Chrystelle’s Interview as told to Victoria
Chrystelle Lanou’s family was living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti until 1999, when Chrystelle’s mother decided that moving to the United States could give her children a life Haiti could not offer. Thought it was a grueling journey, Chrystelle and her family could not be more content with their decision to make the big move.
Life in Haiti
I’m from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and we lived in a big house. There were no roads but rather cobblestone everywhere. My mom had a big gate to block our home do to the many robberies and dangers around. Our house was home to six other people besides my family. My cousins aunts lived with us, it was crowded but my mom made sure shit got done to keep the house standing. People sold a lot of stuff in the streets while mothers carried their children on their back and holding a sack of rice on their head.
The Big Decision
My parents came here to better our lives. My mother, who already had a child from her previous relationship, was looking for a better life for her kids. When my mom and dad met they didn’t want us to suffer and they tried to build a name for our family even though we came here with barely anything. My mom thought it would be best to get an education, be intelligent, and know what to do in order to be successful.
The Road Here
I moved to the US around 1999. It’s actually been 15 years since I’ve been to America as of January. I don’t remember much about the travel to America but I remember the plane ride a lot. I could not sit still because; I mean we are somewhere new. So I thought that was pretty cool.
My grandmother was living in the United States prior to my family’s arrival. But we ran into some problems because my mom’s side hated my dad, and that made it harder for my dad to come here, because all of his family was still in Haiti. It took some convincing, but my dad made it! My grandmother got my mom to come to America first by applying her for a green card and she made sure my mom and little sister came first. A year later she applied for my brother and I, and lastly my father.
‘Got a case of the Butterflies
From what I remember and from what my mother tells me, I experienced a lot of emotions before coming to the new country. Although I was young, 5 actually, I had made some great friends and I didn’t understand where I was going. My brother who was 19 at the time was embracing the change and couldn’t wait. So I guess he made me excited for this new adventure. I knew I was going to miss my best friend. Our mothers were pregnant at the same time, which made our bond much closer. But of course I had the same fears most immigrants have. I was afraid of change. How would my life turn out? Would I fit in? Will I make friends?
Touchdown in a New Town
My first impression of the US was amazement. I remember looking out the window of the airplane at the New York City lights and it was like something you would see in the movies. Like I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
I found that assimilating to this new way of life for me was pretty forceful. There was no time to settle and take it in. Instead it was a rush processed to conform and keep it moving. When I got here, I found that the biggest struggle was the language barrier. I couldn’t speak English, so imagine how signing up for school was. I tried out for countless amount of schools, took a lot of tests and most of these schools rejected me due to my lack of understanding. So imagine being a 5 year old and being told no because you weren’t as smart as the other kids. My mom experienced the same hardship, because, for her, it was hard taking care of three kids and trying to obtain citizenship.
NYC and its Impact
I found that being an immigrant in NYC has become a huge part of the woman I am today. Living in NYC means no one gives a fuck who you are or what you are. All that matters is if you have an education, it is the key to success in tis city, and it forces you to work harder. This made me more independent. Rather then being reliant on someone else, I am in charge of my own decisions that will make me happy in life. With that being said, I just want to be successful moving forward in my life in NYC. I want to make sure my parents don’t have to work anymore. No matter how cliché it may sound, immigrant parents sacrifice a lot to make their child happy, and I feel like they go and work the worst jobs that pay just enough money to food on the table. Overall I just want my mom and dad to be happy and that is what I aim for, while doing it all on my own.