My Joy of Discovering an American Dream
By: Anastasia Henize
My heart was racing hundreds of miles an hour, just like the airplane that was taking me to the land of my dreams, to the place of unknown, to the wonderful future.
When I grew up in Russia I would always wonder what it was like to live in America. Something was very mysterious and majestic about life in the USA. Something I had not discovered yet, America was so far- far away. What was the American dream?
Since I was a little girl, I had heard about the good life in America. The people who lived in that country had everything; they were all rich, most of them were millionaires. They all wore crispy clean white clothing and drove fancy automobiles. Americans are all making good money, have big houses, great jobs; they travel around the world and had millions in their bank accounts. The land of opportunity and freedom was calling me with all its might. I was young, restless and full of grand dreams. The decision was made promptly, almost compulsively. After enduring some difficulties of obtaining an American visa, proving my Russian income, a thorough background check and ticket purchasing, I was on my way to Miami Florida in the United States of America.
During my 12 hours on an airplane I was very anxious to see that famous and great country. My anticipation was growing by the second, panicky thoughts buzzed in my head, strange country, unfamiliar people with a different language, but it was too late to turn back. Luckily my anxiety was disturbed by the beautiful flight attendant. She had a gorgeous bright smile, neatly tight hair and crispy white shirt with proudly attached pin that said Delta. “Oh, how American” I noticed. She welcomed me to the flight with an alcoholic beverage, the best tension remedy ever! After a few of those remedies, my mind was joyful and calm while the airline was taking me to the land of the American dream of success, fame and wealth. After nine hours in the air, our pilot announced something in English; I guessed it was landing, because passengers got cheerful and started applauding showing appreciation to the crew. At last, I arrived in Florida, my remedy wore off and I started worrying again. I didn’t speak English, just enough to say “hello,” and “good morning.” I had one thousand dollars in my pocket and a small duffel bag. My family always was cheering for my adventurous character, traveling skills, and most importantly my brave (but somewhat naive) decision to come to the USA without language, family or place to live. Previously, I was able to travel and visit a few foreign places without knowing local language and places to stay; Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey, plus a dozen of a former Soviet Republics were in my travel history. That experience of the new places made me more curious about the world and different cultures. I was so excited about my new adventure; I was so sure everything was going to be perfect!
Finally I arrived in Miami very late in the day. My close Russian girlfriend Tanya greeted me at the gate with a gigantic bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. She was very happy and because we had not seen each other for two years, we jumped and hugged each other probably a million times. “Welcome to A-me-rica!” she screamed over the noisy Miami Airport jungle. She took me to a beautiful ocean site, where the air was warm and moist, the palm trees were green and swaying, and the American people were upbeat and friendly. I seemed to be getting welcome greetings from all directions. I instantly knew I had made the right decision to come here and soon I was going to discover my American Dream!
I was lucky I began my discovery of the United States in Florida. I went to Miami, Naples, and Orlando which are all wonderful, friendly and affectionate cities full of tourists, attractions, restaurants and a mild weather year around. I settled in Fort Myers, a city located in South West Florida. At first, language was a major problem so I was quickly enrolled in an English as a Second Language course for immigrants. I sat in class with students from Mexico, Somalia, China and other countries. English sounded like “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa,” and I could not separate the words or sentences. Some American expressions did not make any sense to me. I discovered that some words like “I can eat a horse”, “let’s pig out” or “drunk as a skunk “and “my dogs are barking” had nothing to do with animal conditions. I learned how to roll my tongue when saying “cheeseburger” and curled my lips in “very well”. My English teacher was an immigrant from Mexico, Mr. Suarez, who taught us Spanglish. I wanted to absorb the whole experience with my every breath. I wished to learn English quickly, not just the language, but the mannerism of the culture. I knew if I did not know how to communicate, I would not be able to survive and be happy.
My discovery of American English took me straight to an American television. You can learn a massive amount of information about the USA from that TV box. Eight hundred channels for everyone, the choices seem unlimited. There are movie channels, sports channels, music channels, learning channels and so on to infinity and beyond. I started mimicking people on TV, learning names and brands of an American life style. I learned how to act like some ladies from soap operas and memorized words of American songs with Sesame Street’s characters. One show was very difficult for me to understand, but it was very popular, so I had to watch it. You can learn a lot about young people, American marriage and progressive language with jargon from A Jerry Springer Show.
My next discovery in the great United States of America was most enjoyable for my stomach! American food, what could be more delicious, scrumptious and satisfying? The golden arches of McDonalds, massive hot tables in Old Country Buffet, triple cheeseburgers, super French fries, barbecue, Cold Stone Creamery with one hundred choices of ice cream. I love it! Double this, triple that. The best is Dunkin Donuts, “Buy one dozen, get the second dozen FREE!” Did you hear that? FREE! What a joy! Don’t let me get started talking about the enormous grocery stores! Publix, Wal-Mart, Kroger and other supermarkets; they are the monsters of the grocery world, carrying different types of food choices for everyone. My favorite product is a hot dog with perfectly fitted hot dog bun, just needs to be placed in a microwave for seconds and consume. No cooking! What a dream, an American dream!
Speaking of the American dream, I also discovered that you don’t really have to leave your car at all. You can drive through everywhere; pick up food from restaurants, wash your car, do your banking, change your oil, obtain medicine from the pharmacy, drop off and pick laundry from dry cleaners, even have alcoholic beverages delivered to your car without you leaving it. Just drive through! I am dreaming? I was really in America, in this wonderful place, eating this delicious food, with these friendly people, across the world from where I was only yesterday.
Today my journey has continued with the help of all the friendly American people, who are very proud of their country and rights. “We, the people”, one of the Amendments in American Constitution starts with these words, which I discovered was very true. Freedom of speech, religion, press and other privileges I did not have in Russia. American cities have accessibility for the handicapped and seniors, services for people with needs, free public bathrooms, help for your car in case of an emergency on the road, friendly greeters in shops and restaurants. This great country has learning opportunities for everyone; learning centers, libraries, free tutors even free transportation for the students! I admire the unity of the people who live in this country. They are all connected by the great honor to be an American. I respect them for the way they love their country. In time of needs and natural disasters American people are the most generous in the world. Schools and churches, neighborhoods and communities all come together in great support of each other and even for people in other countries.
After 12 years of living in this country I am still in search of that American dream. I definitely discovered a lifestyle that people in other countries do envy. People often question me about my decision to come here. They wonder why I would leave my country and my home, with no guarantees of the life that lay ahead of me. Why this foreign land and language? Moreover, why pick the United States over all other choices? Perhaps I see the opportunities, great lifestyle and the freedom that far too many Americans take for granted. There is no other country in the world where a person could start with nothing and become a success if they were willing.
What is an American Dream? Twelve years have passed since the day I arrived in the USA and I am still enjoying my journey, but now with the title of American Citizen. Now I can place my right hand over my heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Here it is my greatest joy of discovering an American Dream. Now I belong to this wonderful country with the first democratic constitution, the home of Abraham Lincoln, John Adams and other great people that I admire. What an HONOR! My American Dream has come true! Now, I have an opportunity to become anything I want. I have my freedom and my pride. I am proud to be an American!
“So, how about my rich American Dream full of millions in the bank, fancy cars, big houses and crispy white clothing?” you might ask me. I would answer, that my rich American Dream is still alive, but now it’s imprinted with gold of American people’s kindness, jeweled with greatest American history, and shined with hard working citizens.
“Welcome to McDonalds, would you like to try our new triple cheeseburger with double cheddar and bacon?” The cheerful voice from intercom of a drive-through restaurant asked me.
“Oh, yes I would,” I replied, “And make it with a supersize drink and double fries!” I am an American now!
A Journal of the Arts