Living in the U.S. was something I dreamed of ever since I was 14 and never thought would happen. Against all odds, I'm here, on the other side of the Earth and 50 years into the future from where I lived before. I left Baku late night on Tuesday. Surrounded by the closest friends and my mom, I came to the airport to join 12 other excited and frightened Edmund S. Muskie fellows from Azerbaijan. After months of preparations and hundreds of ways we pictured this moment, that was it. It was time to say goodbye to everything and everyone we knew. So we did. I crossed the border and called my dad, who decided not to take me to the airport. We both decided. I knew it would be a special conversation, the kind we don't usually have. After all, we're too alike to show emotions. This time, we made an exception: he told me he believed in me, I told him I loved him. I hung up and allowed myself to cry just a little bit. Then a little more on the plane.
Setting my foot in Washington, DC's Dulles Airport, I looked around to find America be the same as I left it 7 months ago - a different world I already knew so much about. However, this time something was different and I knew exactly what it was. This time I was coming home, even if only for two years.
Washington greeted us with rain and surprised with its European aura. Whether it was the architecture, lack of sky-scrappers or just the way people looked that gave it such a non-American look, was uncertain. The only thing definite to us from first minutes was its own special spirit, which we were very eager to feel.
We joined the rest of the group - 120 other Muskie fellows from all around the post-Soviet area for a 4-day-long orientation conference prior to our departures to the cities of stay. As interesting and informative the conference part was, the anticipation of going out to the city of American history clouded everything else, at least for me. As soon as the official part was over, we were gone.
Walking around the city in smaller groups, almost all of us looked like a 9-year-old in Disney World - agape and curious about every little thing. Of course, the first thing to do was seeing the memorials - glorious Lincoln, inspiring Franklin Delano Roosevelt, historical Washington, Korean war, Vietnam war, Air and Space Museum, Capitol, White House, quotes to remember, phrases to facebook (yes, I'm using it as a verb), hundreds of pictures and miles of walking made us barely alive but absolutely happy by the end of both sightseeing days.
Then came what we called "a celebration of achievements", or, in other words, we went out to drink and observe. The best description of every city is its people: they way they're dressed, the pace they walk with or even the food they eat. Washington fashion is as descriptive as possible: young people in suits with heavy backpacks atilt and obvious great political ambitions all looked the same - worried and in a hurry; young girls had one thing in common - work heels in their hands and comfortable flats on their tired feet. On weekends they join endless flows of tourists in crowded pubs to drink up the fear of undefined future. Observing that, I felt them, after all, we were all in the same boat.
Moving to America was the first time I have ever left home for more than two months. Drinking for it in Washington three months ago, I had no idea what to expect. The fear of unknown was mixed with excitement and anticipation. I was about to start a completely new life in a strange place, where I could only count on myself. No friends, no parents, nothing I knew or was used to. On the other hand, education, independence and completely new world to explore seemed (and proved to be) so worth it.
After 4 days in Washington, I felt like leaving a huge plate of delicious food unfinished and promised myself to go back there the first chance I get. On August 7th another plane took me hundreds of miles away and several degrees hotter - to laid back and southern Tucson, Arizona, where the new chapter of my life was beginning.
To be continued...