by Melinda Gallo

Traveling from sunrise to sunset

We arrived at the airport in Florence as the sun was just coming up. Alessandro's babbo (dad) drove us through the dark and quiet streets of Florence to the airport. I was surprised that so few people were at the airport on a Tuesday morning because the last time I came to the airport, I had to wait almost an hour to check in. It took us only a few minutes to check in our bag and proceed to the gate.

From a sunny Florence to a rainy Paris, we arrived in Chicago where I finally had my first taste of America: Starbucks. I used to associate McDonald's with my native country, but now that they are international, I now associate Starbucks with my country instead. We don't have one in Florence, and it really shows off all that is American to me. Large caffeinated drinks, but also healthy choices like green teas and now fruit smoothies. The oversized cakes and cookies that are quite tempting. I had wished I was hungry, but I wasn't. I did get a Chai tea and a cappuccino for Alessandro.

As we were about to land into Miami, the sun was setting over the wide and flat area. I could see the everglades for miles where the land was swampy and uninhabited.

It was raining when we arrived in Miami and I felt a twinge of disappointment. I realized it was probably quite hot and humid outside because the airport's air conditioner was set to a low temperature. It's something I discovered when I went to New Orleans once that the colder it is inside, the hotter it is outside.

After getting our luggage, we headed outside to get a taxi. The second the doors of the airport opened, I thought we entered an oven. The humidity was so heavy that it took my breath away. I wanted to take my jacket off, but luckily I didn't because when we got into the taxi, the air conditioner was on so high that I had to bundle up and even clutched my bag to keep warm.

The Haitian taxi driver sped down the large freeway and took us to South Beach. It was sprinkling outside, but we didn't see a single person with an umbrella. People walked down the street with flip-flops on and not carrying about getting wet. When we arrived to our hotel on Ocean Drive, a few people were sitting on the porch to enjoy an evening cocktail.

By the time we dropped off our bags, took a quick shower, and got dressed, we walked over to Espaņola Way to find a restaurant. I had been dreaming of Mexican food and hoped I'd find some there.

People called out to us and flashed the menus to us so that we'd go in for a bite to eat. We liked the look of one restaurant, but ended up not eating there when the man announced Mediterranean cuisine including pasta and risotto. We ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant where we had enchiladas and fajitas.

When we walked through the streets, I didn't feel very safe. Maybe because I hadn't seen the streets during the day, didn't understand the neighborhood yet, or didn't see many people walking around.

Our first long day arriving in Miami was finally over and we couldn't wait to go to sleep. I couldn't see much out of our hotel window, but I did know that the ocean was on the other side of the small park that I could see below.

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