I stood there, looked around and cried.
Few days earlier I got on a plane at Warsaw's Chopin airport. It wasn't the first time I was going away but this one was different. I was to leave the so familiar continent by myself and travel across the globe to start a job in, as it seemed at the time, the middle of nowhere.
The flight itself wasn't so bad. All together 11h, via Helsinki. In New York I got picked up by one of the programmes organisers. The idea belonged to my mother. Her friends' daughters went couple of years earlier on a Work and Travel programme to the States and were very happy with it - interesting experience and loads of dollars. Why not do it myself then?
New York overwhelmed me, got lost in Central Park, twice, air-con was giving me a headache. The job I was going for was actually in Arizona, so after 3 days in the big apple it was time to go. Now I didn't have a credit card - booking a flight was a no-go, too expensive anyway. Around Europe we go by buses - by we I mean us, Polish mainly. A trip from Poland to Spain on a coach is pretty common. so I marched to the bus station and marched out of there 15 min later with a Greyhound bus ticked to Vegas. Oh my lord, I did not know what I was getting myself into. Almost 3 days route via Chicago. non-stop. It started with the bus driver reciting us the rules of "happy bus travelling" in military style. I don't remember much of what he said - was more fascinated with the way he said it - but there was a lot about not taking your shoes off. Due to potential smell. Cultural shock grade 3, no one ever spoke in Poland about personal hygiene in such a public way - on the other hand maybe they should have.
Not used to air-con I was freezing at first. Then begged the driver to let me open my bad and get some more suitable clothes out. Cultural shock grade 2 - on every single stop you could drown in litters of coffee, while dying for a drop of tea. We are a tea drinking nation, I cannot go very long without one. I almost started a free tea refill campaign and called everybody tea-ist unless they agreed to treat both drinks equally. On the other hand I left most of the people behind the counter puzzled as I was coming for 3 hot water refills - just using the same tea bag (emergency tactics from the socialist times - you never knew if you will be able to buy tea next time you're out).
3 days and amazing acquaintances later I finally got to Vegas. Culture shock grade 1 - so much neon light and plastic, and above all a guard in the motel with a loaded gun. I don't think I have seen a real gun before, not something you grow up with in Europe.
So far everything seemed a bit like a dream, I was more going with the flow, observing what is happening around me and if necessary reacting but the next day gave me a reality check. My future employer told me to take a flight from Vegas to little town of Tusayan and let the park ranger know I have arrived. The flight itself was fantastic, the view of Lake Mead, Hoover Damn was just incredible.
Once I landed I got picked up and taken straight to the HR HQ. After few hours of filling out forms and signing docs I was finally taken to the place where I was supposed to stay for the next 3 months. Area of employment: Food and Beverage - I'll tell you one thing: never again. And so we arrived to the trailer park and specifically to the little trailer I was supposed to live in. The meaning of a "trailer park" as it is in the American culture wasn't known to me at the time, the fact that there was a punch whole in the bathroom door should have given me an inkling. Also the previous person's belongings were packed in a big black trash bag and no one seemed to care what happens with them.
OK, so I dropped my backpack and wondered why I still haven't seen it!!??? I thought I will be in a desert and the nature's wonder will be visible from everywhere. No such luck. I took a map and started walking. After about 30min I walked out from behind the trees and saw it: the Grand Canyon. I stood there, looked around and cried. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. An awe inspiring magnificence and I - a poor student from a central European country - was there to see it. The world suddenly got much bigger and filled with places waiting for me to see.