It was around 3.30 in the afternoon when I arrived in Auckland International Airport on a Friday, on the 8th of November, 2012. I was told that I have to confess everything I was bringing with myself and I did exactly as I was told.
I had a long list of literally everything that I had in my bags. This included all the money I carried with myself as cash to New Zealand; names of all the medicines I brought with myself from Iran, along with the doctor’s prescriptions for most of them; as well as the names of all sorts of foods, seeds and herbs that my mom wanted me to keep in my bag, in case I am hungry or sick, and there is no one around to take care of me!
I had to list them all in proper English, so the customs officers could make sense of what they were. Many of those things had no names in English. In one word, I confessed to whatever I brought with myself from my homeland Iran.
It was at that point that I realized they were parts of me that I was confessing to. They were associated with my identity, which were counted as my sins to be confessed to the one who is siting up there and blessing me by accepting me to live in his land.
Through the doors to the other side
It took me over 2 hours to come out clean of the customs area of the airport – the confession field. During all these minutes and hours of waiting and being checked, I was holding my student visa with my Iranian passport in my hand – in an attempt to ensure that I am not going to be of harm to the New Zealand society. I promise to be of benefit to the society, otherwise I’ll go back to my country, was the message I was trying to convey.
Yeah, so the airport, based on my experiences as an Iranian migrant on a student visa, will always remain a controlling field in which I need to defend myself and prove my sanity in order to be welcomed into this country. My experiences have helped me develop skills to recognize suspicious looks around me with regard to whatever makes me the ‘other’ compared to the ‘local’ people, such as my skin color, my funny English accent, my dressing style, and my general body language as a symbol of my identity.
I have learned to be cautious of all of them, often hidden by a smile on my face to show how grateful I am to be accepted in this country, or for this experience of living with them in the same society.
In this way, the airport was my first gateway to experience migration and also the first door of ‘othering’ me. And then, I came out to live in the real world of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Photo courtesy: www.commons.wikimedia.org
The views expressed in this article are that of the author, and in no way represents the views of MVNZ