A person can grow very old in three years. After all the pressure I felt from moving away from my home in Manila, Philippines, not to mention culture shock and a stint of identity crisis, I sometimes feel sixty instead of sixteen.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Michelle and I have been living in the United States in sunny south Florida for two and a half years. I wouldn’t call myself a regular jet-setter. On the contrary, I can count the number of times I’ve been on a plane with the fingers of my left hand. Let me tell you though, you don’t have to travel far to learn something incredible.
By the second semester of my sophomore year, my first year in an American high school, I had earned quite a reputation. Word about the new Asian student spread through the hallways like swine flu, if not faster. Soon enough, I was hearing nicknames like Asian Sensation and Panda Bear. Adjectives like genius also spread like wildfire. They were flattering really, but I felt none of it because I was too concerned with homework and e-mail correspondence with my friends in the Philippines. In the middle of March, I took a week off school to visit my best friend, Hannah, who was flying to Orlando from the Philippines.
When I met Hannah at the Lake Buena Vista Resort, I had on my cold, intellectual demeanor suitable for a class discussion on King Arthur. That was an epic fail. My best friend greeted me with a squishy hug then dragged me to the Disney store while we left our parents to deal with grown-up things like food and park tickets. For the first time in eleven months, I felt like myself again.
We spent four days in Orlando which I learned is not enough. The Disney Parks we went to were Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. On the Universal end, we had the 2-park pass which gave us entry to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. With Hannah’s parents, we did an insane amount of walking to cover all these parks. In Magic Kingdom, we rode the newly opened Pirates of the Caribbean ride, Stitch’s Great Escape, and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. At Hollywood Studios, we did a lot of sight-seeing and people watching because the line at Aerosmith Rock n’ Roll Coaster was much too long and Hannah and I pathetically chickened out of the Twilight Tower of Terror. At Epcot, our main event was the Mission: SPACE attraction. We spent a lot of time visiting each country in the world exhibit and at the end of the day, we watched the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth light show.
Universal was by far our favorite. Hannah and I rode all the rides we possibly could in Islands of Adventure. The highlight of our time there was the Incredible Hulk Rollercoaster. I even have a picture of me screaming my butt off while holding on to my glasses for dear life. Moving on to Universal Studios, The Mummy ride was probably the highlight of our day there with me, again, screaming and holding on to my glasses for dear life.
In my opinion, we left too soon, but my time in Orlando was a reminder of who I was and what I wanted to become. Five at heart, yes. Dusty middle-aged professor, not so much. The great moral lesson in this Florida adventure: you don’t have to go far to find the greatest thing in life – yourself.
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