“Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.” I couldn’t stop muttering to myself as the plane taxied off the runway and to the boarding gate. I couldn’t believe my eyes, after a very long trip, all the way from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, this seemed like the mother of all airports. The Hartsfield Jackson Airport was gigantic, and it took me a while to finally make my way through customs and eventually meet my hosts. See, this was my first time ever in the U.S, and so I would be staying with some friends of mine as we toured the South. As we hit the freeway, I was shocked speechless after seeing the 5 lane highways that we were driving on. And the huge trailer trucks that could move as fast as we could. In Kenya, the most we have is probably 2 lanes going both ways, and don’t even get me started on our trucks, the best word I have is “Rustbucket Trailer”.
Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We drove up north for about 2 hours, because we would be staying in a little town called Ellijay, in North Georgia. And so when I woke up from my road-trip nap, we had arrived. “Wow”, I mumbled to my buddy, Ian (an American missionary kid who lives in Kenya with me, we attend the same school), “This is a nice hotel we’re staying at.” Then he just smiled at me and smugly said, “Oh, this isn’t a hotel, it’s a house!” I was speechless. You know, I had seen a bunch of episodes of “CRIBS” and all that, and this house had pretty much “the usual” that comes with a cribs house. Lake? Check. Hunter décor? Check. Underground game room and weight room? Check. Private cinema? Check. And last but not least, we can’t forget the Southern Hospitality (a phrase I’ve learnt) thrown in. Day one on the awesomeness scale World: Nothing, America: INFINITY!
On a serious note, however, coming from a very different background, I did suffer from huge culture shock during my three week stay there. For one thing, the amount of food that is constantly present in people’s lives was shocking! There were literally hundreds of signs that promoted food as we drove on the highway. I tried keeping track of how many McDonald outlets I could count and I lost count after twenty. That was a stark contrast to life back home, and was quite an eye-opener to me.
Another thing that brought me great shock was how visitors would never stick around very long. In Africa, if you’re having visitors, specifically, family and close friends, a party at home can start at about one in the afternoon and keep going to like midnight. In America, most people would show up at exactly the time proposed by the host and leave in 2 hours. This took me by surprise the first time, but sooner than later, I adjusted to having to say goodbye a lot sooner than I was used to. A pleasant surprise was how many activities we had to do. Because Ian, his mother and myself were touring the South and Texas looking at colleges, we always had new interesting people to meet and most of them were very hospitable and friendly.
I think though, my favorite of the whole trip was our trip to Six Flags in San Antonio. The closest thing we have to that in Kenya is riding on the Public Service vehicles known as matatus! All in all, my first trip to America was an unforgettable experience!
Here’s the list of stuff we did and places we visited:
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