I don't know how to start... Let's go back when I was 13 years old when I saw Ilonka in Egypt in 1992. I still remember it as it were yesterday. I was with my father in the lobby of the Sonesta Hotel waiting for Ilonka to come down. This was the first time in my life that I have set eyes on a foreign person; I was really excited about it! After awhile, there was this really good looking lady coming toward us and saying, "Hello, how are you doing?" And she gave me a hug. I was solid like an ice cube. She had on a white shirt and blue jeans with gypsy hair that looked like a queen who came from another planet. It was so strange for me to see a foreign person for the first time, especially one that hugged me! After that she looked at my eye and asked my dad what happened. My dad told her that I had an accident when I was a kid and stuck a needle in my eye. She immediately told my dad to bring me to the USA and she would try to do something about it. Since this moment, it became a dream of mine to come to the USA. Year after year went by; when sometime in 1998 a phone call came that changed my whole life. My Dad answered the phone, "Hi, hello Ilonka how are you?" in very broken English. "Sure. When can we come?" I felt like my heart would jump out of my chest. "Wow! I am going to the USA! I can't believe it!" Days after this call, we had our ticket and everything was ready for us to fly to the USA. I didn't sleep all night the day before, as there were over 22 of my friends in my house saying ''goodbye'' to me. Finally, we are in the airplane for 12 hours, but I didn't sleep for a minute. We arrived at JFK about 2 p.m. How could this be when I left Egypt at 9 a.m.? Well, now I know that there is a huge time difference. But even so, it was such a weird feeling! I went outside with my Dad, "Oh my god, its freezing! After an hour we took another plane to Orlando, Florida. What a great difference from cold to extremely hot weather; are we still in the same country? Are you sure about that? Well, here we go again, with Ilonka coming toward us with the same big smile on her face as always, "Haaaay! How are you?" I am again an ice cube. "OK! So who is this man with Ilonka, who is he? "Oh that's Courtland, my husband!" "Hello, Mr. Courtland, how are you?" "Hi there, Wael! I hope you guys had a good trip!" "Yes we did!" My father did all the talking. It seemed I couldn't talk anymore, or maybe I forgot the English that I been taught for more than 15 years. After the salutations, Ilonka told us about her daughter Fran. It seems she is coming to meet us here in Orlando. Fran? This means ''rats'' in Egyptian. What a weird name to me! Oh well, we are in another country, so I thought I would just go with it...but it was hard not to laugh every time I said her name! And then a girl that looks totally wild walks up to us with blond hair, and these big, huge shoes! I kept telling myself, "Remember, this is another country," but it all seemed like a dream to me! Actually, everything was like a dream from the day I came and met Ilonka at the airport; then she took us to Disneyworld; afterwards again flying to Baltimore to John Hopkins Hospital to check my eye there. They couldn't help me and suggested to take my eye out. Ilonka wouldn't let them do that, but rather told us we were going to St. Francisville, IL. She wanted to do some more research as to what we could do for my eye. When we arrived I thought, "What a place!" I never saw something like it in my life; it was so quiet and peaceful! Out of nowhere, there was a huge airplane hanger! I couldn't believe this place that looked so sterile, and then when you entered inside, was like James Bond! It was fun! I didn't see other Americans living like this, but Ilonka was different than anyone I ever met. The day soon came when Ilonka said it was time to go see what we can do about my eye; I had mixed feelings! We were on our way to Louisville, KY. I was really tired from all the driving we'd been doing, so I slept most of the way. Then I heard, "Ok, we are here! Come on, wake up! Let's go! I was ready for this adventure! We entered this small clinic, and waited for a special doctor named Bruce. All I knew is that he is Ilonka's doctor and one of her best friends. He had a big wide smile on his face. Well, hello Wael, how are you all doing?" He had a deep voice. “Good, good, and how have you been Bruce?" Oh well, as you know, just like Ilonka, always busy! So let's take a look at you young man! I am thinking, "Oh shoot, here we go!" I was so scared! All I could think of was that I didn't want to have an injection because I am so scared of them! Bruce assured me it was so easy, and not to worry. The only part that might hurt is taking the size of the eye; it will hurt for a few minutes, but it shouldn't be bad! A big smile never left his face, and is always there every time I see him! Ilonka couldn't bear to see me hurt, so she left the office for this part. My Dad stayed with me to hold my hand, and also Courtland "my American adopted Dad" who was looking after me and told me not to worry. All of them made me feel comfortable and brought peace to me and calmed me down. Finally, this measuring was over and we made several trips to create the lens and match the color of the eye. Soon it was time to try my new eye. I wonder how it will look. Bruce put in the new eye piece he had created, and I couldn't believe what happened to my face! That couldn't be me! "How could I look this way so fast?" I thought to myself, "Well, that's how it is Wael; you have to believe it now!" This was the beginning of a new life for me. When I thought of going back to Egypt, I felt I wanted to do something for this lady who changed my life and changed everything in it. I didn't know what to say or do? How can I ever thank her for doing this for me? I had no idea. Words wouldn't be enough to say ''thank you''. When I did go back to Egypt, I shocked all my friends! Their faces were in awe, as if I had been reborn! Everyone, mother crying, friends happy to see me, all my family were waiting in our home, even my relatives came in from the country side to see the ''new me''. What a great feeling! Now I am 19 years old, I am a growing man, I had to work and be responsible. I decided to go to the USA and work; after all, I had been there before. It looks easy to live there and work. I didn't realize how naive I was! I will try, why not!! So I told my Dad, I was going to the USA and work. "Are you sure about that son? My simple answer was, yeah why not?" "Ok, you are a grown man and you can do it!" My father gave me his blessing. Yes, I will! ... So I packed my bags and felt everything was cool. I was going to the USA; what a dream! I arrived again after 12 hours of flight. When I landed, there was supposed to be some Egyptian lady that my father knew who was to pick me up. It turns out that Omema couldn't be there so she sent her cousin who had a really small sign with my name on it. She then told me that Omema was really busy and sent her to pick me up. She further told me that she was driving me to a restaurant and Omema would pick me up there later. I asked her how long before I was picked up? She had no idea! It seemed like a good plan until 6, 7, 8, 9, and finally 10 hours had passed! That's right, ten whole hours! Finally she arrived, "I am so sorry Wael! I told her it wasn't a big deal even though I had just waited for 10 hours after a 12 hour flight, and also hadn't slept all night long the night before! But, that's ok, I am in the USA! Then she told me that I was going to stay with the guy working in this restaurant who is Egyptian. I told her that over the last ten hours I had talked to him, does he know I am staying with him? She answered, "Yes!" This didn't make sense since he saw me waiting ten hours, knew I was staying with him, but didn't invite me up to his place? This made me a little nervous! So I asked Mrs. Omema where I will work. She told me that she had talked to the owner of the restaurant and he agreed to hire me. Then I found out the worst, he wanted me to wash dishes. No, I didn't come all the way from Egypt to wash dishes. I needed a plan. My plan was to call Ilonka to go to her doctor for an eye check up. I called her, and she immediately sent me a ticket. I felt better immediately. I was leaving NY and going back to Ilonka. There she was with that sweet voice, "Hello sweetie... how was your flight?" I felt so happy and comfortable for the first time in 2 days. I don't know why I cried, but I did! Maybe because I felt that Ilonka is my mom here, and she always made me feel so secure with her, just like if I was with my own mom in Egypt. She asked me what happened in New York, she could see how upset I was. I told her about Mrs. Omema, and how awful New York was and that I was going back to Egypt. After telling her all what happened in NY, she said, "Well, you have to stay here then with me. What would I do? She told me not to worry that there was a lot to do all the time around ''the hut'' and I would learn a lot! I told her that she felt like my own mom and we both felt a rush of tears. We cried and cried as if we were united once again. Since those tears we shared together, Ilonka is not the lady that helped me in the USA. She is not the lady who saved my appearance and changed my life; NO...she is my mom! I love her to death and will never leave her no matter what. She means a lot to me and she is my life here in the USA and anywhere, anytime... She is MOM...I love you Mom, more than you can ever imagine... Mmmooooaaaahhhhhhh! (Big kiss!).