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By gwblogabroad

Nineteen years old… I thought reaching that age would make me an adult. That’s exactly how I started my first article four months ago. It was my first day in DC. I wanted to tell the whole world that I was alone. I wanted to let everybody know that I was scared. I wanted to scream and make people realize that I was terrified of being completely on my own. Instead, I spent the night crying. Instead, I drew a huge smile on my face when “Skyping” with my parents and pretended I was the most excited person on Earth. Instead, I decided to keep my fears for myself and promised myself I would try to stay mentally sane until I can finally go back home. I didn’t want to think that things could get better. I didn’t want to believe that this experience could actually turn out to be the best adventure I’ve lived in my entire life.

I perfectly remember that first day in this exact same room where I am writing this right now. But nothing except for the location is the same today. I was in a dark, empty room whose smell reminded me of a hospital. Almost too clean I would say… Today, I am sitting in this room and I can’t help but feel a twinge when I think about how I am leaving this place in two weeks. I am never going to see this homely, cozy and joyful room again. This room was my home for a whole semester, and now I have to say my goodbyes as I am leaving it forever.

I also have to say goodbye to my friends. I realize that I may very likely never see them again. Now I know that there are planes and that technology can help us stay in touch, but I am a very practical and realistic person. Flying to the US or Asia is not something I can do on a monthly basis and with a seven hour time difference between Morocco and the closest of my friends to Africa, I am not sure that finding a suitable time to chat every day is going to be a piece of cake. This is the hardest part, the part where I realize that I am going to have to say goodbye.

Maybe that somehow, if I was so scared on that first day, it was because I was afraid that if I fully enjoyed my time here, that would mean that I didn’t need my family and friends as much as before, or that I don’t actually miss them. Maybe I was scared I wouldn’t find anybody to have such an incredible experience with. Or maybe I was just afraid of actually meeting people, giving them a place in my heart, having the most amazing adventure anybody can wish for and realizing that I am going to have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. They shouldn’t exist. People should be together if they want to be together, and I want to stay with my friends. But I want to stay with my family as well. So, unless we all move in with our different families in one specific country in order to live happily ever after, goodbyes are an inevitable necessity.

I started this semester crying, and I am ending it crying again. But these are not tears of fear. These are a beautiful mix of joy, pride and nostalgia. I met so many different people. Some were incredible, others hurt me. But no matter who these people were or how they interacted with me, they all made me a better person. And for that, I truly am grateful. I accomplished a dream that I had. I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, by myself, on my own. Then I have been to the most beautiful and incredible places in the United States, with my friends. I slept in horrible seven dollars a night hotels and I saw Disney World. For God’s sake I saw New York City! I did it. I did all of it and I am proud of what this experience brought to my life and made me realize about myself.  My name is Salma, I am nineteen years old and I am finally ready to become an adult.

Now I am scared of coming back, re-adapting to my old life with my new self. But I won’t let my fears get a hold of me anymore. I can’t allow myself to risk missing out on something great just because it also might be hard. My heart oddly hurts when I think about how I might not see my friends again. Tears unintentionally fill my eyes when I think about their smiles and the magical time we spent together. But I am happy. I am grateful I got to live those moments with those people and I will always think of my time here as being… magical. Just like Alice went to wonderland, I went to the US and there was just as much magic in both those stories. So, goodbye, my friends, goodbye… Who knows, I might see you again someday, somewhere, somehow…

By gwblogabroad

I’ve hesitated for a long time before finally deciding to write about what I wrote today. I guess the reason behind why it took me so long to finally talk about it is that I never thought I would ever be in this position. I grew up in a country governed by tolerance. Of course, I cannot talk on behalf of every Moroccan citizen, but in general, discrimination (except against women, and that I think is unfortunately a world problem) has never been an obstacle that anybody had to face. We are an African country where Black and White people live together, where Berbers and Arabs work together, where Muslims and Jews eat together. Millions of tourists every year come to Morocco. We welcome them in our country, sometimes in our homes… We smile at them. We cook for them and we learn from them, just as much as they learn from us. We are used to having this diversity and grew up right in the middle of it. Actually, I am proud to say that diversity is what makes Morocco what it is today, what defines it.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make Morocco sound like heaven on earth. We for sure have dozens of problems, if not hundreds of them. Some can easily be fixed. Others may never get fixed. However, not once have I heard somebody be a victim of racism in Morocco.

“Why would they let a terrorist come back here?” That is the sentence that a sixty year old woman said to what appeared to be her daughter, as she was looking at me, while we were all visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York. I could see horror in her eyes. Even worse, I could see fear in her daughter’s facial expression. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream as I could feel this unusual pain in my chest. I was the one horrified. I was the one terrified. How could somebody ever think of me as being a terrorist? How could anybody look at me, look at the joyful nineteen year-old that I am and feel this need inside their heart of being scared? Do I look like a terrorist? Do I really look like someone who is at all harmful? And then it all started hitting me. The times when people would squeeze as far as they could away from me in the elevators, the times when they would either hasten their steps or slacken them as much as possible in order to get as far away as humanly possible from me and as quickly as their feet allowed them to. I thought it was all in my head. I thought it was nothing worth mentioning or even thinking about. But right there, in the middle of the 9/11 memorial, right between the two huge pools that were constructed there, it was all clear. Suddenly, everything became crystal clear.

I never thought I would ever have to feel like this. I honestly thought racism is a problem of the past millennium. I would hear about it on TV or read about it in the newspapers and think: “Thank God this is over now”. Well, let me tell you it is not! I was living in a bubble, a bubble that burst right in the middle of my face. It hurts, you know. It really deeply hurts. I bet I wouldn’t even have had this problem if I was not covering my hair or even better, if I was a man. In both of these cases, nobody would even think of being racist towards me because I am just another white girl who walks the streets of the United States of America. But no! Things cannot be that easy. Hijab cannot simply be a sign that a woman really believes in her God. It must mean that she wants to blow up the entire planet! People, please wake up. Open your eyes! Just because I wear the veil does not mean I am a terrorist. Just because my friend has a beard does not mean he is an extremist. Just because we are Muslims and proud of showing it to the world does not mean we should be feared.

I am nineteen years old. I am a student from Morocco who is currently on my study abroad semester in George Washington University. I am young and ambitious. I love life and enjoy every single bit of it. There is nothing better than this feeling of “being alive” when doing things we love. In my case, I feel “complete” when I am singing or writing. These two hobbies are my soul mates. I am not different. I am not any more different than any of you guys. We all have different religions. This doesn’t make us different. It just makes us normal human beings with different beliefs. Do not hurt your brother: this is what every single religion in the world believes in. This is even what atheists believe in. So please, don’t hurt me with your words. Don’t hurt me with your actions. Don’t hurt Muslims. Don’t hurt Arabs. Don’t hurt Black people and don’t hurt and don’t hurt and don’t hurt… After all, we are all the same: we are all human beings…

By gwblogabroad

Being able to put my emotions into clear explicit words sometimes is a real challenge. Actually, it is a constant battle that I know I have to fight if I want people to somehow understand what is happening in my head or heart. But sometimes, I have this terrible impression that words are not enough. You would think that by knowing three different languages, one of them would have that one special word that can describe what is felt or thought. However, there is only one question that, no matter how many times I’ve been asked, I just can’t figure out a simple answer to: What is Morocco like?

This question is just a nightmare for me. I am always scared my answer would be “too much” or “not enough”. I am terrified at the idea of failing to fairly represent my country in the United States of America. It only takes one person to start making a change. One person and the whole world might become something completely different. So what if I make a mistake and end up destroying my country’s reputation? I would like people then to judge me instead of my country as a whole. But then again, what if I do something really good? Don’t I want people to think that all Moroccans are just as good as I am?

I’ve always been one of the first ones to be against stereotypes and generalizations. But after careful thinking, I realize that stereotypes have to be based on something. Someone, someday, somewhere must have done something that made the rest of the world think what they are thinking. As the French saying goes, “Il n’y a jamais de fumée sans feu”, which basically means there is no smoke without fire. Stereotypes can easily be made by generalizing one person’s behavior. And even if they are hard to get rid of, it is indeed worth trying. It only takes one person to make a change, remember?

So, what is Morocco like? Morocco is a beautiful country. It is one of these places where you can experience meeting different people from various cultures but with the same nationality (obviously the Moroccan one). We love our king and Islam is our religion. We do have cars and do NOT ride camels to go to school. The weather is perfect; not too cold during winter and not too hot during summer (but the sun is usually shining, during the four seasons). But I guess Morocco can be best described by its people. Actually, there is this one specificity of Moroccan’s nature that I never managed to find in any other country I have been to (and I did go to a lot of places): hospitality. People there are welcoming and generous. Everybody is ready to help and with a warm smile as the icing on the cake. Moroccans are tolerant and racism is honestly something that I have never heard of in my country. Yet, Morocco is still a bit behind, generally speaking. However, change is happening. May be not as fast as we would want to but that’s our generation’s role to speak up and speed up the process. As you might have guessed by now, I am completely, passionately and irrevocably in love with my country.

I am sure that by now you have an idea about what Morocco is like. However, I feel like I haven’t told you half of what I wanted to tell you. The words I used were too weak to make you really grasp the beauty of Morocco. But those words are the best I could come up with. It is ironic how I’ve always wanted to become a writer but can’t manage to accurately express what I feel towards my country.  I would love to think that it is not due to my lack of English vocabulary, even though I am sure it is partly due to that. I prefer thinking that I can’t answer that question because the love I feel for my country is simply too strong to be put into words. I believe that the power of words is infinite. Well, in this case, the love I have for Morocco is just as immeasurable. So please, come to Morocco. Visit it. Visit the only place in the world that makes me speechless. Maybe you would be able to put what I feel into words. Or, maybe you would be just as speechless as I am before the beauty of Morocco…

By gwblogabroad

I could talk about how spending more than 16 hours in a bus in less than 72 hours is both exhausting and painful. I could talk about how we spent the night in a hostel where there were no toilets and probably mice living in the heater. I could talk about how spending a whole afternoon shopping in New York made me become happy (and broke!) and I could talk about how I’ve been for the first time to Wal-Mart this weekend. However, today, I want to make you travel with me. I want you to imagine what I saw and try to feel what I felt. Today, I am taking you somewhere far away from troubles and stress. So, let the journey begin…

One second… It only took me one second to look up and stare at the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen in my life. The word breathtaking here was not used as a simple metaphor. I literally stopped breathing for about 3 seconds, completely subjugated by the beauty of what I was facing. The staring part though lasted for hours, long hours that seemed to be unnoticeable short minutes. What I felt at that moment, the transition between looking at my feet and lifting up my head to face the landscape, it is something that can hardly be put into words. You might be wondering by now what is this thing that had such an intense effect on me. Well, how about letting you seeing it with your own eyes as:

For those of you who haven’t guessed it yet, the beautiful landscape you just saw represents the legendary Niagara Falls. There is only so much you can tell about how gorgeous they are. To be completely fair, even though the picture gives you an idea about the beauty of the place, it is absolutely nothing compared to actually standing there, right in front of them. The sound of the water falling off from up high, bursting as it hits the rocks, fiercely making its way into the flow of the river, smoothly mixing with the river and running to discover the rest of the world…I just closed my eyes and let myself be mesmerized by the grace of what I was hearing. For a second there, I couldn’t hear my friends laughing anymore. I couldn’t hear the tour guide making bad jokes about how we should carefully choose the right fall if we wanted to commit suicide. I couldn’t even hear people’s footsteps around me. Somehow (I wish I knew how so that I could do it again), I simply tuned everything out and just enjoyed the wind gently caressing my face while hearing nature’s best symphony and feeling the intensity of my heart beat. Suddenly, just like someone would wake you up from a magical dream, I opened up my eyes. You might think I would be scared after waking up from such an intense dream. Well, the view was just as mesmerizing as the sound of the water.

I took a deep breath. Then I realized: “I’m alive”. Being there, standing where I was… this is what life is all about. I was facing the immensity of the universe and you might think I was scared. But I just felt alive. I could feel life running through my veins. I wanted to scream. I wanted to let the whole world know that I was there, that I was alive. By going to the Niagara Falls, I realized my father’s dream; a dream I know he might never be able to make come true. By going there, I made my mother’s dream come true: seeing her little girl getting closer and closer every day to fulfilling her dreams. By going there, I realized how lucky I am to be who I am and where I am today.

We spent two days there. You never get tired of the landscape, and the night view is just as impressive. The only difference is that the sun gets replaced by beautiful multicolor projectors which make the falls look like huge pots of natural paint falling off a mountain. I also had the opportunity to look closely at a whirlpool (doesn’t really look like a toilet flushing but still quite spectacular). I also got to stand halfway down the falls which basically means that the water was hitting rocks and jumping on top of my head.  But then, I got to see another phenomenon that is quite stunning itself. With the water all around and the sun brightly shining on top of our heads, a proud rainbow made its appearance right in the middle of the falls. It was neither in the sky nor on the rocks. It felt like it was suspended in a vacuum, almost lost, but desperate to reveal its magical beauty to the whole world.

By gwblogabroad

Next day, back to Universal!  The sun was shining and a beautiful day full of screaming was ahead of us (no matter how old you are, a roller coaster always forces you to scream).  But first things first! A picture in front of the legendary globe was the only thing each one of us was thinking about. I don’t know how I could explain what I felt nor even why I did feel what I felt when standing next to that globe and staring at it, but it was an odd fulfilling feeling of joy and accomplishment. I had finally made it there and even though I wish I could have shared those precious moments with my friends and family from Morocco, I am still glad to know that my dreams are slowly coming true one by one.

We could hear people screaming from miles away (I exaggerate but you get my point). The screams were getting louder and louder as we were fearfully approaching the huge red structure of the scariest roller coaster in Universal Studios. I do have a video of me while riding it but I am pretty sure revealing it will destroy any ounce of social life that I may have. Even though you know people can’t possibly die on a roller coaster, you’re never quite sure. You may be the first one!

The rest of the day was full of chilling! Spending a few minutes with legendary characters such as Homer Simpson was also an enjoyable experience. As for watching people eat worms (yes! That was an attraction there), I think it was more fun for us then for those who actually had to eat them. But anyway, we headed back to the hotel after the closing of the park, impatiently waiting for the next. We reserved our last day visiting theme parks for the legendary Magic Kingdom of Disney World.

I may sound like an eight year old right now, but I got to see Cinderella, the Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and each and every character that I spent my childhood dreaming of resembling. The Castle was absolutely fantastic and seeing it light up during the night with the fireworks right behind it is exactly my definition of “magical”. So, I came back to sleep that day and in my head, hundreds of new memories were created that I could not wait to share with all the people that are important to me back home.

Our last day in Orlando was devoted to every girl’s favorite sport: Shopping (Guys, don’t you dare say shopping is not a sport). One of the biggest premium outlets in the United States of America was less than a mile away from our hotel and there was no way we would have left without paying it a long visit. Of course, we were all broke at the end of the day but the bright side was that we all had huge smiles drawn on our faces (even the boys!), proud of every single thing that we bought during that day. Unfortunately, as we came back to the hotel completely exhausted, I felt sad when I realized that this was actually our last night in Florida. The next day, the vacation would be over and we would have to come back to DC and study.

So, we did come back to DC. And we really are studying (or at least trying to). But to be completely honest, my head is not in DC right now. Next week, we are going to see the Niagara Falls. There is where my thoughts are. And after I come back from Buffalo, my head and thoughts will be all over the west coast. We are going to the west coast at the end of the semester and after I come back from that final trip, I will physically and mentally be with the people I love the most in the whole world. I will finally come back to my dear country: Morocco.

By gwblogabroad

After a long, five hour, bus ride, we finally arrived to the destination we were all looking forward to for more than two months now: Orlando. We have never been more excited than at the moment we arrived in the city, or at least not since we came back from our trip to New York. However, we were all exhausted and the gloomy and rainy weather was not helping our situation. So, we hopped into the taxi, hoping we would soon get to our 7 dollars a night hotel.

You have to know that when you decide to book a room (for 5 people), in a hotel, that costs $7 a night, you don’t really know what to expect quality speaking. We knew we would have enough space for all of us to sleep and a bathroom, but that was it. So, when the taxi driver took us to a hotel where huge statues were at the top and where there was supposed to be an immense swimming pool, we kind of realized that this was too good to be true, way too good to be true. Now, the problem was that not only did we end up at the wrong hotel, but the taxi driver didn’t even know where our hotel was, even if we kept yelling at her the address. Therefore, when we finally made it to the right place (and yes, that hotel did not have any kind of statues), the meter was showing $110. There was no way on earth we would pay $110, even if we could afford it. We ended up paying $25 which we realized afterwards was a pretty good deal considering the tremendous amount of time we wasted sitting in that car.

After settling down at the hotel, we realized that a nice diner was less than 5 minutes away from the hotel. We had never experienced so far how it felt like to eat in a typical American diner and I have to admit that it is one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in the US. Not only was it cheap, but the food was exquisite and it was also very cozy with a homely atmosphere all around. All that remained to be done was going back to the hotel and relax. So we did. We came back to the hotel where we spent a peaceful and restful night without realizing what an exciting journey was waiting for us the next day.

Saying it was “just” a roller-coaster about the “Hulk” is a terrible underestimation. “Islands of Adventure” was the first theme park we decided to go to. We could see the famous Universal Studios’ globe from far away, but taking picture beside it was not part of Monday’s plans. We spent the whole day visiting Harry Potter’s castle, facing our fears by getting into different roller coasters and getting completely wet after being in an aquatic roller coaster. It was an exciting experience. During that day, it was not about magic like it was about to be in Disney, it was more about just letting go and having as much fun as we were having every day when we were little kids.

The following day, we woke up at 6:30 AM in order to be able to get on the shuttle that would directly take us to Epcot, one of Disney World’s theme parks. That day was what could call “relaxing”. No roller coasters and no crazy scary rides, all we did during the whole day was take pictures with Disney characters and attend to movies and shows. We got a chance to visit a few countries and imagine my surprise when I discovered that Morocco was represented in Disney World. I could not believe that people from all around the world are able to get a glimpse of my country just by coming to Disney. Unfortunately, when we went there, I realized that they were selling to people lies. The restaurants were selling people Syrian and Lebanese food while the shops were selling Egyptian clothes. Nothing about that place was Moroccan, except for the people working there which were actually imported from Morocco. It was a huge disappointment for me as I realized that it was all about marketing. However, I wasn’t about to let that destroy the rest of my day, let      alone the rest of my trip. At that moment, I didn’t quite grasp the fact that was living one of the best experiences of my entire life and I hate myself now for letting such things ruin my day.  Fortunately, I realized how lucky I was for being where I was and doing what I did at the end of the day, while watching what I thought were the most splendid fireworks I’ve ever seen. But at that moment, I still didn’t know what I was going to live during the rest of my trip…

By gwblogabroad

83 °F… Eighty three degrees Fahrenheit! At 1PM, right before the plane took off from Washington DC, I was freezing. Less than two hours later, it was 83°F! The sun was out and there was air conditioner everywhere which meant being inside of a store was actually cooler than outside. We could wear T-shirts and South beach was 2 minutes away from our hostel. Two minutes! I know that every American right now is making fun of how ridiculous I sound. I mean: Did this girl ever saw the beach before? Well yes, I did! However, it was not in the middle of a freezing exchange semester in Washington DC, 4000 miles away from home, right after leaving a midterm. Spring break was an intense experience. But let’s talk about Miami first and this time, don’t tell me it is not intense for Americans as well.

The sea is green. Saying that the sea is blue would be an insult to South Beach. I have been to a lot of different beaches in the world but not once have I seen such a clear water. The view was simply magical. However, I have to admit that I did not enjoy the experience quiet as much as the rest of my friends did. While all of them just enjoyed sun tanning at the beach, I let my eyes wonder around. People were getting drunk everywhere and at hours as early as 10AM. Every single group of friends had a radio that played a different kind of music and it was like all the girls were competing for the title of “miss most naked girl in South Beach”. I try as much as I can to not judge the culture of the United States based on my very conservative Moroccan culture. But I have to admit that in that case, the people partying in Miami took carelessness and degradation to a whole new level.

I like to think that Miami is a place where people go to just let go of their daily routine and stress and just party without thinking of the consequences, and that is fine. However, this is not the kind of lifestyle that someone can have on a daily basis. The restaurants there compete over customers by hiring the “hottest” waitresses and every single one of the nightclubs there has perfectly well-shaped girls who dance on the bar during the whole night. I can see why customers would enjoy such a “nice view” but I do have a hard time understanding why would people decide to live such a lifestyle where there is no stability and just carelessness every day, every time, everywhere...

Anyway, enough rambling about the cultural differences. The most important thing about this trip to Miami is that it made me discover a whole other side of the United States of America. A side where people are not always in a rush to get somewhere, a side where the metro doesn’t exist, a side where the only thing that matters is to enjoy the present without worrying for a single second about its consequences on the future. All of these people that I saw there seemed happy, truly happy to share unique moments with their friends. And after all, isn’t that what matters the most?

Last but not least: the food in Miami was exquisite. For sure, it was expensive but there is no way we could have gone all the way to Miami and not have seafood for at least one meal. And breakfast…Belgian waffles with whipped cream, maple syrup and strawberries. Simply delicious! In case you didn’t already notice, you need to know that food is my indulgence, a guilty pleasure that I enjoy so much I tend to forget about the guilt part. But now the question is: am I willing to go back to Miami just because of the great food? After a long and thoughtful consideration, I honestly believe that South Beach is not a place for me. On the other hand, I would go back to Orlando in a heartbeat. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I will tell you know everything about my adventures in Orlando in my next post. Meanwhile, all I can tell you is that it is really a place where age doesn’t matter anymore. Everyone just becomes a child again…

By gwblogabroad

83 °F… Eighty three degrees Fahrenheit! At 1PM, right before the plane took off from Washington DC, I was freezing. Less than two hours later, it was 83°F! The sun was out and there was air conditioner everywhere which meant being inside of a store was actually cooler than outside. We could wear T-shirts and South beach was 2 minutes away from our hostel. Two minutes! I know that every American right now is making fun of how ridiculous I sound. I mean: Did this girl ever see the beach before? Well yes, I did! However, it was not in the middle of a freezing exchange semester in Washington DC, 4000 miles away from home, right after leaving a midterm. Spring break was an intense experience. But let’s talk about Miami first and this time, don’t tell me it is not intense for Americans as well.

The sea is green. Saying that the sea is blue would be an insult to South Beach. I have been to a lot of different beaches in the world but not once have I seen such a clear water. The view was simply magical. However, I have to admit that I did not enjoy the experience quite as much as the rest of my friends did. While all of them just enjoyed sun tanning at the beach, I let my eyes wonder around. People were getting drunk everywhere and at hours as early as 10AM. Every single group of friends had a radio that played a different kind of music and it was like all the girls were competing for the title of “miss most naked girl in South Beach”. I try as much as I can to not judge the culture of the United States based on my very conservative Moroccan culture. But I have to admit that in that case, the people partying in Miami took carelessness and degradation to a whole new level.

I like to think that Miami is a place where people go to just let go of their daily routine and stress and just party without thinking of the consequences, and that is fine. However, this is not the kind of lifestyle that someone can have on a daily basis. The restaurants there compete over customers by hiring the “hottest” waitresses and every single one of the nightclubs there has perfectly well-shaped girls who dance on the bar during the whole night. I can see why customers would enjoy such a “nice view” but I do have a hard time understanding why would people decide to live such a lifestyle where there is no stability and just carelessness every day, every time, everywhere...
Anyway, enough rambling about the cultural differences. The most important thing about this trip to Miami is that it made me discover a whole other side of the United States of America. A side where people are not always in a rush to get somewhere, a side where the metro doesn’t exist, a side where the only thing that matters is to enjoy the present without worrying for a single second about its consequences on the future. All of these people that I saw there seemed happy, truly happy to share unique moments with their friends. And after all, isn’t that what matters the most?

Last but not least: the food in Miami was exquisite. For sure, it was expensive but there is no way we could have gone all the way to Miami and not have seafood for at least one meal. And breakfast…Belgian waffles with whipped cream, maple syrup and strawberries. Simply delicious! In case you didn’t already notice, you need to know that food is my indulgence, a guilty pleasure that I enjoy so much I tend to forget about the guilt part. But now the question is: am I willing to go back to Miami just because of the great food? After a long and thoughtful consideration, I honestly believe that South Beach is not a place for me. On the other hand, I would go back to Orlando in a heartbeat. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I will tell you know everything about my adventures in Orlando in my next post. Meanwhile, all I can tell you is that it is really a place where age doesn’t matter anymore. Everyone just becomes a child again…

By gwblogabroad

The statue of Liberty… I couldn’t believe my eyes when I could barely see it standing on that island, far away from where I was.  I couldn’t believe it either when I was standing at the bottom of it, a few meters away from it. There it was, proudly and majestically standing in front of me, representing such a long and deep-rooted history. However, all I could think about was: this is it. This is the place that I’ve been dreaming of seeing since I came to the US. This is the statue that I’ve seen in hundreds of movies and read about in most of my history classes. I was in front of the “symbol” of the United States of America.

Soon enough, I discovered that there was more to see in New York… way more! The museums were absolutely amazing and impossible to see in just one day. It took us three days to see all of them and we still feel as if we rushed through them. The only museum that we didn’t get a chance to see was the natural history one. But why bother? There is an even better one right here in DC! However, I have to admit that the best that I got a chance to see in New York is the Empire State Building.

One of my friends and I were running late. We were supposed to meet at the entrance at 8PM as we wanted to see New York “by night” and fully enjoy the lights illuminating the whole city. However, at exactly 8:05PM, we got out of the metro station and wondered who to ask in order to get there. As I looked up at the sky, I realized that no asking was necessary. The Empire State Building, with its hundred and something floors, looked like it was staring at the city. We could see the white, red and blue colors at the top of it. We could see those colors knowing that that was the exact spot where we would all be standing in a few minutes. We literally run towards the building, as the excitation and apprehension both were filling every part of our body.

Nothing could possibly describe how I felt as I got out of the elevator and faced the immensity of the world ahead of me. I didn’t care anymore about who was with me or whether it was cold outside or not (and believe me, it was freezing). I opened that last door that was separating me from the terrace and stood there for about fifteen minutes, staring at the exact same thing, without moving, almost without breathing. The expression “take my breath away” fully applied in that situation. That view was breath taking! And as I started slowly moving around the terrace, I realized that each side of the building enabled me to look at a different world. There, I could see the river. Here I can see the huge buildings. And there I could see the Brooklyn Bridge. We spent more than two hours there. One might ask what we could possibly do for two entire hours at the top of a building. Well, go to the top of the empire state building and you’ll realize that you can never get tired of that view. It is simply magical.

As I got back inside of the building, I could notice people kissing everywhere. And for one moment, one tiny little moment, it made me sad. As much as I enjoyed going there with my friends from all over the world, I realized that nothing can replace going there with “the one”. But I couldn’t think about that right now. I still had a whole day to spend in New York. I had to keep smiling. However, as soon as I got in the bus that was taking us back to DC, I let my thoughts and emotions run free. So, I sat there, for four hours, thinking about this visit to New York was incomplete. I looked at my friends, happily sleeping, and I envied them for not feeling what I felt. Therefore, I promised myself one thing: one day, I will come back. One day, I will go back to the top of the Empire State Building and as I will look at the beauty of the world ahead of me, I will turn to my right and kiss the man that I love. It's only at that precise moment that I will finally feel like my visit in New York is complete.

By gwblogabroad

In New York,

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,

 There's nothing you can't do,

Now you're in New York,

These streets will make you feel brand new,

The lights will inspire you,

Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

I know you are singing right now. I mean, how can you not! I’ve been singing this song over and over again in my head for five hours…The five hours that took me away from Washington, DC and closer and closer to New York. Five hours, sitting on a bus, trying to fall asleep when all I could think about was New York, New York, New York…

Oh shoot, Oh my God, OH MY GOD! These are the exact words that I used when I set foot outside of the bus and looked up to face a huge building that had at least 50 floors. Of course, most of my friends made fun of me as, apparently, in Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, buildings that are that tall are not uncommon. Well, excuse the humble Moroccan girl who’s never faced a building that was taller than 10 floors (except for the Twin Center that is quite near to where I live in Casablanca but still, it’s “only” 28 floors)! It was 5 AM when we got out of the bus. Yet, any of us could have sworn it was 7 or 8PM. People were everywhere, cars where everywhere…New York really is the city that never sleeps.

We walked for about one hour, heading towards the famous Times Square. One hour of pure amazement and admiration. I didn’t believe people when they told me that walking around New York’s streets is an attraction itself. But when I saw those lights, those buildings, the sun slowly rising up behind the skyscrapers…I can assure you that I forgot all about the fact that I was tired or that I didn’t sleep. I wanted to keep wandering around for the rest of the trip. I wanted to stay in New York for the rest of my stay in the US. Just one hour was enough to make me realize that I didn’t want to set foot again in DC. This is the United States of America that I’ve seen in movies, in TV shows or even just in pictures. This is the reason why I decided to come to the US at the first place.

Then Times Square… just a bunch of billboards and huge buildings and lights everywhere, but it’s Times Square! The place where the famous New Year’s Eve ball falls down. The place where you can feel that you are freer that ever. I wanted to stay there until the sun would fully shine on the city but we had to go to the apartment that we rented in order to check in and put there all of the heavy stuff that we were carrying with us. One surprise after the other, we realized that in order to get to the apartment (which was in Harlem by the way), we had to cross Central Park. Oh my God Central Park! I was actually inside Central Park! I really don’t know how to describe what I was feeling at that precise moment but all I can say is that watching the sun rise in Central Park in definitely a better deal than doing it in Times Square. Simply breathtaking! However, since we were in a rush, we finally decided to take the subway. I think that this is the worst experience that I’ve had in New York. I carry some bitter memories with New York’s public transportation system but I really don’t mind considering all the fun that I had in that magical place. I might say that the only good thing about the subway there is that it is extremely cheap compared to DC. Actually everything is cheaper in New York compared to DC (another reason why I didn’t want to come back, besides how boring DC is). Anyway, right after we settled down and put our stuff in the apartment, we headed directly to the number one thing that each one of us came to New York to see: the Statue of Liberty…

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