When my parents asked me whether I wanted a quinciÃ±era for my birthday, I thought of crowded rooms and big gowns and quickly asked: “What if, instead of spending money on just another party you send me to Australia and New Zealand?” I explained to them that the trip was a part of a program called LeadAmerica that was offered to high school students to empower youth to reach their full potential, and let them read the paperwork to find out the rest. There was silence and quiet deliberation until finally they gave me permission.
I was ecstatic! Sure, I had been to various states across the country, but I hadn’t ever been across national borders. As the day for my departure neared I started to think about what awaited me in those exotic countries. My interpretations of Australia and New Zealand were only of what television and magazines had to offer, mainly that New Zealand had breathtaking landscapes and that Australia was teeming with the world’s most poisonous creatures. Adding to my curiosity was the fact that I was going to be touring the world with people from across the U.S. that I didn’t know.
A few days later, I was off. After saying goodbye to a teary-eyed mother, I boarded the plane and took my seat next to a complete stranger. After a few minutes, I and the other kids began to talk and braced ourselves for the days ahead. I dozed off and when I woke up we were in Rotarua, New Zealand. I was immediately entranced by the lush, green hillsides that surrounded us and by the blanket of tranquility encompassing the atmosphere. Among exploring the Waitomo Glow Worm caves, luging down muddy mountainsides, and visiting the U.S. embassy, we toured a traditional Maori Village. Amidst the steamy vapors of the sulfurous geysers could be seen the intricate carvings of the town buildings resonating the ancient history of the Maori. Though short, my time in New Zealand exposed me to the beauty of the Maori culture as well as to the beauty of the picturesque land.
Seven days later, I found myself on a plane toward Sydney, Australia. The hustle and bustle of the city only added excitement to our stay while we strolled through the botanical gardens, traversed the enchanting Blue Mountains, and visited the opera house. Next we flew to Cairns, the location of the Great Barrier Reef. No sooner did we check into the hotel than did we put on our swimsuits and head out toward the reef. Not only did I encounter a pod of blue whales during the boat ride, but also I was able to literally swim with a sea turtle. We spent the remaining days caressing koalas at the Wildlife Sanctuary, roaming the Daintree rainforest, and visiting an Aborigine tribal center. As the guide told us the story of the Jabawake tribe I became immersed in the exquisite customs of the Aborigine, spellbound by their rich history. While in Australia I was overwhelmed by the splendor of both the environment and its wildlife.
Prior to my excursion, my world was relatively small confined only to the United States. However, my exposure to different places, different cultures, different people revolutionized my perceptions of the earth and its people. Through exploring the Maori and Aborigine customs I was introduced to but a sample of the diversity of humanity. Through visiting new places and meeting different people my journey to the exotic truly broadened my horizons. Now, my world knows no boundaries as I have yet to explore and learn about the rest of the world and its people.
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