The slow return to America

I arrived to the Zadar airport way too early for my liking.

“This is the bus you have to take if you want to get there in time for your flight,” the receptionst at the hostel informed me.

It got me there more than three hours before my flight.

Maybe there will be something to do, I considered.

Right.

Zadar’s airport is tiny. Two gates. Two restaurants. One Duty Free store. Two little shops outside of security selling overpriced Croatian goods.

I ate, even though I still had no appetite. I wandered through Duty Free, even though I wanted nothing. I sat at the bar and paid an exuberant amount for a tiny bottle of water. I sat in a wicker chair staring into space, listening to “Sideways” for hours.

Finally, the flight boarded.

On the airplane, I sat with my head pressed against the window, tears dripping down my cheeks, as I watched Croatia disappear into the distance.

It’s over, D.

Arriving in Frankfurt, a wave of cold smacked me in the face. After spending the summer in ridiculously hot climates, Frankfurt was chilly, cloudy and about 20 degrees cooler.

RyanAir doesn’t fly into Frankfurt Main, it flies into the other Frankfurt airport, two hours outside of the city. (I have no idea how it can even be called a Frankfurt aiport).

I caught the shuttle bus, eyes glued to the gorgeous green German countryside, still listening to my song.

Today is Grandma’s funeral.

In my mind, I could see everyone standing outside in the rolling Pennsylvania hills. I could hear my blog post being read to the family and friends that had gathered there. I could feel their grief, their loss, as I sat on the bus, alone.

And once again, I cried.

I arrived to the aiport as it was getting dark, around 7:30 p.m. I only had 15 hours to waist at the airport.

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Home?

I traded rainy and cold Belgium for sunny and magnificent Spain around noon the day after leaving Amsterdam (about the same time I regained my sanity).

Only, when I arrived in Spain, it wasn’t really sunny or magnificent. I just pretended it was because that’s how much I love freaking Spain. In fact, it was sunny for about 10 minutes (enough time for me to get to Anthony’s from the Metro) before the clouds opened and the theme of rain and cool continued.

Something funny on the Ryan Air flight happened to me during the time of ignoring the obnoxious teens rapping in French and making the volume on my iPod louder, and looking out the window.

We were descending into Madrid, flying over the mountains and the turbulence was bouncing everyone around a lot. I looked outside and saw dark gray clouds towering high into the sky, enveloping the plane.

This kinda sucks.

We dipped down quickly and the teens screamed.

Doesn’t help.

The turbulence continued.

I just need the clouds below us to part. I just need to see the ground. To see Spain. I know once that happens, all of this will stop.

And, justlikethat, the clouds cleared for a moment and I could see down to the earth.

Spain.

At first, it looked like any other place with its cross sections of greens and browns and farms, but as we got closer, it turned into one of those landscape oil paintings … little puffs of trees dotted on rolling emerald hills, red soil, water reflecting the cotton ball cloud sky.

It instantly put a smile on my face and warmed me.

Spain. I’m back.

Spain is the only country I have been to twice on this trip and the country in Schengen Europe I will spend the most time in. It is also one of the only countries I have ever visited more than once, let alone in the span of 31 days.

That’s how long I was gone from Spain — 31 days. Yes, I counted.

Mom e-mailed me that afternoon asking me if it felt different landing in Spain than it did anywhere else … if it felt like home (because if it did she was going to be concerned).

“Yes,” I had written her, “It does feel like home.”

Since I had left Spain the first time, I had kept in close contact with many of the people I had met — Anthony, Emma and some of the people from VaughanTown — one of which decided to help me and see if he could find me a job opportunity here.

When I walked down the street from the Metro to Anthony’s, I had a spring in my step, a smile on my face and a feeling … Honey, I’m home!

It’s a feeling I have never really experienced. When in Spain, everything just feels right. I could have a bad day, but walk outside and there, in front of me, is this entire world of beauty, of culture … lapping at my feet. I can’t help but smile.

I think I am pretty lucky. Some people search their entire lives to find that one place that makes them feel safe. I found it on March 19, the day I stamped in to Madrid from Ireland.

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An interview with customs

“Where are you going? How long are you here? Where are you staying? How do you know the person you are staying with? How did you meet? How long have you known each other? What does your friend do? What do you do? Where do you live?” The immigrations officer fired question after question at me.

I stood at the counter, silently praying she would stop asking questions and stamp my passport.

Fortunately, she did.

I had spent my entire flight across the Atlantic paranoid. When I went to check in onlineĀ earlier in the day, I was informed I had to call the airline — that my trip was beyond the limit for travel and a visa was required.

My heart nearly jumped into my chest.

How could I have missed this? I thought I was good to go.

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