For many Americans, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks, cookouts and a heavy dose of tradition.
For other, more recent U.S. residents, though, Independence Day is about the possibilities that come with a fresh start and hopes of a bright future.
Amadou Pathe Bah is one of many Philadelphians who will be celebrating the holiday for the first time Friday.
He couldn’t be more excited.
Bah, 28, springs to life when he talks about the seven months he’s been in the U.S.
For him, moving here from Guinea in West Africa was a dream come true, a real chance to work toward the life he wants to lead.
“This country is freedom. In my country, people are not free,” said Bah.
“Every time, the problems and the government and population, every time you have a problem. The country doesn’t have electricity, water. When you’re sick, you go to the hospital, you don’t have medical, that is a lot of problems. But in this country you have security and, when you need a job, you can work.”
Bah has a master’s degree in international relations and hopes to one day work for the U.S. Embassy – here or abroad.
For now, the Delaware County resident is working six days a week in a restaurant in Manayunk in Northwest Philadelphia.
He fits in English classes before his shifts. French is Bah’s first language.
“When I come back to the home, I take the train, trolley and bus. Maybe I walk. When I come back, it’s four, five o’clock in the a.m. I go to bed for three hours, four hours, get up. That’s hard for me. Hard,” he said. “My teachers can explain to you, every time I’m in class, I sleep in. That’s no good.”
Still, Bah said he’s happy. He said he loves Philadelphia, especially now that the winter is over.
“Every time when I’m on the train or on the way, I have any problem, I talk to one person, that’s good. ‘I’m new in this country, can you help me please. I need something. ‘OK, come in, go to the left.’ Yeah, that’s good,” said Bah.
Right now, Bah is a permanent resident of the U.S.
Each year, the U.S. Department of State makes 55,000 visas available for “diversity immigrants” through what’s commonly referred to as the Green Card Lottery.
Bah will have to wait a little more than four years before he is eligible to become a full-blown U.S. citizen — his ultimate goal.
Getting his driver’s license and a car, though, will do for now.