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May 22, 2012

To pick up where I left off in my last blog…I realized as I was sitting there waiting for my flight that the ticket person to whom I brought my second bag did not put a claim tag on it – she just sent it down the conveyor belt. Maybe, I thought, there would be a miracle and my bag would be put on the airplane. This was highly unlikely, as there was no tag to tell the baggage handlers where to put the bag. I could not go back down and try to deal with the issue, as I had already gone through security and customs. I could do one of two things – stress out about it or hope for the best, and deal with it when I got to my destination.

The flights went rather well. The first one was operated by Ukrainian International Airlines – three hours from Kiev to Amsterdam. As I cannot really remember much from it, suffice it to say it was uneventful, and I read a good portion of the 900-page book I brought with me .

By the time we arrived and got into the airport in Amsterdam, however (and yippee, we taxied all the way up to the gate!), there was an hour and a half until my next flight departed – in other words, I had to get to the gate, because they were already sending people through security. I was scrutinized there – the guy asked me a lot of questions…apparently I don’t look as wholesome and innocent as I used to.

Something occurred to me while I was waiting for the flight though – there was a low hum of noise from people talking, and there were more Americans than I had been around in a while.

I have to give Delta Airlines credit – they had a really great crew on the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. They were really personable and worked well together. At one point I went to talk to one of them to thank her and the crew for making my re-entry into the US pleasant, and I started crying. It was so nice to have people smiling, joking, talking and being really nice – and being genuine about it. She spread the word to the rest of the crew and they all stopped by to welcome me back to the US.

Luck was with me at Customs, too – usually there is a long line, especially on a Saturday afternoon. When we arrived, it was pretty deserted, and I only had to wait for one person to go before I went through.

I was not so lucky as far as my suitcase. As I feared, the suitcase did not make it, and I was told to go to the Delta luggage counter and file a lost claim for it. But before I got to the counter, I left the secure International Arrivals area, and there were my mom, dad, sister and niece waiting for me. My sister came running up and hugged me, and started crying (which made ME cry again).

After filing my suitcase claim (and telling them the whole story about the ticketing agents in Kiev), I headed out with my family for my first meal back in the U.S. – PF Chang’s. YUM.  Cheesecake Factory for dessert – talk about indulgences!

The past three days I’ve been trying to start sorting things out in my head – the transition to being back in the U.S., the uncertainty of ever seeing my suitcase and everything in it (both intrinsic and sentimental value), the excitement of being back among people I love tempered with the realization that maybe I did not change as much as I had (falling back into old habits with people).

This readjustment thing…it’s not so easy or straightforward.  My emotions have ranged from the elation of seeing my family and little excitement at being able to fit into a pair of jeans I could no longer wear before I went to Ukraine to my frustration at people not understanding or being interested in what I have gone through, who I am now (though I am still figuring this out myself) and the pleasure in people who work in Customer Service genuinely being nice to me.  The joy in being able to communicate my thoughts to the realization that there are some thoughts I will have to keep to myself because people just don’t get it. The fact that my being quiet when someone is talking bothers the person, because the person wants an enthusiastic response I am not able to give. The thinking that some of the things people worry about are really not that big of a deal, the distaste I feel when I see television shows that glorify the conspicuous consumption for which the U.S. is known. The realization that yes, Americans ARE loud! Our restaurants are loud, we speak loud, we always want to have noise around us. The fact that no matter how hard I try, certain people are upset when I try to communicate and reach them, and that I get upset by some of the same things that upset me before I left.

Like everything else about me, this readjustment is a work in process. Perhaps I’ll have some of it figured out before I leave for Suriname.

One Comment leave one →
  1. evechicago permalink
    May 22, 2012 4:14 pm

    I really, honestly do NOT mean this as a flippant response, but I suddenly have The Facts of Life theme song in my head: You take the good, You take the bad, You take them both and there you have The Facts of Life . . . (Meaning, I guess, “The facts of life in the U.S.”?) As an admittedly loud American, I also have (perhaps from traveling, perhaps from simply growing up) learned to be quiet sometimes and LISTEN to other people. I don’t think most people here do enough of that. Are we (perhaps) afraid the other person might say something that we don’t want to hear? As for your readjustment, good luck finding your comfort zone and don’t let anyone around you change you too much if you think that change might be back to something you didn’t like about yourself before you left. It can be very easy to fall into familiar habits in familiar settings.

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