W..E..L..C ah welcome. The welcome sign with welcome written in 20 different languages was the first thing that warmly greeted us with open arms, to my new country. I quickly followed my mother, dodging the fast paced steps of the other people that were narrowly avoiding my small feet. My prized Gi-Joe keychains were jingling on my heavy Ninja Turtle bag pack as it was jostled by the hurried crowd.
The gate opened, it felt almost like the feeling I got when the doors opened to my favorite toy store. I saw my dad. Even though it had been ages since the last time I laid eyes on him, it felt comforting. He was waiting for us with a huge smile from ear to ear. I sprinted towards him and pounced on him like a tiny beast hungry for affection. We all hugged, happy to be together again. Our family was finally whole. My father offered to help my mom with her piles of luggage, as secretly rolled his eyes to me at the amount of luggage she had brought. We walked to our new car with a newfound spring in our step. It was a white Toyota SUV gleaming in the sun like a diamond in a display case. In Korea I had never seen anything like this as all the cars were so minuscule. I was fascinated and astounded at how the doors would automatically open by themselves. Was this a car or a transformer? Only a few minutes in, America was proving to be a place full of wonders and surprises. I hopped in the car pressing every button I could get my hands on. My dad grind with approval as he pulled out of the parking lot, of the San Fransisco International Airport and onto the freeway.
“Where are we going dad?” I curiously pondered to my father.
My father looked at me slyly with a half grin “You’ll see son, no kimchi today.”
I scratched my head in confusion. My father winked and kept driving.
The sun was glistening, and the sea breeze blew up against my face. With the Golden Gate Bridge as a scenic, awe-inspiring backdrop, I pictured the restaurant we would be dining at to be very fancy. I imagined an up scale restaurant with linen table clothes, real silver cutlery, and waiters in tuxedos tending to us like we were royalty. After all America was the richest country in the world. The car came to a stop I looked around and my dreams were dashed. I turned my head to see where were going to eat, what I saw was slightly scary. Dreadlocked kids with ripped clothes, were being loud and skateboarding. I saw two of the fattest people I had ever laid eyes on, rolling by me, on a mobility scooter holding drink cups that looked big enough to fill a lake in. I1 put on my sunglasses to avoid eye contact with these alien beasts, put my head down and followed my fathers footsteps to wherever we were going. The first meal in our new found paradise was at Taco Bell. I almost asked my father if he was joking, but thought better.
As I entered the restaurant a pungent smell hit me in the nostrils like I had been hit in the face with a rotten fish. As I looked around this horror show, I saw water dripping from the water fountain, making a puddle onto the floor. The tables and floors were covered with old discarded food. The windows had enough grease on them to fill a deep frier. More enormous people were sitting at the grubby tables, taking over 2 seats per person. Everyone was frantically chewing on some sort of bread like their life depended on it. Food spilled all over their face as they ate, making them look like humongous infants. We sat down at the table, careful not to touch anything, as my father went to the counter. I was hoping it was to ask for directions to the real place he was going to take us to eat. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I was hit by a ton of bricks as the second shock when when my father brought a tray full of wrapped soggy, strange things. What the heck is this? Where are all the side dishes? The chopsticks? I pinched my nose, and at my father’s request, hesitantly brought the food to my mouth. I was in love. The food was amazing. Every bite felt like a million things popping in my mouth. What the food lacked for in looks it made up for tenfold in flavor. My dad quietly smiled, I would have to trust him more often.
After lunch, we got back into the future mobile and onto the road. The roads were so much larger than the ones in Korea. There were so many more trees. Palm trees lined the sidewalks like sentinels. The colors of the cars were also so flamboyant. So much cooler than the monotonous black, white, and grey cars back in the land of Kimchi.
After being in the car for 40 minutes, I noticed that my dad was stopping for about 3 seconds at a time, even when there weren't any traffic lights.
I got annoyed and bluntly exclaimed, “Dad why are you stopping? There’s nothing to stop for!”
He chuckled and replied, “In America there are stop signs, where you have to stop and see if there are any cars passing by before you continue driving.” This was new to me. In Korea, we just kinda went.
My father pulled into a driveway. Was this palatial abode really where I was to live? I caught a glimpse of our back yard, my jaw almost hit the floor. We had a swimming pool and a basketball hoop set up. In Korea we could barely fit a basketball into our tiny apartment, never mind the hoop. Our new house was painted white and had a brown roof. At the speed of light, I bounced out of the car and raced towards our yard. Although the water in the pool was full of leaves and small insects floating on the surface, I jumped in. My father laughed and shook his head.
Welcome to the American dream he said, and walked into the house.