Recently I’ve had to write an autobiographical piece for my American Literature class. Being the lazy person I am, I figured I can “recycle” an old essay I’d written 3 years ago, when I was in the 8th grade. At the time, I was the student of my favourite person, (note: I liked the teacher more as a person rather than a teacher) and being that way, I tended to constantly try and impress him with my work. I tried my best and wrote the suggested maximum page length, rather than just sticking with the minimum. For one class assignment we had, I decided to write a descriptive essay of my first trip to the United States, titled “My First Trip to America.” At the time, I considered this to be my best and greatest piece of work. It was a recount of the very first time I visited and lived in the United States, when I was 5 years old, and the events that took place before getting there. This was the first autobiographical piece I’d ever written, and since I apparently love talking about myself so much, the pages flew by.
I feel I should mention that I never “fancied” this teacher. He was an adult that I trusted and loved talking to, and I really needed that then. Back at the time, I felt he understood and knew me better than my own family did, and at the time, I think that was true. He relocated schools (and countries, for that matter) last year, along with my best friend, who had just graduated high school. Losing my two favourite people from school at the same time was a big blow, and it took me a couple of months during the new school year to adjust to it.
A couple of days ago, I decided to get started on my current class assignment. I rummaged through my memory card until I found the document I was looking for. I read through the four-page-long, double-spaced paper, all the while reliving through the experiences described in there. As the human mind goes, I’ve apparently been romanticising and thinking of the essay as being better than it actually was, yet considering I was only 13 when I wrote this, I still think of it as a pretty great essay.
I have to say, I got pretty emotional reading through it. It brought back memories not only of the trip I took when I was 5, but also of the years I had that particular teacher. He was my teacher for 3 years, but I knew him for 4.
Anyway, I wish to share with you a few excerpts of this “oh-so-amazing” essay. Please keep in mind that I wrote this when I was 13, and I’d only been technically learning English for 4 non-consecutive years. Coming from a third world country, the whole experience was mind blowing and different. This essay describes my earliest memories, starting at age 3. Strangely, I remember this time period of my life better than I remember things when I was older. , it’ll probably get really irritating how often I refer to the United States as “America,” but I hope that doesn’t get in the way of your entertainment. Here goes:
When I was three years old, about half a year after my mother’s passing, my dad left me with my grandmother. He needed to go to America and get me a green card and an American passport. I stayed with my grandmother for about eight months, but as a three year old, I couldn’t really tell time, so it wasn’t that long for me. My dad called every other day, and I still remember myself sitting near the main entrance of my grandmother’s place on a little chair, holding the phone to my ear, not really understanding why my dad had left. He told me how everything was going, whether or not the papers were going well (even though I didn’t really care or understand anything about them). There’s this little joke, though it’s more of a stereotype, that Iraqi’s, before they would hang up the phone, they would say goodbye at least 17 times. That’s another thing I remember very well of my dad always doing.
After the eight months, my dad finally came, and we went back home. As anyone who has been away from their family for a long time, you would usually feel like a stranger to your own family. They, my grandmother and dad, say that when my father first came to pick me up from my grandma’s, I was puzzled. He called almost everyday, and I remembered him while at the same time I didn’t.
Time came when we had to go. We went by car from Baghdad to Jordan and stayed at a hotel that probably still stands there today, called Samer. It’s an apartment hotel, meaning it had two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a little open space with a dining table. Sure the place was old and had dusty, almost-completely ripped up sofas, but I still loved it. It always had a cozy, home-y smell to it, and it would always be familiar-waking up to the same sound of the same TV news anchors babbling about, the smell and temperature of the fresh morning air coming through the open window. It’s sort of become some type of home to me, since we stayed there almost every time we went to Jordan.
We stayed in Jordan for a pretty long time. I had my fifth birthday there. It was a really small thing that included one of the guys who worked in the hotel, my dad, and a couple of kids I knew.
After my papers were finally done, we took KLM Airlines to America. I think the entire plane ride took about 22 hours. My legs were very exhausted after not walking for an entire day.
LAX Airport was a complete shock to me. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen. So clean and bright and full of people bustling about and talking and greeting other family members or friends. During our stay in Los Angeles we stayed at this house with my grandpa (who was already living there). I really liked the place. The neighborhood’s houses were lined up in a cul-de-sac-like manner around a pool right in the middle with a high black fence surrounding it. The gardens looked like rain forests to me. They were so full of so many different types of plants, short, long, wide leafed, thin leafed, pointy ends, wild-looking flowers in reds and oranges with bright yellow pollen stems. There was a big metallic box thing that had a bunch of little doors on it. The doors had locks and numbers. These were the mail boxes. The house was of good size. I can’t quite remember how many bedrooms or bathrooms it had, but I do remember that it had one of those staircases that twist around and are very steep. The house had wall-to-wall carpeting except for the kitchen and bathrooms. We had a basement in which there was a small, old TV on which we had a little game console. My dad and I played endless games of Super Mario on that TV almost everyday. Everyday I would wake up and unlock the main door. There would always be a bottle of milk and a newspaper right on the ‘welcome’ matt that I brought in. I would take the newspaper, sit on an armchair, open it up and look at the black-and-white pictures with an expression that made it seem I was actually reading it.
For some unknown reason, we took a road trip from California to Florida, going through the entire South coast. Along the way we stayed at numerous hotels and motels over night. The best part was the fact that I had one of those car TV set things, and I watched the same Barney episode over and over again. After five days and four nights or so, we finally got to Florida.
I can’t quite remember the entire thing, just a few parts. We stayed in a little apartment that seemed to be on a really high story. The place was like those perfect apartments you see on TV. We then moved to a different place that was bigger. The place had three bedrooms and I think two bathrooms. I almost never left my bedroom. Every morning I would wake up, go to the bathroom, go to the kitchen and get a bowl of cereal, then go back to my room, switch on the TV until lunchtime. When it was lunch time, I would quickly run to the kitchen, get some lunch, and quickly run back to my bedroom and go back to watching cartoons. Dinner time had the same routine. After dinner I would stay up so long watching TV that the television would usually turn off-because I would watch cartoons for practically more than 12 hours a day nonstop- and then I would have to go to my dad’s room, who was always fast asleep at the time, and watch cartoons in his room. The building had a pool outside, and there was the beach, so you always had a choice.
One of the things I remember most about Florida was the McDonald’s we would sometimes go to for breakfast. But something I remember even more than that was Target. The Target we went to was just huge. The whole thing was a building, of course, but the top was like a big circus tent. My favorite part was the very top floor. The food section. There were so many things up there, so many types of foods. The thing I liked so much about the food court was because there were always little samples of food. Like samples of Chinese food and Sushi and a whole lot of other foods. I remember get lost in Target once, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t this one behemoth of a building. I got lost in a much smaller Target, but I found my dad and grandpa in no time.
My first visit to Jordan and America was a great experience that I treasure and will always remember. It was an important phase in my life because it ended up as one of my best and favorite memory. It had many firsts; first sights, smells, senses, foods, experiences. And that’s another reasons that I find it very important. I’ve been to America twice so far, and I someday wish to live there for good, as it is a great country with many advantages and luxuries.
Writing down my memories has always been fun. No wonder they say “write what you know.”
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed all that 🙂