Terence Song won a lottery and almost three years later, he has graduated from the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Worker Training Program at Pickett Park in Blackstone, Virginia. A native of Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa, Song had applied for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) that makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
From his native town to Blackstone, he has traveled about 5,800 miles to attend the 11-week training program and graduate with the largest class thus far, 36 members.
Song is not a stranger to lineman work as he worked as a lineman in Cameroon for eight years. In what he calls his ‘new country,’ he has been working for Rockingham Construction, a company that provides electrical construction work. He lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.
Song’s native language is French and in studying lineman work in America, he has learned new names for all the familiar equipment. Asked about his ability to grasp a new language complete with Southern accents, he notes that he tilts his head in and listens hard.
“There are no bucket trucks in Cameroon,” he said, noting that America offers much better equipment to maintain electric power lines. He said in his former country, they plant utility poles by hand using shovels and the power of five to six men to place the pole. The machinery and power line equipment here is much safer and easier, he noted.
Another difference that amazed Song’s classmates are the climbing spikes he brought from Cameroon. The spikes used in America feature a long gaff or spear that gouges into the wood of the pole and allows for moving up and down. The ones used by Song have a row of shorter spears plus semi-circle claw. Instructor Clyde Robertson notes that if one ever gets accustomed to the spikes Song uses, they offer a more comfortable platform for the feet.
During his training in Virginia, he has been given a chance for more practice in snow, something one never see in Cameroon. He said the lowest temperature there is around 60 and the hottest can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, there are not four seasons in his native land, he said, “There are only two seasons there, rainy and dry.”
At age 40, he said he was the old man in the class. Most of his classmates were in their early 20s. He said some of the guys in the lineman class would tell him to take his jacket off when the temperature was warm but the temperatures here in October did not seem particularly hot to him.
“I like it here, I like the countryside,” he said and the small town atmosphere. His hometown is Ombe, a city of about three million people. Proud of his recent accomplishment, he looks forward to continuing to live and work and one day obtain citizenship in his New Country.