Young Voices: American Adventures

Young Voices: American Adventures
Sienna Douglas | 2019 - October to December | USA
Sienna enjoys a trip of a lifetime to the USA

It all started at 03:30am on a bright, crisp summer morning, when we had to get ready to leave our warm house for the cold streets of South-East London. No, we weren’t moving house or getting evicted; we were simply going on holiday to Florida, otherwise known as the sunshine state, or what I call hurricane central. You probably have no idea what I am talking about but don’t worry, I am going to get that in the conclusion of the story of my American Adventures…

So back to that busy morning, when my Mum decided to wake me up from my three hours of beauty sleep. I had still managed to get ready and make sure that I was suited and booted to leave for my adventure overseas. My Mum’s friend drove us to the X26 bus stop, since we were going to Heathrow. We waited at the bus stop for a good twenty minutes outside in the cold, because there was a traffic diversion. Luckily, we were able to get on it and relax for the hour-long ride.

Once we arrived at the airport, we went straight to check in our luggage, as my mum had already checked us in online. It took longer than usual as the queue was long, but we had plenty of time so mum was not stressing.

After we had checked in our suitcases, we went through security. My mum was chosen for a random security check where she had to go to a separate room without us. After a minute or so she came out. By the look on her face, I could tell she was not amused. “I’ve just been swab tested” she said, which was low-key terrifying. I explained to my younger sister what swab testing was. Instantly she understood that look on mum’s face. For those of you doesn’t know what swab testing is, it’s when you get tested for drugs or weapons.

We went to the bathroom, had breakfast. Shortly after we got on to the plane. Six hours later we landed in Chicago nicknamed the “Windy City” and home of ‘deep dish’ pizza, which we didn’t actually have - instead we had Dunkin’ Doughnuts, the best thing in the world. Since we were heading to Florida, we had to take another flight. Luckily it wasn’t as long as the first but due to stormy weather we ended up leaving much later than we anticipated, delaying our arrival to the Sunshine State.

The flight was terrible. I’ve experienced turbulence before but nothing like this. I felt like I was on a crazy white-knuckle roller coaster ride which was repeating itself over and over again. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. When we finally reached Florida, we were excitedly greeted by my aunt and older cousin. The journey to their house was filled with chit-chat, laughter and excitement. As soon as we got there we were welcomed by my other cousins and my uncle, and even the dogs.

It was a good break with my relatives. One evening, I went to a Khalid concert in Orlando with my mum, uncle and sister at the Amway Concert Centre in Orlando. The concert, my first, was amazing…The crazy crowds all excitable, the dancers, the luminous lights, and the star of the show, Khalid. It was one of the many highlights of my trip. Another good thing about that evening was that it was ‘Pizza Night,’ a weekly Friday tradition in the Brown household.

After catching up with the family, I packed my suitcase for a road trip to Washington D.C. and New York. We drove through Georgia, the Carolinas and after that Virginia. During the journey my mum turned and said, ‘just think how people who wanted to escape cotton plantations ran away and get to places like Washington and New York.’ It was hard to imagine, although I know it was done over and over again. It made me think how courageous people like Harriet Tubman were. We were travelling in a nice spacious people carrier but Harriet Tubman went on foot, travelling through thick dense forest and swamps.

The trip was around 13 hours because of traffic. We entertained each other by various methods, including trivia, music, reading and napping. We arrived in Washington DC late that night. We met up with two of my cousins who live in D.C. One has been living there for the past few years. The other had just started medical school. Since everyone was tired and hungry, we went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, which wasn’t the best for all of us. We fell asleep around midnight.

Sunday was one of our busiest days. We had tickets to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Standing outside the building I looked up at it in awe of the beauty of the architecture. It definitely stood out from all other buildings in the area. The museum was also very educational, not only to anyone of African and Caribbean backgrounds, but for all other cultures as well. 

Once inside the museum there was a purposeful buzz about it. As I walked around the lower floors of the museum, I found it very moving, especially when we came to the Emmett Till exhibit. It hit me like a bolt. Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after he was accused of offending a white lady. Emmett was only 14 years old, the same age as me. Emmett was on holiday visiting relatives. He was originally from Chicago.

After his lynching his Mum took his body back home to Chicago to be buried and insisted that his casket was left open so that everyone who attended his funeral could see how badly he was beaten. This brought quite a sentimental vibe to the place; it also made me think how far in some ways the Civil Rights Movement has come, and how I have the freedom to talk to anyone I please and not be accused of offending someone just because of the colour of their skin. We left the museum at closing time. I think it’s the first museum that we’ve ever visited that we were the last to leave.

The following day we were back on the road to Washington DC. we arrived in the evening. My mum, sister and I went sightseeing to look at the monuments that we always hear about or see in films, like the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall.

We also saw monuments that I had never known about previously like the Korean War and Martin Luther King Memorials. This was for us one of the best ones. Dr. King stood at least 20 feet high in Pontomac Park overlooking a lake. It was said that the inspiration for the statue which was made out of granite was his speech, “I Have a Dream.” The statue took over 20 years to plan and was opened to the public on 22 August 2011.

We walked the entire circumference of the lake and finished up by taking a paddle boat ride. After our boat ride and ice cream, we continued our walk back towards the Washington Memorial and the White House. My younger sister was not at all keen to visit because of the current resident, but my mum reminded her that many great presidents have resided in the White House over the years, including Barack Obama.

When we arrived at the White House, we were all surprised by the size of it. When you watch programmes like the West Wing, or see the White House on T.V., it looks like a huge grand building, when in fact it looks quite small. It was much smaller than Buckingham Palace.

We concluded our tour there. Tired and hungry, we were picked up by our aunt and uncle. We then went out to dinner to a really cool Mexican restaurant with our cousins.

The following day we were back on the road to Florida. We were not sure what we were going to be greeted with, as news reports were reporting that Hurricane Dorian was due to hit Florida.

We had already seen the devastation on the news in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. We had also been informed that our flights from Orlando Airport were cancelled, and the airport would be closed for at least 48 hours. My Mum kept trying to reassure us and told us not to worry, and not let the unknown spoil the amazing holiday that we had.

Driving back on the 195 was a bit eerie as there were hardly any cars on the road. The closer we got to Florida, the darker the clouds became, with many emergency services passing us on the freeway.

We arrived back at my aunt’s house late into the evening. The wind was raging and the rain was lashing down. The current forecast was that Dorian was still set to hit within the next 24-48 hours. Whilst we were away our cousins had been busy preparing the house and stocking up on food. My Aunt has a walk-in larder, which I thought was already packed. Now it looked as though it could feed a small army.

The following day I was surprised to wake to find that the hurricane was still off the coast of Florida. It was moving very slowly, better still some of the forecasters were saying that it might just skim Florida. We spent the day at home in and out of the pool. Rain or no rain, nothing was going to stop my sister and I swimming in the pool. Besides, we were going to get wet anyway. 

Today was meant to be the day we were to go home. No such luck there. Not that I was complaining, although I was eager to get back to school and see my friends! I felt sorry for my sister as she was starting at a new school. That evening Orlando Airport reopened. Hurricane Dorian had decided to give Florida a miss. My Mum was happy to report that we had got on a flight with an alternative airline the day after next.

We said our goodbyes to our family. We were sad, but happy to leave and get back to London and our routines. Our trip was filled with so many memories - ones that I hope will stay with me for a long time to come.