Naturalization in Fairbanks
A couple of years ago, my husband had a court appointment for naturalization. The candidates were allowed to bring friends and family and so he invited me to accompany him on the big day.
The ceremony was scheduled in one of the court rooms at the State Office Building. We went thru security and then upstairs in a waiting room as we were told. The room was pretty crowded. As time progressed it became full to capacity. There were women and men of all ages. The noise in the room would have been the perfect background sound for a scene in a movie about the building of the tower at Babylon. Interestingly, I heard a well-know dialect to me – Kölsch, a dialect that has its own grammar and is spoken in Cologne, the city of my first Alma Mater. A dialect, of which I only understand about 50% or so.
With exception to recognizing a language, it was hard to tell who is who, if at all. This crowd was a mix of citizen and immigrants. Even the way of dressing barely provided some clues. The crowd wore everything from casual jeans and a shirt to Sunday’s Best. The kind of outfit seemed to be more age related than related to heritage. And yes, the globalization of the fashion market also contributes to similar clothing. Furthermore, immigrants are typically on a green card for at least 5 years before they can even apply for citizenship. Thus, most likely there isn’t even a piece of clothes left in their closets that was bought in their country of origin.
However, in some cases, one could tell. There was, for instance, a young soldier with a young Filipino woman, and a Russian couple. They wore typical outfits from the soon to be former home.
In the moment when the large hand jumped onto the 12, the large heavy wooden door to the court room opened. The walls were covered with light tan wood. There was the seal of the State of Alaska on the wall. In front of it, there were the American and Alaska flag and heavy dark wooden court desks with leather covered heavy wooden chairs. On the floor was red hemp/bast woven carpet along the aisles while the other areas were covered with blue business office carpet.
A guy in some sort of uniform with a list came out. He read the names of the soon to be new citizens and told them to seat in that order on the left hand side of the room. After he had finished the list, he advised the guests to take seats on the other side where there was much more seating space. He then closed the door. The Babylonian sound calmed down. All you could hear was a whispering once in a while, some coughing and the annoying usual cry of an infant.
I looked around to spot my significant other. Finally, I detected him between a large guy in combat uniform to the right and the Russian looking couple to his left. The man wore jeans with suspenders and a lumberjack button-down shirt, while the woman wore a long solid color sludge brown maxi full skirt and blouse with a very small Laura Ashley like print. Her long sandy blond hair was braided in a low pony tail that stuck out of her headscarf that had a different print than her blouse. The outfit looked like she was colorblind or did not bother to match the colors of the print and ground them with one solid color. The headscarf was knotted in the front and gave view to oily hair.
After the judges came in, the Alaska State song and anthem were sung, and the pledge to the flag was made, a state prosecutor told the judge that all applicants had been undergone a thorough FBI check and recommended them to become US citizens.
The judge then read the name of the person who was first on the list, asked them to stand up and tell about where they came form and why they are excited to become citizens. Once a person had ended their speech, he called the name of the next, one name after the other.
I took out my camera when the person on the right to my hubby stood up and stated that he is in the US army stationed at Ft. Wainwright and was born in Samoa. My husband gave his speech and said that this is the second most exciting day in his life only topped by the day of our wedding. I nearly cried. Thus, the photos didn’t turn out as I hoped. My hubby handed the mike to his neighbor while the judge called that guy’s name.
The guy took the mike and said “I came over from Russia my wife to live our religion without fear of appraisal.” He pointed towards the woman next to him, who looked much older than she probably was as compared to her husband. She smiled happily and you could see that she was missing some teeth. He then turned his face back to the judge and continued “We came here to XYZ1 with nothing seven years ago. I worked very hard and now have seven children and a farm.”
1He mentioned where they lived. However, in Alaska communities are so small that I don’t give the location away for privacy reasons.
Focus Alaska is a weekly series on Alaska lifestyle, events, curiousa, insider travel tips, and Alaska street style. I hope you had a good laugh. You want to laugh more? You can find another immigration story about misleading fingerprints and other funny real Alaska life story on white powder in a roadhouse or on best girlfriends chatting about Alaskan men at the links.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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