Hello, my dear friends! I am going to tell you about my life in United States of America. But first I shall remind you about myself. My name is Lyudmila. I am 29 years old. I was born in Karachay–Cherkess Republic which is in North Caucases. And one day my fortune gave me a big smile – I got a chance to visit a country of dreams. Of course I am talking about United States. Now it seems to me that it was a long time ago. I left school in 2003 and I entered the university two months later. It was Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University. When I was a student the Interexchange Work & Travel USA was a very popular program among my university fellows. Work & Travel USA is a program authorized by the U.S. Department of State. It was designed to promote cultural exchange and global awareness and it gives an opportunity for international students who want to live, work, and travel in the United States. It’s simply one of the best ways to experience life in America. When my friends told me about Work & Travel USA program I decided to use this chance. My parents did not want me to go abroad. But I managed to persuade them. My younger sister Fatima and me issued all necessary documents and on the 22nd of May in 2007 our plane left Moscow. By the way, it was the first time I boarded the plane. I felt calm. We arrived at the city of New York in eight hours. Our cousin’s friends met us at the airport. Their names were Rustam and Rasul. They became good friends of us in couple of months. They took us to Paterson. It is the largest city and the county seat of Passaic County. It is New Jersey's third-most-populous city. Paterson is known as the "Silk City" for its dominant role in silk production during the latter half of the 19th century. Also it has the second-largest Muslim population in the United States. It took us about an hour to get to Paterson from New York. We stayed at house which Rustam’s cousins rented. There were four girls :Polina, Leyla, Oksana and Aina. They met us very friendly. There were four bedrooms in the house. Girls gave us one of them. I noticed that the interior of American houses is quite different. The American home was big inside and out. All rooms were with closets. The bathroom was spacious and with soaking tub and walk-in shower. The house had massive two-story asymmetrical fa?ade, oversized windows and cathedral ceilings. We felt very comfortable there. The next day girls took us for a walk to Clifton Park. This is a very picturesque place. Our countrymen often used to organize picnics there. They say nothing has been changed nowadays. To tell the truth I did not even feel that I left my country because there were many people from my hometown. Most of them were students and they came to United States by student exchange program. But there were. Also I found out that our nation had its own organization. It is The American Karachai Benevolent Association (AKBA) was officially founded in October of 1989 to foster and preserve the culture of the North Caucasus. Its mission was to pass on Karachai culture and heritage to new generations through education, music, and dance. Since it’s onset, AKBA has been providing folk music and dance instruction to the youth of our community. Our kids have performed in states across the country, at the United Nations, and countless parades & events. I was pleasantly surprised by this fact. I decided to stay in Paterson, to find a job and at the same time I had an opportunity to take a part in cultural life of my own nation too. But my younger sister Fatima had an opposite opinion. She could not understand the reason we left our home if we felt we did not leave it. Both of us had job offers to Inglewood. Inglewood is a city in southwestern Los Angeles County, California, southwest of downtown Los Angeles. The percentage of African-American people was high for the county. We would be cashiers in supermarkets if we went there. Our new friends in Paterson did not recommend us to go to Inglewood because it was not a safe place for people with white skin, especially for girls. It is hard to find any features of democracy in racial matters in such cities. Anyway my sister refused to stay in New Jersey. I could not imagine what to do. I told Rustam about it. We all tried to persuade Fatima to stay in New Jersey. But there was no result. Rustam said he would not let us leave alone. In couple of days he called his good friend from California and asked her to meet us there. It was a good deal. But I wanted to stay in NJ very much. So we bought tickets to Los Angeles. According to the information we got we would get there in two days. But it took us four days to get to California! It was a modern and comfortable bus, but four days… Too long. Every the bus stop was near McDonald's restaurant and every time we ate there. We got very tired. You know, I have been to United States almost for two years but after that trip I did not want even to think to enter McDonald's. But there was very important and positive moment in it. I saw almost the whole America looking through the window of the bus. I remember we passed Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana and many other states. Alima met us in Los Angeles and we stayed at her house. I liked that girl, she was so friendly and smiled a lot. Very soon we became best friends. I love her as my sister. She lived alone in a nice house in the mountains. It was such a beautiful place. We lived in Sherman Oaks, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles.
It is not far from famous Universal Studios, Hollywood
So we came to tale and our expectations were very bright. I was happy. I felt I was in paradise. The next step was a job. And we start looking for it, but we could not find anything. Time was running. But there was no result. I think it was because of the language barrier. We knew the English language but first time it was difficult for us to practice it. In couple of weeks we started working as cashiers in supermarkets. The salary was not bad – 8 dollars per hour and, of course, we paid taxes. Later I found another job in jewelry company “Golden World”. I was manager’s personal assistant. The salary was better there-10 dollars per hour. Day by day we began to adapt to American life. I think now I simply must say a few words about Los Angeles itself. Los Angeles spans a widely diverse geographic area. Primarily a desert basin, the area is surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountain range and divided by the Santa Monica Mountains. Los Angeles County has 81 miles of coastline. There are such rivers as the Los Angeles, the Rio Hondo, the San Gabriel and the Ventura rivers. The climate of Los Angeles as the climate of Southern California has often been described as «perfect» and with good reason. Mostly it is sunny and warm with gentle ocean breezes in the summer. The humidity is low with little rain. In fact, there are no unpleasant seasons in Los Angeles. The name Los Angeles is Spanish for the Angels. It is the only city in the world to host the Summer Olympics twice. Downtown of Los Angeles is the largest government centre outside of Washington, D.C.Los Angeles has the only remaining wooden lighthouse in the world. It is located in Fermin Park in San Pedro. Los Angeles has the largest historical theatre district, located in Downtown on Broadway. The population of Los Angeles is about four million people. Los Angeles ranks as the second largest city in the nation behind New York City, In Los Angeles there are people from about 140 countries, speaking approximately 86 different languages and currently call Los Angeles home. I felt in love with this city. Alima, Fatima and me started to plan our weekends together.
On weekends we usually went sightseeing. First we visited Hollywood. The "heart" of Hollywood is at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Avenue. There you will find most of the most famous Hollywood tourist attractions such as hand/footprints in the cement courtyard of the Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, Madame Tussaud's and more. A short walk away are more of the familiar attractions, such as the Hollywood Wax Museum and Ripley's Believe it or Not. Then we went to Beverly Hills which is located in the western region of Los Angeles County. Beverly Hills is where you'll find perhaps one of most well-known streets in the world: Rodeo Drive - a haven for anyone who has a passion for fashion. As seen in Pretty Woman, these short three blocks are concentrated with an overwhelming array of designer labels, including the likes of Giorgio Armani, Bulgari, Cartier, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabanna, Escada, Gucci, Harry Winston, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, Yves Saint-Laurent and more. On our way to Beverly Hills we made a photo near Nicolas Cage's house.
Later we visited several museums: Los Angeles County Museum of Art - (LACMA) a collection of more than 100,000 works of art. The museum is a reflection of the many cultural communities and heritages in Southern California, Craft and Folk Art Museum - (CAFAM) hosts a changing display of vibrant exhibitions, family programs, film screening, artists talks, and is home to an award-winning museum shop. Dedicated to international folk art and contemporary craft; Museum of Tolerance - A high tech, hands-on experiential museum that focuses on two central themes through unique interactive exhibits: the dynamics of racism and prejudice in America and the history of the Holocaust - the ultimate example of man's inhumanity to man. Also we saw The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden (MEMBG)-a living museum, having special collections designed to assist the undergraduate teaching mission at UCLA and to augment the capability for research on campus. MEMBG serves as a long-term repository for unusual plants, a refugium for biodiversity. This facility offers its educational content to the campus community, residents of Los Angeles, and visitors from around the world to enhance learning about plants and promote greater appreciation for relevance of plants to society. The main reason I loved LA is ocean.
The ocean can be described in an endless number of ways. It's refreshing, beautiful and humbling. It's vast, mysterious and terrifying. It's magnificence has inspired countless novels, films, documentaries, songs, and articles. Just the smell, the salt air, the sight and sound of the waves crashing. The beautiful shapes and configurations that the water makes. It is never the same twice. The peace and serenity that comes upon you when you are by the sea. There's nothing like it. The Ocean is water. Most of this world is water. Most of our bodies are made of water. We need water to live. It looks like everything would revolve around water. But it's just many of those wonders. It's vast, and almost endless. Just looking out at the ocean makes you think. What's more amazing is beneath all that water there would be more land and many things uncovered. It's just majestic to think of what the ocean holds. To the smallest fish, to the biggest whales, and some things we've never even seen before. Maybe that's where we get the most feel of the world. Like I heard waves are the cause of the gravitational pull. It's just amazing to look at how the universe works that way to give what we have now. I love Ocean! We visited several great beaches in LA: Hermosa Beach, Cabrillo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Zuma Beach. Zuma Beach was my favorite one.
The beach is generally very clean, and the sand is nice and soft. The facilities are also very well maintained - there showers are clean and there's a food shack that seems to be open at random hours. Great place for swimming and surfing as well. it's a beautiful scenery because of the hills surrounding the beach. Even the air feels so fresh. The climate in Los Angeles is another reason to love it. It is typically classified as semiarid or Mediterranean. It results from a harmonious interplay of at least three natural conditions: the region’s latitude is far enough south to dissipate the most severe North Pacific winter storms, a cooling layer of marine air moderates the summer sun, and the tall mountain ranges shield the region from potentially intense blasts of desert heat and cold. However, the warm climate and the bowl-like alignment of the ranges also provide the ideal conditions for another well-known Los Angeles phenomenon: photochemical smog, which has remained a part of the landscape. American nature is amazing, unbelievably amazing.
Now we can pay attention to the “American smile”.
People from other countries criticize the “American smile.” They say that Americans are fake, because they often smile when they are not really happy. Americans pretend to be happy to see you, when they’re not. A customer service representative might greet you with a cheery, “Hi! How can I help you?” when she’s really a mean one. Some may say it’s not simply a choice between a frown or a smile. There’s a third way, the European way, which is a neutral face. This, Europeans claim, is the most sincere. “Why should the store representative smile at you when he doesn’t even know you? That’s insincere,” the Europeans argue. “It’s better to have a neutral face.” You can get smiles not only in the sphere of customer service. You may go to work, for a walk, anywhere, and unknown people often smile and say: “Hello, how are you today?. And it does not mean that they want to get something from you. They just want to smile and they need to get an answering smile. First it seemed to be fake for us too. But then we understood that the American smile isn’t as fake as it seems. Many Americans are genuinely happy. Americans are positive people who usually give strangers the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of cynical Americans, but when it comes to one-on-one interactions, Americans often assume that the other person is a good guy. That makes them sincerely smile. Generally speaking, Americans are amazingly friendly, hospitable and helpful people and their lifestyle is conveniently private. A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people) It is easy to find obese people in USA. Some people are so obese that they require a special electric scooter to carry them around. This sighting can be seen easily in supermarkets where obese people use scooters to shop more … food. And yes, typical food portion in America is humongous. I can easily share one meal with another guy and do not feel hungry for hours to come. Another interesting fact is the poor is more obese than the rich. Fruits and vegetables are way more expensive than meat and poultry. I saw loads of people running on the sidewalks. A lot of people I knew cycled or ran marathons for 50 miles plus. This was a stark contrast though, to the average person I saw who was usually overweight. Also, it is hard to believe, but severe poverty, homelessness, etc, no matter how limited, actually exist. Even in America. In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences. Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children. A name as common and as easy to pronounce as mine is almost invariably incomprehensible to most Americans. Credit rating is very important. That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18, that is strange. Dependence on GPS surprised me too. I knew people who went to office every day since the past 2 years and could not tell their way without a GPS. It was amazing! I made some friends there and they were so impressed that I could tell my way back to their home without help from a GPS. I want to add couple of words about American Police. Policemen do their job very responsibly. I was shocked when I saw on TV what they did with African-American teenagers. One day I was late night Subway, when a group of loud, drunk people entered, and we were scared. Immediately at the next stop, two officers entered, and stood at the doors until they were in the car. It was awesome! I felt pretty safe overall, which I didn’t even expect to. You see, my American life was interesting. I contacted to different people. I was pleasantly surprised to find out there was a big Russian community in LA. There are a lot of Russians in Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, etc. Russians have their own schools, kindergartens, newspapers, channels, and that fact is a great opportunity not to forget your native language, to be not only American, but a part of your culture too. I think it is very important.
Most of people I met there were nice, polite.
I got some new friends. But closed friendship is random there. Usually it is light relationship. Even if we talk about relatives. However, do not try to be too friendly or personal to them too soon. Americans value their privacy a lot. Do not just show up at someone’s house without first calling and making an appointment. Even if someone says “Come over at any time”, do not take literally. You still have to follow etiquette. Americans do not stay with relatives when visiting them. Many Americans would rather stay in a hotel, or at least the Americans we know. You see life in America differs from ours. People don’t walk places. They go everywhere by a car. There is almost no public transportation except in a few large cities. People actually have to have cars to get places. Cars are necessity, not luxury. Another thing I liked in USA is the idea of a liberal art education. In Russia, after high school graduation, a student should decide on vocation: engineer, doctor, teacher, lawyer, accountant, etc. It seems inconceivable to attend a university and then to graduate without a solid specialty. I often have to explain that not knowing what one wants to do after high school is an acceptable norm in US. A student can still acquire marketable skills, expand his or horizons, get a job after graduation, and, what is even more surprising, obtain an advance degree in a totally different field later. Yes, accountant can attend a med school and become a doctor and musician can go for a master degree in computer science. I f you are a foreign student you may go to free courses to improve your English. If you want to open your own business there it is easier then you think. Breaking into the US market can be a rewarding venture for many foreign businesses. Because US citizenship and residency are not required, foreign nationals are able to start or expand on US soil without experiencing much more red-tape than an American-born business owner would. This is a country of opportunities. Now I want to give advice those who want to visit America. If you have such an opportunity, of course it is worth going there. But you should think good before doing it. If you are a student and do not plan to stay there for a long time, you can go to spend summer in US. But be ready for important changes in your mind. First time there may be some difficulties. There were moments when we had not anything even to eat. It is a cultural shock, it is a different mentality. But later you will start liking America and will not have any desire to leave it. So think, think, think! Is it worth all this risk for leaving things you made all this years, all the friends you know, everything behind and start from the scratch...It is obvious there is no one-size-fit-all answer. It depends on your background and what you want from life. I just admire people that seek a change for the better, and immigration is one of the biggest changes a person can experience. I t is a great chance to practice and improve your English. When I was in America I had big plans like getting Green Card, professional degree in American university, finding a good job and many other things. But the big tragedy happened to my family. My uncle Ismail, my mother’s younger brother was killed in city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He was planning to come back home. They all were waiting for him. He came back, but he was dead. Everything has been changed from that moment. My mom cried every day and asked me and my sister to come back home. It was not easy to take a decision. But we thought that nothing in this world is worth our mother’s tears, even if it is American dream. As a result we left Los Angeles soon. I remember that day. It was on 19th of March in 2009. My dad met us at the airport and the next day we were at home. Our relatives and friends were sitting in one. But nobody was happy. My grandmother, my mother, my sisters and cousins were crying. I shall never forget this day. We supported our mom as much as we could, but it took her almost one year to come into normal condition. It was a big loss, especially for her. You know I had not understood it at once but later I realized that I had been changed. I needed American life, American people, American clothes, American food… Every night in my dreams I saw myself at the airport leaving to United States. Actually I still see the same dreams but it is not as often as it was before. I felt like something very important was broken inside me. First cultural shock was in USA, the second one was when we came back to Russia. Nowadays I think that it is good that I am in my own country because people I love are in Russia. Political relations between Russia and United States are not stable. And you never know if there be any limits of leaving one of these countries. When you are getting older you realize that there is nothing more important than family, the health of the people you love. You can buy everything else, you can change something, you can forget and forgive unimportant things. But I understood that first of all I need to know that my close people are alive and I can go to them at any necessary moment. Living in America gave me a useful experience. There were difficulties and happy events, nice and friendly people, amazing nature, modern technologies in everything. I will carefully keep all these impressions in my mind through my whole life. Anyway, a part of me stayed in United States! I hope my story was useful for readers. If you decide to go to America, I wish you all the best. I will attach several pictures from there. Enjoy them. Sincerely Yours Lyudmila.