My Family Migration Story

Mona Khalil
4 min readJun 6, 2022
Grandparents on their wedding day in Guyana
July 1961: My grandparents on their wedding day in Guyana

What is your or your family’s migration start point?

On my mother’s side, my grandparents were born in Guyana. My grandmother was born in Whim. My grandfather was born in Bath Settlement. They met in Whim, Guyana. My grandfather was a police officer for about two years before meeting my grandmother who lived nearby the Whim police station.

Tell us about your or your family’s migration story.

My grandparents met on Valentine’s Day in 1961. My grandmother was on her way to the local market. She was 17 years old and my grandfather was 23 years old. He resigned from the police force in June 1961 with plans to leave for England in August 1961. He wanted to move to England to create a better life. My grandparents got married in July 1961. My grandfather took a plane and then traveled by boat. It was the cheapest option. My grandmother later joined him following her sister’s wedding.

My mom was born in February 1962 and my uncle was born in July 1964 in England. My mom traveled to Guyana with a neighbor trusted by my grandfather in December 1962. My grandfather was a student and where they lived were all students from Guyana. My mom was raised by her grandparents. My grandmother took my uncle to Guyana in 1965 to join them. My great-grandmother died at 48 years old in 1970 from cancer.

The plan was for my great-grandmother to bring the kids to England before she got sick. My grandmother flew back to Guyana to attend the funeral. A family friend then brought the kids back to England a few weeks later. My mom was 8 years old when she moved back to England and my uncle was 6 years old.

My grandfather graduated with a BS degree in Engineering in 1974. With my grandfather’s new degree, it was easier to get sponsorship to Canada where my grandmother’s father and nine brothers and sisters now lived. My great-grandfather sponsored my grandmother. They bought a house in Canada. The family lived in Canada from February 1976 to June 1978.

My grandfather wanted to move somewhere warm. While in Canada, my grandfather worked with a client who would fly from California to do business. The guy brought him a newspaper from California to look through job opportunities in the classified section. My grandfather thought the warm weather of Southern California was closest to Guyana's weather. And it had tech jobs. My grandfather’s brother sponsored the family to move to the US in 1978.

My grandfather drove the family from Toronto to Connecticut to visit his brother for a couple of days. Then my grandfather drove the family for three days from Connecticut to Los Angeles. Without any immediate family in California, they got a hotel near the CBS building on Sunset Blvd for the family to stay in for a couple of days while they figured out what to do next. Then they got to stay in a house that was being rented through a family friend.

What is your or your family’s migration endpoint?

My mom moved to California at 16 years old. My dad moved to California alone leaving his family behind in Egypt. My parents met through mutual friends in Los Angeles. My mom was 21 years old and my dad was 28 years old. My mom was the first in the family to marry outside the Guyanese culture. My dad was the first in the family to marry outside the Egyptian culture.

November 1982: My parent's engagement party at my dad’s apartment in Los Angeles
June 2006: Grandpa, me, mom, and grandma at my graduation from the University of California-San Diego

What is one lesson you have learned from your or your family’s journey?

Grandma: Be careful who you marry.

Mom: People have more in common than they think.

Me: I don’t take living in California for granted.

Translation: Scientists say that human beings are made of atoms, but a little bird told me that we are also made of stories. — Eduardo Galeano

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Mona Khalil

Name Dipped In Mango | Transformational Leadership Coach & Consultant | Peace Corps, Tesla, LinkedIn Alum | Author of #iwritelettersinmythoughts 🇬🇾🥭🇪🇬