From Luzviminda to Uncle Sam: Reflections on my US Trip (Part 1)
Lj T. Salceda
Spain is what’s on top of my travel destination list and not the USA. Just check my cork board for proof. (Please don’t hate me John. Love yah!) This doesn’t mean I don’t want to visit and explore the most powerful nation in the world. The home of Hollywood, NBA, my boyfriend and a number of my friends abroad. As a matter of fact it’s on my Top 4.
So when God opened the door, I reluctantly applied for the visa. Got approved. Found a budget-friendly ticket. Recorded my shows. And prepared for the journey.
When the day of my trip came I knew God was behind everything. He provided a vehicle so I wouldn’t have to pay for taxi going to the airport. (Thanks Doc Mavic and Kuya Vergel!) He made the night clear enough for us to have a safe flight. No cancellations or delays or re-directing of planes or excess baggage.
Once I was done with the pre-departure hoopla, I went straight to the holding area took some pics, used the free inter-net service and tried to concentrate (but I can't, it's way more fun to people watch) on the book I brought while I waited for our boarding time. “This is VACATION, not WORK,” I reminded myself time and time again. My friends’ voices still resonate in my head, “Enjoy every minute of it because time runs fast.”
Everything seemed so surreal. Just a few weeks ago I couldn’t calm my nerves at the US embassy for my visa interview and now I’m a few hours away from my destination- my boyfriend’s arms. (Cheesy!!!)
Btw, I have nothing but praise for the Philippine Airline Line crew of both planes I boarded. The service, the food, the movies and the whole 13 hour trip was as comfortable as it could get at the economy section and even if I was sleepless the entire flight. Oh and their hand soap smells divine too! :)
If only to see the sky at night and daybreak I would definitely fly everyday! The hues of colors, the different cloud formations and the emotions- it’s like a different world up there. How great is our Creator indeed! I am so blessed to have the window seat from departure and back.
Since this is my first overseas trip I didn’t really know much about international flight procedures. My seatmate, a lady in her late 50’s from Bohol was heaven-sent! She patiently taught me where to go, what to do and what to write on the form that they hand on the plane for the Immigration and Customs. Through her I learned that you can't bring fresh fruits (or any fresh food/plants/seeds/animals) in US territory unless you have the necessary documents. So I had to leave my baon of unpeeled orange at the plane. She also gave me half of her meal. She must have sensed I was starving since I couldn’t eat the past few days out of excitement and busyness. Unfortunately since she is a green-card holder we had to line-up in two different booths at the immigration area and go our separate ways. (Bless her Lord.)
To my delight I was called in to a booth with a very amiable Filipino immigration officer. After greeting him and handing him my documents, he instructed me to look at the camera for the photo verification and directed me with the finger-scanning machine. “You have a beautiful name,” he said while checking my passport/visa and gave me 6 months to stay in the US if I choose to. We were able to talk a few more minutes before he pointed me to the baggage claim area and wished me well in my stay. I thanked him and proceeded to the next section.
The baggage claiming area was confusing and chaotic, by this time other passengers from other planes have arrived and the lines went unexpectedly long. Once I got my two checked-in bags, I again lined-up for the final inspection. An airport staff checked my form and told me to proceed to letter A which I did and after going through another machine I was cleared to go out. On the way to the foyer, two more Filipino airport staff jokingly shouted at me in their heavily-accented Tagalog, “Hoy, anoh phasalubhong moh? Bheelis. Bheelis lakad mo.” (Hey, what did you bring from the Philippines? Hurry! Walk faster!) That made me smile while I dragged my borrowed luggage to the lounge.
The minute I stepped out, I searched the crowd for my boyfriend’s face. “Hmmm… Did he lose weight? Did he grow his hair? Did he change since we last saw each other?” I quietly pondered. I couldn’t find him. Just when I was contemplating on calling his phone, I saw a familiar head! I sneaked at his back and said, “Looking for your date?” He gave me a huge hug and a quick kiss. My muscleman hasn’t changed, still as handsome and as loving as I remembered him to be. We walked to the parking lot and gave each other another tight hug before driving out of the airport.
My first reaction when I saw the state of California from a distance was, “Are we really in the US or Mars?” Lol! Once we crossed the dateline, the scene shifted from clouds to rocky mountain highs. Yes, just like that John Denver song. Southern California's topography is mountainous, desert-like and big rocks are everywhere. Don’t let first impressions fool you though. America has its own beauty just like any other country. Once you get out of the airport the scene becomes more and more like Manila, only better. It is populated (not as crowded as Manila though). They also have traffic jams (but not as bad as Manila). They too have smog (not as fatal as Manila). It was almost summer time in California when I arrived but the wind was still chilly, 18 degrees Celcius announced the pilot earlier.
While driving through downtown LA my boyfriend, turned tour guide showed me some of the famous buildings in the area like the Nokia Theater (where they hold American Idol finals), Staples Center (basketball games) and other landmarks. When he asked where I wanted to eat, I have a ready answer- IN and OUT BURGER! So we headed to our first official date in the USA.