for them. The fat, old lady, “Knut’n”, and everybody. “There!” He can see some of them. 100 meter away. He’s walking. Walking fast against them. “Anders! There you are” some of them say. “Let’s go”. He sits in the carriage. Feels tiered, and falls asleep. When he wakes up, there’s not a city around him anymore. It’s just a long, flat landscape. Totally different from Lofoten, where he lived before. He can’t understand how something can be this flat. Well. It’s flat. And some places they have to cross a river. The days are passing by. And one not so very special day, Anders suddenly sees Jonas…
Dear Mum, Dad, Hanna, Lise and Silje!
How is everything in Norway? Are you healthy? I’m healthy, and that is Jonas too. Now I have got my own farm. Jonas helped me build it. I moved in yesterday, and now I’m sitting in the totally new living room. Have I by the way told you about Aud, my girlfriend. She’s from Sweden. We hope to get married as soon as possible. America is really great. It’s so big that you can’t even imagine. But I miss you. I hope I can afford tickets for some day. Then you can come and live here. For you, mum and dad, I can build a little house. And for my dear sisters; it’s a lot of boys you can marry!
As I’ve said before, we haven’t fought with the red men yet. But I’ve seen them. They are scary. I’ll write to you soon. I just had to tell you shortly about the new house and everything. Miss you all a lot! It’s not the same without you!
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