Coming to America | Bangkok Post: learning

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Coming to America

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Chatchawan Chawengkul is back with a story of his first years in the United States. In later chapters he will bring you up to the present. 

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Living in America

Chapter One: The Early Years 1979-1983.           

My sister, Panna and I, moved to The United States in 1979.  I was 20 years old and my sister was 18 years old at that time.  The first city we lived in was Belleville, Illinois.  It’s a very beautiful little city located in southwest Illinois. My stepfather, Eddy, was in the Air Force and stationed at Scott Air Force base nearby. My mother, Lamai was working at a military shoe factory in Belleville.  She saved up enough money to bring us to the States.  I give thanks to my mother for bringing us here because I have no idea how I would have ended up living in Thailand.
We arrived in the States in the winter time, around November.  One day in December, it snowed so heavily that it accumulated about 3-4 feet high in front of our house. Eddy and I had to climb out through the window to clear off the snow that had deposited in front of the door before we could open it. 

Since it was the first time I had seen snow, I made a cave in the side of a snow patch and lit up a candle.  I stayed inside the cave for a while; it was fun.  The government offices, factories, and some businesses were closed for three days due to the heavy snow. The roads were not cleared which made it very difficult and dangerous to travel.

When spring came, Panna and I went to community college to study ESL (English as a second language).  After that we were enrolled in the G.E.D. class (General Education Diploma) which is equivalent to graduating from a US high school.  Then we enrolled in general college study courses, since we didn’t know what we wanted to study to be yet.  Panna moved to Ohio State with her boyfriend and continued to study at Ohio State University in Business Administration.  She graduated in 1987.
I joined the US Army, and was sent to Germany on active duty for 4 years.   I was stationed at Bamberg, Germany in the 2nd Calvary Unit.  Eddy and my mother moved to Portugal as his next assignment post . 
Next chapter: My Journey.  I hope you enjoy reading it.
stepfather – your mother’s new husband in a second or later marriage พ่อเลี้ยง
station – to cause, especially soldiers, to be in a particular place to do a job ตั้งฐานปฎิบัติการ,ตั้งประจำ
accumulate – to get more and more of something over a period of time สั่งสม
deposit – accumulate; to form layer on the ground สะสม
cave – a large hole in the side of a hill, under the ground, or, in this case, in a big pile of snow ถ้ำ
enrol – to put yourself onto the official list of members of a course or college สมัคร, ลงทะเบียน
equivalent – the same as   เท่าเทียมกันกับ

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