He Is (at 32:45)

Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)

Friday, November 4, 2011


Now the story can be told.
Getting my older daughter to a university program at CCNY is a long story of struggles in itself.  For one thing, when you are only 16, enjoying high school and friends and a first boyfriend (!) whom you planned with to go to the same college with, thinking of moving to a new country and applying to go to college there is just totally unthinkable! That was how it was like with my older daughter. So imagine her reluctance and disinterest in taking the SAT in Auckland two years prior to our move here, just for the minutest probability that she might get to study here in the US. For one thing, my husband, her dad, wanted her to just try and see if her scores would be high enough for her to apply for a scholarship in any of the universities here. She was having her own term exams, or something, on the same week her SAT was scheduled somewhere in the central business district of Auckland. I remember driving her there, parking in some tight place and making sure she got into the right building. I remember seeing many young Asians like her, in the same building, waiting for the lift and also about to take the exams.  I remember thinking, “Who would want to take exams to study ‘abroad’ when you are already abroad?” Unsurprisingly, it’s the Asians.  It seems not too long ago but I do remember clearly that my daughter’s mind was half-way somewhere else when she took those exams. She didn’t even study for them as she was busy studying for school exams that week.

So when her exam results came later, it was just, ho-hum, average. Obviously not high enough for anyone to drum about, much less apply for a scholarship. But my daughter wasn’t bothered. She didn’t want in the least to be compared to her scholar older brother, nor did she want to follow his path. She knows what she can and cannot do and she’s not going to stress herself out to live beyond that, just to please other people, and I fully supported her in that decision.

Just months after that, suddenly, we received the news that we had become eligible for immigration to the US, and we could move here as soon as we completed all the paper works.  I wasn’t too keen to go anywhere as we had just settled to life in Auckland and my younger kids shared my feelings. But with our eldest child graduating in 19 months and him turning 21 in 17 months, we realized if we moved fast enough, we could get the green cards in time, so he could stay in the US after graduation and find work here. If we got the cards after he had turned 21, he would actually lose the chance.  And so, pressed for time, we worked towards that goal. On the other hand, just in case something falls through in the paper works, and we couldn’t move in time for our daughter to enter college (she was on her final year of high school), she would have to attend a university in NZ. So, that would mean while we were processing our immigration papers, she would be applying for university placements in both the US and NZ, so no matter what the outcome of our immigration application would be, her studies would not be disrupted. And so, that’s what she did. We narrowed down on New York City, so, she applied to several branches of the CUNY (City University of New York), CCNY (City College, New York) being one of them.  However, all the while, with all these applications for school and moving going on, my daughter’s heart was set on just one school – Otago University in Dunedin, NZ. Her dad made her apply to Auckland University as well, just for back-up, and she did, but her heart and mind were on Otago. She in fact got confirmation of her admission there and she was being pressed for a place in the dorm.  But her dad refused to pay for a deposit to insure her dorm placement because of the possibility that we would move to the US, and the money would be forfeited.  She was very upset about that.  She had looked forward to dorm life in an exotic university in the South Island of NZ.

And so, when we got our immigration confirmation, my daughter was disappointed she had to drop all notions of Otago and dorm life, but happy that at least then she could focus on just one thing, not several possibilities.  ~.~  I felt relieved for her, too. Phew! What made it sweeter was that CUNY soon confirmed her admission to several of their branches, including CCNY in Harlem, my daughter’s first choice. And so, suddenly, she had to set her mind on CCNY and moving to New York with all of us. We were planning to move out of NZ around early Feb. or late Jan. so we could spend a month of holiday in Malaysia and let the cold months pass in the US before we move here in March. But we got a notification from CCNY saying our daughter could start college in the Spring term, which is early Jan., rather than wait for the next Fall term in Sept.  And so, it was decided that we would push the moving to late Dec. so we could be there for the opening in Jan. And so we had to rush the packing and disposal of our belongings and did away with the family holiday to Malaysia. Instead, only my daughter and younger son went for a two-week holiday right at the end of their classes in late Nov. to early Dec. Meanwhile, I was left alone with our youngest Joche to pack or sell / give away our things until the rest of our family came back in mid-December. That proved to be a downside in our moving process, we being pressed for time on the last days before flying off. But we did get off, albeit in extreme rush, and got here  in the US in time to spend the new year with my sister and her family in New Jersey!
CCNY in Winter, Jan. 2011.

And then, the bitter side of the story began.

To this day we still don’t totally grasp how the CCNY administration system goes. For one thing, my daughter never received an admission letter from CCNY, supposed to have been mailed to our address in NZ.  But to ensure that her slot is not given away to another student on the waiting list we were required to pay a non-refundable deposit of $100. So, my husband requested my sister to do that for us and she did. The trouble is, we never got a letter from CCNY that they received the amount, nor did my sister. All she could prove was that the amount was debited from her bank account, hence, the cheque she sent was cashed. But all the while my daughter was confident she got admitted; only because it was reflected in the CCNY web page account she opened, as part of the admission process. Finally, we made the first trip to CCNY and got to talk with the admin people in person on the first business day of the year 2011. And that was the time we got the confirmation that she was really admitted and had not lost her place for the Spring Term 2011. She was also made to take some Math and English tests required of all Freshmen students.  Some days later, based on the results of her exams,  she was notified that her admission is conditional, depending on whether she was willing to take one Math course which she failed, re-take the exam for that course and pass the exam. She didn’t have to pay any fees but the course would take one full term. That meant she would have to wait for the next Fall Term to start college! That was disappointing for my daughter, after we rushed moving here just so she could be here in time for the Spring Term.  But then looking back, the Liberal Arts programs she had considered pursuing in Otago or Auckland Univ. didn’t require that much Math units in high school, that’s why she didn’t take that particular Math course which she failed. Apparently, the Arts programs here in CCNY, and probably in the US in general, require more Math preparation units than the Arts programs in NZ. I had always felt that she wasn’t taking enough Math (and Science) courses in Massey High in NZ but she said that it was not really necessary if she is going into an Arts program in college. Unfortunately, that is only true for NZ. And so, my daughter did go to CCNY in Spring Term but only in preparation for admission to her college program there. She found it frustrating thinking that she could be very well into college already if she went to Otago or Auckland Univ.  And even more frustrating that most of her friends in NZ had already started with their college programs, and so did her friends in Malaysia. Around that time though there was a big earthquake in Canterbury (Christchurch) which killed almost 200 people (Feb. 22, 2011)and so I comforted her with the thought that we would have been very worried for her if she was in Dunedin (Otago Univ.) when that happened. Also, fortunately for her, she enjoyed the course, the teacher was really good according to her, she learned a lot of things and became more interested in Math, and she made a good friend - another Asian girl in her class. Also, fortunately for her, she passed the exam and got, finally, officially admitted into the International Studies program of CCNY this Fall Term (Sept. 2011). Sadly though, her friend didn’t make it and was considering to enroll in another college in Brooklyn but because of the commute the friend asked CCNY to give her another chance to pass the course and now she’s doing the course again. That means she and my daughter still get to see each other and hopefully, will eventually finish college from the same school.
A beautiful old building, also part of the campus.

And so you would think that’s the end of the struggle. Well, no. When we got her officially enrolled in August, CCNY’s computer system had discontinued the account she had opened in Jan. using the SS no. she got when we arrived here a immigrants. Instead, it seems the system was showing her old account which she opened when she was still an International Student entrant applying from Auckland! Apparently, because there was a time lag from the time she made the account as an immigrant student to the time of her actual admission, for having failed, re-taken and passed the exam,  she got a double-account mix-up. And when they tried rectifying that she ended up not being able to access the account anymore! We had to go to her school two times to settle the mix-up because the clerks at the admissions office wouldn’t  believe her that she couldn’t access her account, because they could access it! And because she couldn’t access her account she couldn’t see the status of her admission, the schedule of her orientation dates and whatever requirements she still needed to comply with. It was so strange!The Admin Building.I remember, on the second visit, I stopped my daughter at the entrance of the Admin building so we could pray on one of the benches under the trees, before walking in to explain the whole situation. What we found frustrating was that they rely so much on the computer that they started looking at us like we were impostors trying to claim somebody else’s admission!!!  And so they had to double-check, ask for her date-of-birth and other details, etc., just to make sure she’s the same person and finally just gave her another password so she could access the account. It didn't help that she was using her English name when applying from Auckland and now using her Chinese name as an immigrant here (all because of some clerical mistake done by the US Immigration office)! :( To this day we still have not received any kind of paper communication from this school, everything is through the computer account. They probably save a lot of money on paper, ink and admin work by doing this but I personally feel uncomfortable about this total reliance on the computer for their administrative works. Oh well, anyway, finally, my daughter is in college and this “paper struggle” has become so typical of our new immigrant life here in the US! Our way of life here is fraught with struggles and much as I don't want to face it, it is spiritual warfare out here - so little gets done without prayer! ~.~

Part of the Spring landscape in the campus.

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The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D