There are many trips I have not written about in my blog. Several of them really deserve to be covered, but this one is very special and I just can’t keep silent and not to share with you how great trip it was.
This post is dedicated to all our friends from the wonderful city of Tucson. It is their friendship and hospitality, willingness to sacrifice their spare time and rest, readiness to open their homes for us that made this journey so much different from every other trip I ever had.
Everything began with a «crazy» idea of bringing our students from the English Club to the United States for a short period of time to help them grow in their professional skills, see our friends from the Summer Camp and be exposed to American culture. It really sounded «crazy» at first, because to make it come true would require much effort from both sides. But you never know until you try. We decided to try and it turned out not only be possible but very successful.
However, the beginning was not really encouraging. Our group of 8 people was refused to get visas to the US. It looked like the end. Not the happy end. In fact, we could get dismayed and humble ourselves with the thought that we cannot do anything about it, since the American government decided not to allow us to visit its land. This was the easy way. Could we follow it? Yes, we could. Our life would continue as it was, and it would never be different.
But this was not an option. Here I am reciting the words of Aidai, one of our brightest students: «Failure is not an option». She posted this phrase the same day we were refused our visas, on our Facebook group. We decided to reapply. We were not even sure what to do, how to convince the consular officer in the fact that no one has an intention to stay in the US illegally. We filled out the application forms one more time on the same day. I do not know where this boldness came from, but we did it.
When our friends from Arizona learned what happened with our visas, they were, of course, disappointed. They were working so hard to put everything together for us, and this fact could have destroyed everything. We asked them if someone from their side can call the Embassy and intercede for us. They were ready to do it, but the last time they tried doing the same thing for someone else was not successful.
So, there was nothing we could do, unless something supernatural would happen. And it happened! Elizabeth’s friend Andy miraculously stepped into the scene. To our luck he is a lawyer, and after learning about our situation from his one-thing-and-another conversation with Elizabeth, he kindly initiated calling the Embassy. Needless to say that he is an excellent lawyer, because only a lawyer of such standing could bypass all intermediaries and talk to the Consular Officer for about 40 minutes.
We had a privilege to meet Andy twice: first over Skype when he gave us perfect instructions on what to say at the Embassy, and the second time is when he was personally with us speaking on work ethics.
When we entered the Embassy in less than two weeks, a lady who collects the documents blurted out: «Ah, that is you again… Only two weeks have passed. Do you think something has changed?» I never gave her a reply, just smiled back. Somewhere deep inside I was convinced that we won’t go home without visas this time. And I was right.
We were happy. This was just the first moment of happiness among many others that were awaiting us. From the very moment we landed to Tucson airport and drowned in hugs of our friends, till the last day when we left American land, this trip was full of joy, adventures and unforgettable moments.
And it was so, not because we were in America — one of the world superpowers. Not even because we were able to see one of the 7 natural wonders of the world — the Grand Canyon, work alongside our colleagues from the US, receive patients, participate in several surgeries, hear profound speakers, perform Jazz with American musicians, visit sightseeings, New York and take tons of pictures spiced with exciting memories (I can go on and on making this list).
This trip was exceptional because of the people — our friends who allowed us to enter their lives, took care of us with a great kindness and patience, shared with us their homes, took all possible day-offs, drove for many hours to take us to the Grand Canyon (this list can be even longer than the previous one), and simply showed us love and sincere hospitality.
I am afraid to forget someone, but here are our heroes: Elizabeth and Ryan, Dominic and Amanda, Heath and Pam, Kaya and Matt, Mark and Lorna, Cecilia and Lee, Phil and Patty, Mr. Paul, the wonderful team at Casas, and everyone else who made his contribution to this great project and came to meet us. On behalf of our students and myself personally, I would like to say thank you and let you know that you did such an excellent job!