Argaw Oremo is living the American dream, and now, he can share it with his wife. Oremo and Workensh Egoye grin and giggle like newlyweds, which, in a way, they are.
In their four years of marriage, they have lived together for only a few months. Sitting on a curving couch together in a room brightened by colorful African accents, the two chatted about the next chapter of their lives.
The Telegraph Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1htBOPE ) Oremo and Egoye arrived in the U.S. last week from their homeland of Ethiopia, where the temperature was 85 degrees. Oremo hopes his wife's journey to U.S. citizenship will be easier than his own. After all, he can help her now that he understands the process.
Six years ago, Oremo's name was drawn from the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or the "Green Card Lottery," which randomly picks names from a pool of millions of applicants from countries with low immigration rates. His parents sold their thatched-roof house to raise money for him to come to the U.S. He arrived in Dubuque jobless and penniless and lived in a homeless shelter for a year. To learn English, he signed up for classes at Presentation Lantern Center. There, he met tutor Don Koppes, who took Oremo under his wing.
Koppes invited Oremo to live with him and his wife, Jane, and helped him get a job and into college classes. Oremo saved his money and sent it home to pay for a new house for his parents. On one visit home, Oremo married Egoye, his childhood sweetheart. With his American savings, he built her a small house next to his parents. While they were apart, the couple stayed in touch by phone and letters. Homecho, their village of 8,000, has no Internet connection.
"To be away was frustrating and cumbersome, especially on New Year's, when everybody wants to be with family. We sometimes cry on the phone," said Oremo, 36.
Egoye, who can read English but is nervous about speaking it, sat tight against her husband, nodding shyly in agreement and whispering to him as he translated her comments.
"Her family will miss her, but they are happy she is with her husband now," Oremo said.
Egoye, 35, received her U.S. permanent resident visa in Ethiopia in November, a month before her husband was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Des Moines. After arriving in Dubuque, she applied for a Social Security number, and she can apply for citizenship in five years. Egoye, who worked for the government tax collector in Homecho, hopes to find full-time work in Dubuque. If that happens, Oremo would like to quit his two jobs and study for a career in nursing.
"If I have a degree and a job, we will have a good life," he said, glancing fondly at his wife, who smiled broadly.
Koppes intends to help the couple only when asked. He beams when he talks about Oremo's accomplishments.
"I could not be more proud and happy that he has come this far. He worked hard to learn English and at his jobs, and he has repaid anyone who helped him out," said Koppes, who founded Friends of Homecho to improve life in the village.
The nonprofit has built a water line from a spring into the village that triples the amount of water available for each person. Other infrastructure projects are planned.
There was no question what most surprised Egoye in her first moments in the U.S., outside O'Hare International Airport in Chicago — the bitterly cold weather.
"She was shocked," said her husband, miming astonishment through bouts of laughter. "She said, 'My goodness. My goodness.'"