Oh my! the heart has again yearned for an adventure. I have not even gotten rid of the brain twisting memories of my yesteryear's trip to the United States. The trip which turned out to be a rebellion against the previous years of my life. It has churned an awakening in my soul that desired to explore, craved for adventure and looked for love across the globe. My visit to US was the ice breaker of me being an eastern girl to one who went out, travelled alone thousands of miles and made exceptional friends. I even found an elder sister in my work place in Springfield, Illinois.

Oh Springfield, how can I forget my two minutes walk from hotel to office. In a period of mere one month, the city adopted me as its own and quite interestingly, I was a guide for some visitors who were asking directions. My dear Springfield, I think I saw most of what the ordinary dwellers had not seen in years. I visited the best you offer, from your lush green graveyards to the newly constructed Capitol State building. I feel so proud to the least discrimination I found among your streets. Your amazing citizens have designated a special place to Muslims to bury their dead. Which is quite remarkable. Because in my world, different religions have separate places miles apart to bury their dead. Whereas in Springfield, Lincoln's Tomb resides between a graveyard allocated to all communities. Right across my hotel was a shop offering items from China, India, Singapore and Pakistan. It brightened up my day when I saw a graceful elderly lady sitting at the Amtrack railway station wearing Pakistani pashmina - finest type of Kashmiri shawl - purchased from that shop. She did complete justice to it and donned it with matching sky blue earrings. In you I found a sister, a best friend, extremely professional journalist and had a full country side experience.

Elkart is like a city came directly out of a Hollywood movie. Deserted roads, numbered people and surprisingly everyone knows each other. Visited the oldest shoemaker's shop filled with hundreds of shoes and sandals from old times to latest ones, but still not stinky. The old guy was a champ. One of my Mexican colleagues at Journal Star newspaper drove me through the historic Route 66, which is also known as the Mother Road, we stopped by at the largest covered wagon of Abraham Lincoln and captured the moments quickly. We later went to have lunch at a Victorian style restaurant adorned with crockery and illuminating tiny bulbs hanging on the walls.

On returning from Elkart, my main objective was to explore, so one day I sneaked out from my daily office hours, grabbed my bag and walked to see more the town offers. My first stop was the originally preserved neighbourhood of Lincoln's house aka Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Interestingly, it was an open street with stone road and wooden fences. The administration had preserved all the houses which are regularly furnished and to book one's tour, the visitor first has to pass through a small museum updating them about the importance of this site and takes you back in 1860s.

My trip to Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was well organized and an exceptional experience to have. Being a journalist from Pakistan, I was given special treatment and was allowed to enter spaces which are not accessible by regular visitors. The 200,000 square foot complex, which includes an Archive, Library and Museum, features public experiences, galleries and theater presentations that are more than 50% larger than any other presidential library. Visitors are offered an engaging, emotional and educational experience through immersive, "you-are-there" exhibits.

These are the obvious experiences one Department of State guest would have. Then there was a day, when I had nothing much to do, and after having a delicious lunch at the State Journal Register's Executive Editor's amazing house, I was sitting in front of my computer screen. I had almost talked to every important person who needs to know about my whereabouts and routines in this new place. After nearly 3 hours it was started getting boring in my head and instead of talking to my family back at home, I started missing them all over again. It was that moment when a sudden thought came to my mind, I changed my clothes, put on the most comfortable pair of jeans and shirt -  which by the way is a favourite of one of my best friends-, borrowed a map from my front desk guy, asked directions and started to roll. I walked in pursuit of a lake presumably near my hotel. But me being bad in directions, accidently took opposite direction. After taking nearly a hundred steps, I bumped into a motorized tricycle ridden by a gracefully aged couple who were in their 80s. Being curious, I requested them about its specifications and model. It was a 2003 tricycle, maroon and shinny. I could not resist but to sit over it and get photographed.

We took our ways and walked through the sidewalks of this extremely wide express way all the way up to Route 66. There were some amazing bars and restaurants over there but my aim of reaching the malls continued. I kept on walking the beautiful houses on either sides of the road with many of them having American flags installed on the outer walls of their houses. Here I must say that Americans have excellent taste of decorating exteriors of their houses. They had amazing sculptures of babies playing violins, dogs, cats, deer, ducks and many other decorative drafts placed at their doorways and entrances.

I stopped by a house which gave the most amazing view among the lot. It had a swing hung right in front of it. With beautiful vases, flowers, sculptures and an elementary fountain. I sat there for a while and then proceeded on my quest. Every now and then I was hearing a dog bark or a cat's meow, assuming that they must be well kept as they don't just go nasty over someone passing and mind their own business.

Strolling in my thoughts, I saw a dog running towards me. His ear piercing bark went down my spine. I ran towards the opposite run, shouting 'mama mama' , tried to stop a car but it did not stop. I turned back to see if the dog is at a safe distance and to my relief it was. It was behind the fence of a house. Being to this, it almost gave me heart attack. Now, I was petrified. Even the slightest noise was alerting me. My breath was heavy due to running and I was blankly walking on the road and there was still no sign of the promised shopping mall. Loneliness was looming over me. I was sort of cursing my coordinator on sending me to this place. I was unhappy on my decision of getting out of the hotel at first place. Suddenly, a singing voice captured my ears. The voice resembled somewhat opera. I walked a head and on a further 5 steps there stood Emanuel Temple Church of God, from where all that sound was coming out. I entered the vicinity. There was no one at the gate to scan me for security. I entered and on the left there was a hall from where all that sound was coming out. I went inside. There were people. All black except one - who was a kid. A woman on the podium was preaching and reciting some verses of Torah. On seeing me, some people passed me smiles and again started listening to her. They were now absorbed and the sermon was picking its pace. It was getting louder, it was getting emotional and resultantly, the people were spiritually elated. Now they were singing with the woman. They were moving and shaking slowly. Some of them were even crying. Mainly all were emotional. and in the high note, the sermon ended. Meanwhile I was taking pictures and making videos of the event. It was extremely unusual to experience such an attachment towards God thousands of miles away in a supposedly godless land.

I am still confused about the fact that whether it was the dog who chased me, me who chased the car for help, mall for shopping or lake for peace or it was the God who followed me everywhere I went to protect me from all evils or it was plainly a chase within. 

This is my first share of native adventures I had in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln in the United States. This piece has barely touched the Hollywood kind of lifestyles Americans lead and focusses on the country side living standards. However, in my future travelogues you will get an insight of metropolitical experiences I had in New York, Chicago, Virginia, Saint Louis and Washington.