AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! THE America I had known was through books and what Hollywood portrays in movies and magazines. My knowledge of it was largely through what they call the land of plenty, freedom, peace and justice. Which is why I could only dream of it by getting lost into music, literature and stories told to me by friends who live and lived there before. All my life, I envisaged to set my foot on American soil. This dream turned a reality not too long ago. One sunny Monday afternoon, I picked up a call from the American Centre in Lusaka, Zambia. The message was loud and clear: I was heading for America. I was convinced that my nightmares were not just a fantasy or fallacy after all. From Lusaka, I went to Johannesburg, then to Atlanta, Ga., before switching to a domestic flight Delta Airlines to get to Washington, D.C. On my flight to Atlanta, I sat next to an American named Clint who was eager to learn about my country. He had just returned from Swaziland, where he had gone to embark on an orphanage project. My interaction with Clint gave me a hint to know how Americans look at life. He told me about his family and the fact that he had a son who likes to hang around a golf pitch. He also told me that he had a beautiful grandchild and good wife somewhere in a California valley, where he is a commercial farmer, growing peanuts. He told me everything about himself even though I did not ask him to. I admired his freedom and courage to talk to a stranger like me. I did not open up quite the same. I was a bit reserved, perhaps largely because I grew up in a society where feelings are concealed a communal society where the community takes center stage and not individuals. For Americans, what you see is what you get. If an American loves you, you know it. If an American is mad at you, you know it still. Americans are generally affirmative people and empowering, too. In America, you get affirmation at home and not on the streets. So you grow up believing you can reach the unreachable, touch the invisible, dream the impossible, and so forth. Back in Zambia, feelings are not quite the same. After a 17-hour-long flight, our plane landed at Hartsfield airport the world’s busiest airport. That morning, I knew I was in a different world altogether. So I needed to cope up. Thank heaven, Clint was there to guide me. He helped me through the complex Hartsfield airport. I never will forget his kindness. I parted with Clint after I met a colleague from Botswana who was also going for the same inaugural Edward Murrow Leadership Program for journalists. My stay in Washington revealed something to me about the nature of America and Americans: Americans naturally love freedom of speech. They believe issues, however offensive they are, should be argued and debated in what they call “the marketplace of ideas.” For example, I found a group of youths at Capitol Hill and the White House carrying placards protesting against circumcision of infants. From Washington, I headed for Los Angeles. L.A. is humid and desert-like. It is predominantly Hispanic and home to Hollywood. It is a lot faster in terms of lifestyle plenty of cars, ring highways, skyscrapers. You have to be affluent to live in Los Angeles. While in L.A., I had a chance to spend a day in Hollywood. Being at Universal Studios was fascinating. It is a place where fairy tales are meant to look like reality. It is amazing how they play with graphic images to toy the human mind. I remember rocking on a still car that felt as though it was travelling at 200km/h. Hollywood can make you look like a foolish dreamer trying to build a highway to the sky. There are no idle moments there! After a week in Los Angeles, the next stop was Atlanta, a diverse city with a pretty laid-back lifestyle compared to other parts in the United States. While flying in the skies of Georgia, I wanted to see the red hills of Georgia, which slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. referred to in his all-time “I have a dream” speech. It is amazing how accents vary in the United States. The locals in Atlanta have that Southern accent (slow but sure). People in Washington and other parts in the north are rather faster in their speech. After a week in Atlanta, I left for Washington, to link up with over 120 Edward Murrow fellows from all over the world. There, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed us. We also had an opportunity to ask her questions. Ultimately, America, like any other country, is not perfect. It has its own problems and challenges, too. Challenges of immigration and homelessness in places like Los Angeles and Washington are indeed a big issue. America is a superpower, but there are also poor people there. This I don’t have to be told because I was there in person not too long ago and saw things for myself. Such is life and the biblical teachings: “The poor will always be with you” is also considered to be true to Americans. Where there is plenty, some people still go hungry. It is a paradox of life. While in Zambia many are dying to gain weight, in America people are dying to lose weight. Every now and so often, adverts on television are run, giving advice on how best to lose weight. In all, America is a great robust society. A society where a nobody could be a somebody. It is all part of the American dream, rooted in a philosophy of liberty, opportunity and trust in God. A visit to America surely shows that it is not only a land of plenty, but a true home of the proud and free. It is for this reason that some people believe that they can make it in life given an opportunity to start their life all over again in America. It is important to note that what makes Americans different from the rest of the people in the world is confidence in their abilities to achieve greater things this, I am not ashamed to copy from them. Gethsemane Mwizabi writes for The Times of Zambia, which is government-owned and among the most widely read newspapers in Zambia.