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A dream of many non-American young people throughout the world is to visit the United States and I was not an exception. Places like New-York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Washington are the cities that even non-English speakers recognize as American. Thus, it was like a dream for me when the fortune presented me with the chance to visit the United States. At first, it seemed too good to be true, but after getting visa, it dawned on me so that finally I was about to live in a dream. It started about three years ago after the travel agency announced in our school that next summer there would be opportunities to travel and visit the United States for about a month. At first, it was received with skepticism by most of us. But it was so until those students, who actually took them serious, left for the United States that I dawned on the rest of us and me in particular that I could actually visit America. I promptly found a job as a waiter in the beach side hotels in my city and worked as a valet at the car park of the same hotel at night to save up money for the trip. Initially, earning money was hard because most of my friends passed by the hotel, where I worked, on the way to the beach and I explained them that I had to miss the fun time with them to earn money for my dream. But after I calculated what I earned from the salary and tips, the distant dream became more real to me. I needed to improve my English as I am not a native English speaker, so I took every opportunity to speak with the tourists that came to the hotel. We had people from many places and some English speaking ones, and we had long conversations while I was on break I told them about my dream and how I was working to save up money to visit the U.S. next summer. Eventually, like every story, the summer ended and by then I had saved just about enough money for the trip. I promptly visited the agency and paid the registration fees for the trip. Several meetings took place and eventually I had the meeting at the U.S. embassy for visa interview. My hard work in summer was paid off; I was hardly fluent in English, but I was shoulders above most other students and some things that I lacked in fluency in English were done with a winning smile and a wink. I felt the whole summer was worth it when the interviewer just told me “…you’ll have to leave your passport here and we’ll mail it to you in a few days…” I left the embassy building with a huge sense of pride. Finally, I was going to the US!
On the day of departure, I was filled with a sense of expectation that was soon tainted with some trepidation as this was going to be my first time of leaving my country ever. The flight was largely uneventful, except for the small matter of its being my first time flying to anywhere. I was pretty fine until we were lifting off; I don’t know if I have ever held anything so firmly in my life as I held the arm rest in my economy class seats. In retrospect, I must have been a real sight on that flight. We got to Memphis, where I was to take a connecting flight to Panama city, but as it turned out, I missed a mail from the agency, where I had to call and tell them of my arrival time, so I came to the airport in Panama city and by 10 p.m. local time and the first thing that hit me was the sheer humidity and the heat it was suffocating and clinging all at the time.
Now, because there was no one to pick me up, at the airport, I had to take a taxi and rent a motel for the night. Later that night, as I settled in to sleep, it dawned on me I’m sleeping in a motel in the U.S. and at that moment I just knew that if I died, I would die with a smile on my face because I was living in the dream. I was tired but I understood that all the pictures I dreamt of were around me and that all the adventures were just ahead of me. I couldn’t wait to start.
By the next morning, I got in touch with the agency via mail and I was told to go the grey hound bust station and book a ticket to Harrisburg Pennsylvania, it took most of my conversation skill to understand directions that were given by Leroy, the janitor, how to get the grey hound bus station, but before I left, he gave me a piece of advice that proved to be very true: he told me in his lazy way of speaking “ … most Americans are good folk, they are ready to help you, you need to be really polite and someone will give you directions. You’re in God’s own country…” I couldn’t argue.
My journey from Panama City took me through Gettysburg, Lafayette County, Richmond and so many other cities I made sure to come down and take a picture in each of them. I am not particularly fond of picture taking but that was America and I was going to capture every single moment. After almost 28 hours of travelling including an all-night route, I arrived at Harrisburg, it was rather small town and a little bit of a downer considering the mental images I had in my head of New York and Miami. But the agency officer assured me that we were going to have a wonderful time nonetheless. As it turned out, there were so many students like me, who were travelling through America that summer that I knew I had a wonderful time.
The first place we visited was the Niagara Falls, it was a surreal experience because I read about it, saw it in a Jim Carey movie but I was about to set foot on it. By the time we alighted from the bus I was a little dizzy from excitement I kept saying in my head that it was my walking in America, breathing in American air, eating American burgers and taco’s. I took lots of pictures and with the waterfall in the background, and it was while taking those pictures that I noticed beautiful Turkish girl with a twinkle in her smile. We got talking and I discovered her name was Didem (pronounced dee-dem) she was a medical student, who wanted to become a pediatrician and she had a crazy sense of humor almost equal to mine. We left the fall and sat next to each other in the bus back home. When we got back to Harrisburg the next morning, I found out she live just above my flat (clearly, cupid was working overtime) I found her to be charming and intelligent. Did I mention her sense of humor? We talked almost the day and night and it took my looking at my watch to realize that it was way past midnight. She had to go to bed and I had to admit I was dead on my feet. As I went to bed, my heart was pounding from an excitement; Niagara Falls and a beautiful girl in just three days, no wonder everyone loves America. There wasn’t a single dull moment till sleep and I followed her gladly.
“…Hershey is one of the most iconic American chocolate brands and most fathers and mothers in this country were raised on the Reeses, almond joy and kisses brands of Hershey chocolate…” said the tour guide at the chocolate world entrance. If I wasn’t listening before, I surely was listening to the moment she mentioned the Reeses. The guide reminded me of my previous summer and I had no idea it was made in Hershey Pennsylvania. Could this trip be more exciting, I asked myself? We were at the Hershey world and our tour guide was telling us about how the Hershey Company was founded by Milton Hershey. In fact, the whole town of Hershey was named after the brand. This was my first experience of a company town. We eventually went to see how the chocolate was made and we got to taste it. By this time, I was walking hand in hand with Didem.
The next day I visited the national civil war museum and saw so many wonderful sights, manuscripts from the war as well as other historical items, we visited the site of the battle of Gettysburg and made also so many pictures. I was also able to visit the Hershey Park and had a whale of time with many of my new friends. There was swimming and for the first time in my life, I went on a roller coaster ride. It looked like in it was in movies and lots more the highs were high and the lows were real low. I had to impress the girl so I did not scream out as we went through a particularly startling low. We visited the giant’s stadium later that night and there was a huge fireworks display later that night. The fireworks I knew were the ones that ushered in New Year. Never had I seen a real professional arranged pyrotechnic display, it was just awesome.
We later visited Philly in company of friends and took in the sights of the great city visited several museums and malls. I picked up gifts and souvenirs for my family and friends and when we went back to Harrisburg, I visited the oddly named town of intercourse Pa, where I saw the Amish for the first time. I had to admire this special people that stayed true to their ways in spite of the changing world all around them.
Eventually, the summer was over. I had travelled to America, taken the grey hound eaten at all the fast food restaurants in Pennsylvania, driven a rented Camaro, gone to Hershey, kissed a beautiful girl, taken lots of pictures and lived the dream there was a flight waiting for me. I might visit America sometime in the future or maybe I wouldn’t but one thing I was sure of, I had lived the dream completely and had no regrets.
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