Hi dear nomads. I didn’t travel to the US for 6 years now but I thought that it would be interesting and useful for many of you to have some information about the country and the journey there anyway, even if it’s true that it was before the world and travel transformations due to the Covid-19. Also, I wanted to share my experience, because in 2016, I was working as a full-time local journalist in Madagascar, and that’s how I got that opportunity. It was just a dream coming true, because I dreamt of visiting the US since my childhood. So let’s talk about it!
How did I end up in the United States?
In my childhood, I always said that one day, I’ll be visiting the United States. No matter what, no matter how, but I’ll get there. I repeated it so often that even my parents knew that I had an obsession for that country. Since I was young, I was passionate of the English language. I even wish my country was an English-speaking country, as it is a French-speaking country, because it was a French colony before. I think that English sounds really beautiful, and that it’s a “passe-partout” language. You can be rough, soft, smart, dumb, class, vulgar, English has some kind of beauty and can always sound fine.
Because there was no real and assured way to be good at English – even if we were learning English in the primary and secondary school, I decided to practice on my own. I should say that maybe I was lucky – I don’t believe in luck but lately, my vision changed, due to many things that happened in the society and the world – because we had access to the satellite TV when we were young, thanks to my Dad who worked in a big company in the country. At that time, satellites TV were very expensive in Madagascar and only rich families could have afforded it.
Thanks to that, I could have watched TV shows (mostly American series for teenagers (Lizzie Mc Guire, That’s so Raven, or the Suit life of Zach and Cody, etc) on Disney Channel, and broadcasts in English, such as Disney’s Magic English on Playhouse Disney.
I remembered I had a copybook that I took from my mother, and noted every new words, vocabularies and songs that they were teaching on the broadcast. I was in the college at that time, and I was already sure and convinced that one day, I’ll get to the US.
I don’t want to get narcissistic, but I think that I was smarter than most of my classmates, and more than most of people, actually. In fact, in the high school, I was already totally able to listen and understand American English, through songs and movies. Of course, it was not only intelligence. Passion played an important role in that.
In the university, we had English courses, but it was more like some coaching. People who were not good in English in school were kind of cursed. XD
When I finally started to work as a journalist in 2015, I thought that many Malagasy journalists were speaking English… But I was wrong. There were only few Malagasy journalists speaking English. The advantage: I could network more than most of them. The drawback: events were English language were required were kind of… really quiet.
Unfortunately or fortunately, the US Embassy’s events in Madagascar were one of that, at least at that time. And apart from that, there was no “felaka”* there, so journalists were kind of reluctant. Sometimes, I was the only journalist in the event. So finally, the US Embassy staff got to know me.
That’s how I could have been part of a restricted call for applications for a press tour organized by the Foreign Press Center (FPC) in the US, in order to cover the presidential elections in 2016.
My first trip in the United States
When the US Embassy told me that I was selected for a press tour in the US, in the mid of October 2016, I couldn’t believe it. It was so good to be true.
As I told you, I always dreamt of visiting the United States, but when it finally happened, it seemed too fast and I was not really prepared. I mean, I prepared to travel to the US since my childhood. So much that when it happened, I kind of got so nervous. But there it was. A full-tuition fellowship, all included, I just had to get there. One of the reasons why I couldn’t get there was the ticket plane’s price, and I didn’t have to pay for it. OMG!
Apart from the fact that it was my first trip in the US, it was also my first trip abroad. First trip abroad and the destination of my dreams. I can die in peace, I swear!
I was incredibly excited for this, and couldn’t wait to be there.
The journey was amazing: departure from Ivato Airport to Johannesburg Airport, then from there to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Ohio, which was the first destination.
Then, 4 days in Ohio for a training at the University of Ohio, a press conference with the Republican party, and some reports to do in the city.
After that, 2 days in Columbus to cover the Clinton campaign in Columbus University with Beyonce and Jay-Z (OMG I’m gonna see Beyonce IRL), and a visit of the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame. Are you kidding me??????? O.M.G!!!!!!!!!!! Again, I can die in peace.
And finally, 4 days in New York (O.M.G!!!!!!!!!!!) to cover the voting day, the voting night, and the presidential elections in the city in general.
Believe me, I think all my dreams got reality in 10 days. From taking airplanes (I took 7 airplanes in total, and 3 airline companies) – I got even fed up, taking airplane is not that fun, mostly when you have to sit in it for more than 10 hours with nothing more to eat than frozen meals, taking a yellow cab (OMG I dreamt of taking these since I watched Friends when I was still a teenager, visiting an american bar, walking alone in NYC on a Sunday evening, shopping in NYC’s streets, visiting the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame and seeing Michael Jackson’s shoes, drinking in a Starbuck coffee, visiting the Bronx where Michael Jackson shooted the clip of his song “Bad”, taking a limousine, taking my bath in a bathtub, watching NYC from the 50th floor… Godness… I can’t even find the words… It was… magical…
What did I bring from there? Apart from clothes, jeans, lipsticks and nail polishes – because I love thes and buy these stuff everywhere I go, I bought a beautiful blue neckpillow with the pictures of the best monuments in NYC and a writing “New York City” on it, a lot of key rings, magnets, and a USB of 128GB because it was really affordable there at that time.
- Trip preparation
So, one of the things for which I’ll always be thankful is that for my first trip, I had the very big luck – again, I don’t believe in luck but maybe it was that – to have a preparation session with the US Embassy, which really supported me for this and gave me everything to facilitate my travel. So I didn’t really stress, even if I just had 2 weeks to prepare my trip.
At that time, there was no Covid-19, so obviously the papers required were not as complicated as today, even if it’s true that “escaping” this country has never been easy, and even got more difficult within the years.
Here were the papers they required from me at that time, to travel from Madagascar to the US.
- Valid passport
- A visa delivered by the US Embassy of Madagascar to travel to America
- A letter nomination from the organization from which I got the grant (the Foreign Press Center (FPC) in my case)
- Plane tickets
- A visa delivered by the South Africa Embassy of Madagascar because I had to transit one day in Johannesburg before getting back on my way home return.
- Some places to visit in Ohio
In November 2016, when I got to visit Columbus, Ohio, the city was quiet and seemed really old… I stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Columbus Downtown. A great hotel, by the way, with very charming stuff, an amazing welcoming and a great placement just in the middle of the city. I didn’t really felt at my ease and didn’t really find nothing interesting there, but I don’t know if it changed now.
However, I took time to look for some interesting restaurants, bars, parks, museums, and places to have fun there on the Internet. So here are some places you could visit for a drink, an afterwork, to dance or to sing.
- Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
- Ohio Statehouse
- Columbus Museum of Art
- North Market
- Ohio Theatre
- Some places to visit in Cleveland
From Columbus to Cleveland, we took the special bus of the FPC journalists. It took anout two hours. Compared to Columbus, I really enjoyed Cleveland. The weather was quiet nice there, in November. It was cool, with just enough sun to not feel very cold. The journalists stayed at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. Again, a great hotel, with a warm welcoming, a great placement and view on the Lake Erie. OMG It was just beautiful.
Even if we were mostly there to cover the GOTV Performance of Jay-Z and Beyonce in the University of Cleveland – in which Hillary Clinton, (lien) candidate at the american presidential elections in 2016, also appeared, we had the opportunity to have a lot of fun and to visit a lot of places: restaurants, museums, tea shops… Here are some other places you should visit if you have the opportunity to go there.
- Rock&Roll Hall Of Fame
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- West Side Market
- Playhouse Square
- Old Stone Church
- Some places to visit in New York City
The last destination of this amazing trip was New York City, the city that never sleeps. I was so excited to go there that I couldn’t even sleep the night before. After all, it was the city of my dreams.
To travel from Cleveland to New York City, we had to take a plane. It was the fourth plane I took in two weeks and I should say I was about starting to not enjoy airplane that much. Fortunately, the flight was not that long.
We arrived in the evening in New York City. For these next and last four days, we stayed at the Westin Grand Central Hotel. A very big hotel just in the heart of Manhattan, which was located from 10 minutes of Times Square. It was also a beautiful hotel, with a great service and a great location, obviously.
I could have gone out at 1 am at night to go the pharmacy shop, to eat at some restaurants because I was starving, to walk until Times Square and enjoying all the lights, the atmosphere, the silence, the beauty of that amazing city… To sit just on the border of the street and appreciate the early morning breeze. The weather was also very nice, but we could feel the arrival of the winter, and also the Christmas ambiance, with the Christmas trees in the shops, the hotels, the malls, etc… I wish I could stay longer… Writing this made me so nostalgic.
New York City is, I think, one of the most famous state in the world. So I guess you already know many places that you could visit there. From Times Square to the Radio City Music Hall, passing by the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park, or the Grand Central Station, the city is just amazing. I’m just going to give you some other places to visit, apart from those you surely already know.
- Fort Tryon Park Trust
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Whiskzy Rebel
- Roosevelt Tram
Also, don’t forget to take the yellow cab, which New York is famous for. And to take many many many selfies!
Enjoy, dear nomads!
3 thoughts on “I visited the United States”