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Holidays bigger in Texas

January 30, 2013
Saedah with her host mom at the Willis Tower

Saedah with her host mom at the Willis Tower

When KL-YES exchange student Saedah takes a vacation with her American host family, she does it big.

Saedah, who lives in Grinnell, IA with her host sister, fellow IRIS KL-YES exchange student Zahra, spent days mentally preparing for her first American vacation in late December. First stop- Chicago.

The five-hour car ride to the windy city was well worth the wait, as Saedah could hardly contain her excitement once they arrived. “I could smell the city! All I wanted to do when I first arrived was to walk in the streets and maybe ride a bus or the train,” she said. After a day filled with visiting Millennium Park and trying some deep-dish pizza, Saedah claimed that the day was a “lifetime moment that brought tears to my eyes.”

Saedah posing next to the Chicago skyline at a museum.

Saedah posing next to the Chicago skyline at a museum.

The following day, Saedah and her host family ascended the Willlis Tower and spent the afternoon shopping on Michigan Avenue. Saedah even felt a little at home in the city after encountering people from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. She said, “I could see a lot of Muslim families. I could talk to them, although some of them knew very little Arabic.”

Several other destinations during the Chicago trip included trips to the Field Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, dining at Pakistani restaurants and enjoying Christmas light displays. Saedah said she was sad to leave “beautiful Chicago,” but vows to return and “stay there forever.”

Before taking off on their next adventure, Saedah enjoyed what she calls “the best Christmas” as she got into the Christmas spirit with her host family. She was thrilled at the amount of presents under the Christmas tree, and cherishes her Justin Beiber pillow from her host parents.

Saedah riding a Texas Longhorn

Saedah riding a Texas Longhorn

12 hours south, the family arrived in Dallas, TX where they visited family members. Although Saedah was there to vacation and meet the extended family of her host parents, she was also on a mission to find a cowgirl hat. It was at the Fort Worth Stockyards where she found one that suited her. At the stockyards, Saedah was elated to see Texas Longhorn cattle, ride a cow, get a photo taken with an American Indian and meet a “real cowboy.”

During her time in Texas, Saedah managed to squeeze in a Dallas Mavericks basketball game at the American Airlines Center, shopping and dining at historical restaurants. Saedah even visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza where she learned about the life, times, death and legacy of the late President John F. Kennedy.

She wrapped up her travels by ringing in the New Year in Texas. “On the last night of 2012 we watched the New York celebration on TV, had snacks, played games and most importantly, spent time with family.”

Saedah said, “I am so thankful for being lucky enough to get the chance to do all this, that I don’t even have words for it. I appreciate everything my host family has done and is doing for me. I am happy that I have six more months to go!”

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