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Posting From Clarion West

Thanks so much to everyone for the good wishes and I certainly needed them. After a fairly uneventful flight, I finally landed in SEATAC.

I'm posting my account of what happened as well as first impressions behind the cut as the account is pretty lengthy.

Quickie 20th June post as I'm really sleepy and am still a bit jetlagged.

June 19th 2009

Have Arrived

I think of how it’s possible to be lulled into a position where we take certain rights for granted. When those rights are challenged or granted, we suddenly find ourselves at a loss, in particular when it comes to realizing how we are powerless in the face of certain matters.

Having lived in Europe for ten years now, I’ve grown so used to travelling through various European countries without being challenged. I knew border control was rigid, but my friends who’d been here all told me that it would be no problem because I was travelling on a European passport. Still, one of the things I was a bit apprehensive about was Homeland Security.

For all my apprehensions, I was rather confident in my being a resident of the EU. But when in reply to my reasons for coming, and when I mentioned that I was a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer, the officer behind the glass window stuck a red card into my passport and told me to go to the room at the very end of the hall where I would be asked some questions.

Imagine how my heart was pounding. For the first time, I faced the possibility that I might be denied entry to the US and I had no idea why.

To top it all, my phone didn’t seem to work when it came to trying to call Leslie and Neile. I was on my own and I was terrified. There were other people in there with me. A couple from the UK, a girl from the UK, one of the stewardesses, and a family of Indians. As these people were let go, one by one, I felt my confidence ebb away and by the time the Officer called my name, I was truly nervous.

The interview started off with the officer asking me if the two kids who were also signed onto my passport were my kids and where they were. I said they were with their father in The Netherlands. He asked why my husband wasn’t travelling with me and if my husband planned to join me later.

 Then, the weirdest thing happened. The officer began to ask me if I really was a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and what books had I read and what did I think of the ending of BSG and had I seen the new Star Trek movie. Maybe the reason he let me go had to do with me being so enthusiastic about the new Star Trek movie, because right after that, he handed me my passport and wished me a good stay in the US.

I won’t even ponder the vagaries of Homeland Security and what it is about certain people that make them hand out red cards of holds for questioning. I do now know what my cousin must have felt like in Schiphol airport.

I was a bit worried about Neile and Leslie as it was way past my arrival time and I still could not call them with my phone. But Leslie had waited for me and had circled around time and time again while another Clarion West secret person waited at the arrival hall. After the thing with the Immigration, I was so pumped up, there was no way I could go to bed. I went out to dinner with Leslie and the secret lady (I’m not allowed to reveal identities yet but will do my fangirl squee in another post) at a Thai restaurant (Racha) and it was wonderful to finally realize that I was in the country and was in for the experience of a lifetime.


First impressions: Arriving in Seattle 

Looking down from the plane, I could see mountains and stands of pines and trees. I could see entire spaces of unpopulated area where it was all green with no houses anywhere. This is so unlike The Netherlands where every bit of space is either plowed as a field or has been put to housing people. Also, The Netherlands is truly flat. No mountains in sight. And these were true mountains.

Each time I go to a place that has mountains, I realize just how starved I am for the mountainous landscape. Mountains just call to me. Maybe because I grew up in the mountains.

The city, Seattle, reminded me a bit of Manila, but I think it’s more like a combination of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, except you have got the most stunning views when you look out to sea. The port had these huge cranes but that’s just their cloaked identity.

I saw an electric bus. Parking is just as difficult as it is in Amsterdam.

Luke, the Clarion West mascot, is the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. He is a lovely, lovely being and so sweet. If I ever get a dog, I want one like him.

Each time I met a person from the SF&F world, I fall in love with this field all over again. Leslie and “secret” made me feel so welcome and at home. I shall be able to say more after the Locus Awards Banquet which I will be attending. It will be my first ever SF&F event.

June 20

First Impressions, Arrival day at Clarion West

Today was arrival day at Clarion West. I finally met Cat Rambo. Warm and lovely, I loved meeting Cat. I hope to get another chance to talk with her.

On the drive to the Clarion West house (I spent the night at Leslie Howle's place. Thank you so much, Leslie), I found myself quite inspired just listening to Leslie talk about Clarion West and the various classes through the years. She also talked a lot about Octavia Butler, and how Octavia inspired her, and that inspired me again because I was reminded of all the things I wanted to achieve and the things I hoped to do with my fiction and how I wanted to do more than that, and to maybe contribute my little bit to changing the world and making the world a place that's more understanding and kinder.

I wish I could have met Octavia Butler in person. Her work has inspired me so much, I think it would have been the greatest privilege to hear her speak.

Some of my classmates had already arrived at the house, and I got to meet them one by one. Then, an entire group came in and that was just lovely. Just lovely to all sit down and chat. I could just sit down forever and be with these people. I want to know them all, because we are after all going to be together for the next six weeks. As I said in my essay, my feelings towards the Science Fiction and Fantasy community  has always been a welcome feeling. No matter what differences we might have, I've always felt that we all belong to this one big family and we can all help each other to accomplish what it is that we hope to achieve in life. The world is in so much need of artists and visionaries, we can't allow ourselves to be distracted by petty things.

So, yes, I hope very much that there will be love in this group.
I'll try to post more of my impressions and thoughts at a later date. Right now, I'm really in need of sleep.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2009 07:14 am (UTC)
i've read octavia butler's parable of the sower years back. i thought it was awesome. :))
Jun. 21st, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
Octavia Butler's essay, Positive Obsession (in Bloodchild and Other Stories) inspired me so much. I haven't read her Parable of the Sower yet, but I do plan to get more of her books while I'm here.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 21st, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
Looking back, I have a strong feeling he was a fanboy. He was a bit disappointed I hadn't heard of a writer called Jim Butcher??? I told him we don't get all the books in The Netherlands. We talked a bit about BSG, but since I hadn't seen the ending yet (we don't get that too), he said he wouldn't spoil the ending for me. He was like: Oh...the ending was soooo disappointing, but I won't spoil it for you.

I bet he was a Trekkie. He was soooo enthusiastic about Star Trek. Then, he let me go. It was a pretty weird experience. ha, ha.
Jun. 21st, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)
I doubt there's systematic DHS discrimination against SF/F writers, so I expect the guy at the counter was sick of hearing the guy in the interview room go on about Star Trek, so he stuck the red card on your passport so the second guy would finally have someone to talk to about it. :-)

(Or was it the same guy? In which case my supposition is even stronger...)
Jun. 21st, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
One of my classmates told me they always do this with writers. Whether it has to do with fascination or curiousity, I have no idea. In any case, I think he was pretty wild about Star Trek. Looking back, it was pretty funny. I must have been beaming like starlight when he asked me about the new Star Trek movie, because he was totally empathizing.

Probably the strangest encounter I've had to date. It is funny looking back now. I'm so glad to be here :)
Jun. 21st, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
Glad you made it to Seattle, Rochita. Sorry about the immigration experience. You know me, I've always been very distrustful of authority figures. Many of these people are hold overs from the Bush years and they're weird and paranoid. If he would've asked me those questions I would've said I loathed the latest Star Trek movie and as to BSG, "I don't watch that junk on the Sci-Fi channel!" ;-)
Jun. 21st, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Sounds good so far, except for Customs...
Jun. 21st, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Glad you got there safely! Here's hoping Homeland Security was the end of the bad experiences. Oh, and say hi to Leslie for me. :-)
Jun. 21st, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so jealous. I wish I was there! Have a grand and inspiring time.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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