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An American Tale

By: Rachel Atkins, Age 13

Like all good stories this one has a beginning, middle and an end. Or does it?

It begins long before it becomes my story. My Dad, who like me is English, loves to chat on the computer. During one of his chat sessions, he met an American woman who became his friend. Eventually, my mother also began chatting with her. Finally my entire family would chat with her on a Sunday Evening.

My family had visited America the previous year when we all went to Disney World in Florida. We had taken a bump on the flight home and so had free tickets to return to America in the summer of 2000. My parents where planning to take us to Las Vegas this time. When I say us, I am including myself and my twin brother, Ricky.

When my parents told our American friend of our plan, she said "You will have brought your children to America twice and they still won't have seen America."

What did she mean we wondered? She lives in the American Midwest in a state called Ohio. Apparently, those of us who know America from TV and Movies don't get a clear vision of what it is really like to live in America. She invited my whole family to come and stay with her family. A brave thing to do since she had never met any of us, especially my brother.

After a long journey which included a plane to Washington and then a very long car trip through West Virginia in which my brother and I had many arguments, my Dad announced that we had reached our destination.

I was relieved to get out of the car, it was a scorching day in August and we had spent most of it in the car. Mum said in a cheerful voice "well let's have a look around. Sandy and Zowie won't be here for a little while." My parents had arranged for Sandy to meet us and guide us to her home. Ricky thought that shopping was a great idea as he loved shopping and there was a super store near by. "Let's look over there" he said, pointing in the direction of a smart stationary store."

"Yeah, I may buy some cool gel pens and a pad or something" I added . It turns out that I did buy a gel pen with a fluffy top and a pad. My first American purchase of the trip, but it wouldn't be my last.

Mum suggested we go back to the car in case Dad had heard something from Sandy. We came up to the car to find my Dad asleep and baking in the tin oven of a car. My Dad never misses a chance to nap. Ricky and I retreated to the shade outside a small cafe. Then it hit me I was about to meet someone new. I mean yeah, I had been writing to Zowie for about six months but I didn't really know her, how about if she thought I was dorkie or even worse a geek . Zowie was a family member who Sandy was borrowing for the time of our visit. She wanted Ricky and I to have someone our own age around. I had seen a picture of Zowie, tall, blonde, blue eyed, so totally American.

While I was thinking these thoughts I had been drawing funny little things in my pad. My brother Ricky was pestering me to let him use my paper to draw something. "No I don't like the things you draw or the way you draw it." I answered as I remembered some of the times he had asked to draw things and the evil things he did draw just to annoy me. It felt good to argue with him when I was feeling a bit insecure. Something about the familiar helped.

He pleaded, "I promise I won't draw silly things it will look really good." Was it possible he was a bit insecure in this new place too? It went like that for ages after a while Dad suggested we go into the cafe and wait for Sandy. I was thirsty so I thought it was a great idea. When feeling insecure, food always helps.

But then those thoughts came back. What if she hated me at first sight, all of a sudden there was something to take my mind off things. We noticed a couple in the car park and two police cars had pulled up and the couple was making a scene. Mum then said, "Look a really American arrest. I wonder if it will be like the films."This made me laugh a lot. It was nothing like TV, the police seemed very polite.

Behind me there was a voice that made me jump. They knew our names. I had to gulp down my fear quickly "Hi Sandy, how are you?"asked my dad. "Hello, this must be Zowie" my dad said with ease. I just sat there not saying anything, not even looking up from my pad.

"So how are things in England?" Sandy coaxed me to start talking. I said "Oh fine." A brilliant beginning. I am sure that impressed them.

"So do you want to ride with me?" She questioned. "Yeah why not" I answered trying to sound casual. So far Ricky hadn't said anything. In the car, a big, beautiful American Cadillac, Sandy sensing the tension in the air, started to talk to Zowie about school. Was Zowie feeling shy too? I was just thinking, wow what a great accent!

When we got back to Sandy's house which by the way is a beautiful house, one of the best I have seen, I just sat there saying nothing for a long time then I only started to talk to Sandy. All the time there was a voice in the back of my head saying "don't be so shy." It finally came to me that she probably was nervous too. I asked if she liked Seven Flags Amusement Parks. She said "pardon?" Long before we came to Ohio, people had trouble understanding me as I spoke very quite. As the week went by we understood each other better. I spent a week at that house with Sandy and her friendly family. We listened to the concert of tree frogs every night, watched the squirrels in all the trees, and laid under the trees in her hammock. We ate corn on the cob straight out of the garden, and discovered many new foods like American brownies. My new friend Zowie and I went lots of places together. We worked out our differences but it wasn't easy for the both of us. Our cultures are really much more different than I would have thought. Especially the easy way Americans joke with each other. But that was and will always be the best holiday I ever had. The friends I made and the places we went will always be with me.

I would like to say thank you to America and to our American friends for being so kind and letting us all stay with them. My views of America have forever been changed by having seen the Amish on their farms working their fields with horses; shopping in American stores, they have great prices, and seeing how Americans live so free of fear. Our hosts never even locked their doors. One day, hopefully, we can return the favour and Zowie will visit me in Houghton Regis. I wonder what she will thing of England? I hope she likes it as much as I liked her country.

After a sad goodbye there was one more place we had to visit, that was Niagara Falls. That really is another story.

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