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Interview with Khalil Nemr Mjahed

Mjahed, Khalil Nemr
Funderburk, Sarah Anne
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Cultural identification
Khalil Mjahed talks about daily life in Lebanon.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Sarah Funderburk interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
SF (Sarah Anne Funderburk): Hello, my name is Sarah Funderburk, and I'm going to be doing an interview with Khalil Mjahed from Lebanon, who has been in the US for nearly two years. The day is March 25, 2003 and he is going to be telling us a story about getting his visa to come to the US in Beirut.
KM (Khalil Nemr Mjahed): My name is Khalil Mjahed, and I'm going to tell the story that Sarah just talked about. It all started when I was with my two friends, Bashir and Firas, we graduated from high school and were wondering what to do in life. We could go to military, or go to the university in Lebanon. And me, I always wanted to go to the US since my old friend Nassim, he was now here and he is my best friend in the US. He left Lebanon around three years before I did and he was always encouraging me about coming here, so I decided to start working on my papers and the TOEFL and, uh, all the applications that are necessary for me to come here. And then two other friends decided to do that too, but they didn't think that the US Embassy would give them visas because that's usually hard in Lebanon. It's basically one out of 20 take visas a day. So that's very, very, low number. So my journey started by getting three years transferred from school and official exams, scores and grades and official transcript from the last year of high school. And then a bank account of my mom which is at least $20,000 and I was stated by the university which is now Central Community College.
SF: Central Piedmont Community College?
KM: Yeah, it's community college. So I got all the papers together, and everything and I talked to my dad, and everybody was telling me, "Oh yeah, yeah. Go ahead, give it a try." And I forgot to mention that my brother tried to apply for a visa two years before that and he didn't get it. He went to Saudi Arabia, he tried, they didn't give it to him. He went to Syria and tried, they didn't give it to him. So everybody was like, OK, whatever, if you're going to go to the United States, go ahead, and I was like, OK. I always had in mind that I thought that I'm going to come here. I don't know why, but I had the feeling that I'm going to be here some day. So, here I am, looking everywhere, getting my papers, doing all this stuff, taking TOEFL test, and everything, getting applications from CPCC and sending them back with all the requirements. And the day comes. And the usual thing that happens in Lebanon is that you send the US Embassy a request for an appointment and they send you in mail at two weeks before the appointment that your appointment is going to be on this date, at this time. So, I waited. These two weeks were like two years. And then I went up there and I saw all the people there, as I said, around 20 persons. And then, I was the last. Oh, well, my bad, the second before the last. So I waited and I waited and most people were wearing suits and ties and, you know professional and all this stuff, and I went with jeans and a shirt, you know, just regular. So everybody was coming out sad and upset and we'll ask him, "Did you get the visa?" And he'll be like, "No," and they'll leave angry and stuff. And there was this girl who came after me, she was making fun of everybody who left. So, I was kind of pissed because I told her, if you're going to do that to me, you're not going to be happy [laugh], 'cause that's going to be a big disappointment, all that time that I, I put in to do this, you know, somebody making fun of me on the same moment. So she was, she backed off a little bit. So here they go, one after the other, one after the other, coming in, going out, you know, not getting the visa. I was beginning to sweat. It was summer time, and I was like, wow, nobody's getting visa. I guess that that's the real thing. I'm not going to get a visa. But I kept the faith, and I still had the feeling that I'm going to get the visa because I thought that I'm better than everybody there. I'm not trying to be cocky, but I've heard them talking, and I didn't think that they qualified to come here. So here they are, they called my name, and everybody said, "Good luck, good luck," and the girl, too. So I was like, "OK. Just remember what I told you," and she just smiled at me. So I went and sat there, and the girl first started asking me questions, the name of the college, what's my major, what I'm going to do there, if I'm going to work there after I graduate, and all the routine questions. And that was, she asked me at first if I prefer talking in English or Arabic, and I said English, and she said that she was impressed by my English. And at that moment I thanked my dad who used to always make us talk in English whenever we go to visit him in Saudi Arabia, and talk to each other English, me and my brothers and sisters. And I thank the education in Lebanon which is very good. And she said that, "OK. I'm impressed." And I was like, "OK. That's a good sign." I paid, she took my passport, I was like, "OK. Thank you." I was like, "OK. Thank you, what?" She was like, "We'll see you in two weeks." So, I'm like, "OK, can I have my passport?" I don't know if I got the pizza, and du,the, the-. [Laughter] I'm sorry. [Laughs] I work at Domino's, so I'm always thinking about pizza, if I got the visa or not. So, uh, the lady was like, "Come in two weeks." I was like, "Come in two weeks? Can I have my passport back?" And she went like, "Well, if you don't want the visa, you can have the passport back now." And at that moment I was like, I don't know, scared, happy, terrified, I don't know, but I was like, "Uh, uh, uh. You mean that I got the visa?" She was like, "Yeah." I was like, "OK! Thank you!" And I just stormed outside the door and she was like, "Hey, Khalil, come back here!" She actually said it in the real thing. But my real name is Khalil because, you know, they talk Arabic down there, even the Americans. And then I was like, "OK," and she gave me a receipt. And she told me in Arabic, "Mwarfa," which means 'good luck,' and I said, "Thank you." So, here I go, I left. I look at the girl, and I was like, anyways, "You can't make fun of me because I got the visa." And she was like, "Ohhhh! OK, OK." And I was like, "OK, bye-bye, see you all." So here I am, I left, everybody at home is waiting for me seeing what would, just waiting and wondering what's going to happen. I had my cell phone, my mom kept on calling me every other second, and I didn't answer cause that's my nature, I like to, you know, be, to give surprises to people, you know, enjoy my tricks and all that stuff. So, I like keeping my mom worried and stuff, and the whole family. So, I left, I went to the car. I went to the parking lot and this, there was Syrian guy who was at the parking lot who takes money and stuff, and he asked me, "Did you get the visa?" And I was like, "Yeah." And he said, "Oh, stop, stop, stop." I was like, "What?" He was like, "Give me 5000 Lebanese pounds." I was like, "Why? I've already paid you for the parking." He was like, "That's because you got the visa." I was like, "Really? You Syrians tax us on everything, and now you want to tax me on my American visa? Get out of my face!" And I left. [Laughs] Uh, so, I went home, everybody was looking at me like, "OK, it's OK, Khalil," you know, of course, my nature, I was looking all sad and pretending that it was a bad day and everything and as if somebody died, and my mom was all over me, and she was like, "OK. Don't worry about it. Nobody thought that you're can get the visa," and everything. And that made me just laugh at the side, but, you know, kept my face frown. And my brother was like, "Man I told you, I tried, and I had all, everything ready three years ago and it didn't work. They don't want to give us visas." I was like, "Maybe you guys are right, maybe you're right, but I don't know, I have this paper. It's a receipt for a visa." And everybody was shocked and they didn't believe that till like everybody was talking about it. "Did you hear what happened? Khalil got the visa." It's as if like some politician here dated an actress or something like that in secret, I don't know. So, after two weeks, I went back there, picked up the visa and the passport, and the letters of consent with I-20. I came back home, and everybody was checking it as if they didn't believe me. But nobody saw the actual visa that was on the passport, all that they saw was the I-20, the envelope, and they said, "You didn't get a visa, you just got an I-20." Everybody was trying to like put me down. And, me, I didn't even find the visa on the passport until I start having suspicions and I was like, "Wow, how could that be?" You know? And after that I went to my bedroom, and start looking at the passport, and they started calling people and asking them, and finally, I opened one page and I found the picture and the visa there. I was like, "Ha, thank God." So I went back there and showed them the visa and they made sure. I don't know, they didn't believe it maybe until I left Lebanon at the airport, they were like, "Oh, he's leaving. Maybe he did get the visa." So that's the story about me getting the visa, and I don't know, if Sarah wants to use me more for telling stories-.
SF: [Laughs]
KM: I'll be here. And I might, I might mention something about pizza or something like that.
SF: So now that you've come to the US, are you glad that you made the decision?
KM: Yeah, of course, I met you.
SF: That's a good answer. [Laughter] Is there anything else you want to say?
KM: Yeah, uh, I'm happy here, and I hope that my parents are OK there even though I left, and I know that my mom is having very hard time adjusting to that because every time I call her, she still cries, and it's almost two years now. So, I don't know, I hope that's she's doing fine without me. That's it.