Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cardiff, London, Minneapolis, Home.

Saturday August 14 was Travel Day! I couldn't believe it. Later that night (although really it would be like 24 hours later) I'd be breathing Utah air and hugging my family. Now, ok. Bear with me. This day was a WHIRLWIND, obviously. I hadn't slept, I was traveling, which is always taxing, and I was crazy excited. Unfortunately, because of all this, I did not write anything down for this day. Even if I did it would probably be incoherent. So I'll try to remember it as best I can. {Number of times Diet Coke is mentioned in this post = 11}

First, to help you understand the relative times and length of my trip, a chart:

The biggest thing I want you to take away from this chart is that I was traveling for over 24 hours. Also, keep in mind that I didn't sleep the night before. And wait. I landed in SLC at 11:30 and didn't get to bed until 8 am? That must be a mistake, right? Well, stay tuned for the thrilling explanation.

So packed and prepared, I jumped into the van with Anna, Anders, Talia and Jessica (other Jessica). Everyone kept asking me if I was tired or felt ok for staying up all night, but honestly I felt fine (I HAD chugged like 3 of my last Diet Cokes. I had to get rid of them somehow). I bid a quick farewell to everyone and clambered out of the van and into the dreary, sketchy bus station covered terminals. It was rainy, slightly cold and the gross, irregular yellow lighting of the terminals combined with my sudden realization that

1. My luggage might be too heavy for the bus requirements
2. All I had for my bus ticket was a printout of payment
3. The monitors did not list a bus leaving for London Heathrow at 7:30
4. Since I threw away my debit card in Preston on accident, all I had was the 30ish pounds and $50 cash on my person, and didn't know if I could buy another bus ticket or taxi for that amount if my bus pass didn't work.
5. Just a general realization of all the things that potentially COULD go wrong on this long and complicated journey home.

Jessica and Talia were supposed to take a bus, but were worried that it wasn't coming or that they hadn't bought the right tickets, so they made the executive decision to run over to the train station and get on the next train to London. Their flight was much earlier than mine and the train only takes about 1.5-2 hours, compared to the 3 hour bus ride. Once they left, around 7:00, I was all alone. Sitting there. Cold and damp. Trying to contain my anxiety. I ended up throwing away some t-shirts, my towel, and my trusty charcoal peacoat (it was falling apart anyways) in an attempt to lighten up my luggage.

The bus came a little late, and wasn't the exact bus number on my ticket. The driver said the schedules change all the time and he had no problem letting me on. Although he did laugh at the weight of my bag and asked me if there was a dead body in it. I climbed on a bus, got a window seat and pulled out a book, but I just wanted to get a nice last look at the UK while I could. I streamed "First Train Home" by Imogen Heap (and other appropriate songs) over and over as I said goodbye to Cardiff, Wales and garbage lining the streets. Excitement filled me, but then I started to crash and wanted to save my food and Diet Coke for when we were closer to London. I'd need to be alert when I got off the bus and had to negotiate multiple terminals. So I set my alarm to wake me up around 10:15 (my mom had been stressing that I would be too tired and sleep through my flight/stops/arrivals), and fell into a superficial, unsatisfying doze. I hate those big buses. They are cold, uncomfortable and cramped. Even for a little short girl like me. Pulling into Heathrow was fantastic. I had consumed my chips and apple, downed my Diet Coke, and was ready to rock.

I grabbed my luggage, hopped on the underground tram, and stepped out at the appropriate terminal. I was able to quickly check in and deposit my luggage, which was a HUGE relief. My backpack was also full to bursting, and lugging them both around was making my back tighter than a drum. Around 11-11:30, I was through security, located my terminal and sat down with every intention of working on my paper. Luckily, it was like 4 in the morning at home, so no one was online to tempt me with conversation. The people-watching was entertaining enough, though. Finally around 1 pm I decided I wanted to eat, stock up snacks and blow the rest of my soon-to-be-useless pounds. I grabbed lunch, bought gum, Toblerone, water and another Diet Coke to drink when I was about to get off my flight, and headed back to my terminal to await boarding call.

I boarded the plane around 1:45 and popped several Dramamine as the plane was taking off. Goodbye, UK! I'll miss you. And I was out. OUT OUT. Every couple of hours I would wake up for just long enough to look out the window at the ocean, check the time on my seat monitor, maybe sip some water and pass back out again. I was miraculously awake when they came around to serve us dinner. I wasn't super hungry and that food is generally super gross, so I think I just stuck to the rice, cookies and jello. The cute little Indian man next to me offered me his jello before falling back into motionless, soundless sleep again. Best row-mate ever. Before I knew it, I was looking out the window at land. And not just any land. The US of A! I had tears welling up in my eyes. My heart was swelling in my chest. I was really home.

I downed their last round of complimentary Diet Coke and my secret stash of Diet Coke and Toblerone in the last 30 minutes of the flight. By this point I couldn't sit still. And I know what you're thinking, but no, it wasn't because of the chocolate and Diet Coke. Maybe a little. But mostly I was just DYING to use my cell phone. I could TEXT! I could make phone calls! Wow. It had been forever. I hadn't really minded it at all, it had even been nice, in fact. But now I was ready. As the plane touched down and stood idle waiting for an opening, I giggled like a child at the little startup tone of my phone. I sent my first text back in the US:

"Tyrannosaurus Rex!"

You know who you are.

Then the texts to everyone else - "Guess who's back in the US?!" to all my friends and coworkers and "Landed safe!" to my family. When I finally stood and shuffled off the plane, I was herded directly into Customs, which went surprisingly fast. A big, jolly American guy processed me, and asked me about my final destination and teased me while I put away my paperwork. "Well, good luck. And welcome back to the USA!" A high five, and then I emerged in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

American voices on the intercom. My phone buzzing cheerily in my pocket. And then... a vending machine. I happened to glance in it as I walked through the last terminal and what did I see?

Tears welled up in my eyes again. Over CHEEZ-ITS for crying out loud. I was a wreck, clearly. But you don't understand.... one thing (among other things like real Diet Coke, Reese's and Wendy's) they do not have in the UK that I had been DYING for was good cheese crackers. Like Cheez-its. This was America.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is ENORMOUS. Seriously. It's huge. I can't even imagine the Mall of America. It took me almost 25 minutes just to walk to my terminal to make sure I could find it. From there, I called my parents, called my grandmas and updated everyone on my situation. Those were some great conversations. I was loving seeing kids in pro sports jerseys, people talking about Glee, and even a man wearing a Dunder Mifflin t-shirt. It was like Christmas. Everywhere I turned, something thoroughly American! Around 7 or so, I realized I was starving, having eaten nothing but snacks and Diet Coke since London. I decided I was going to find a nice sit down restaurant and eat me some American food and have Diet Cokes delivered to my table, Ed Budge-style. I had seen a Chili's and thought that would be a good safety, but started looking for other options.

And suddenly, there it was. A Cafe Rio-esque MEXICAN RESTAURANT. I practically sprinted in. Did I mention Mexican food is my favorite? Did you know there are literally NO Mexican Restaurants in the UK? The allure of chips and salsa was intoxicating. I sat down, got a REAL Diet Coke (oh how I've missed you), started to tuck into my delicious burrito, but then I looked up. What did I see? What could possibly stop me from devouring my precious Mexican food like a barbarian?


There was a TV in the restaurant. On that TV was a baseball game. It was just a Twins game, but still. America's pastime. Not cricket. Not golf. Not soccer. BASEBALL. At this point I really started to cry. It was just too much. So here I was, sitting in this airport restaurant by myself, a mouth full of steaming delicious rice, beans and pico, staring up at a baseball game, with tears escaping from my tired eyes.


When I pulled myself together, eliminated my burrito, cashed a few more Diet Cokes and watched the last couple innings of the game, I headed all the way back to my terminal. I tried to work on my paper and got some done, but ultimately just wanted to text and talk. I boarded my plane around 9 and soon we were en route to Salt Lake City! The flight was a little under 3 hours long, and while I slept for a good hour at the start, I spent the remainder staring out the window, listening to my ipod, and day dreaming (well, night-flight dreaming) about seeing my parents and siblings, the boy, my friends, my office, grandmas, everyone! I fantasized about my comfy, dark bedroom at home and how I would sleep for an entire 24 hours once I got home. After I took a luxurious shower, of course. I finished touching up my makeup as we flew in sight of Salt Lake City. I know this will sound ridiculous, but as I saw the city lights my heart started to pound, and once I caught view of the Salt Lake Temple, I was flooded with the Spirit. Again, my eyes welled up with tears and I had to fix my eyeliner. Worth it.

I stood in line to get out of the plane, bouncing on the balls of my feet. The guy riding next to me laughed and said "Don't worry. The airport isn't going anywhere." Not funny, random guy. You don't know that. Seeing the familiar terminals of the Salt Lake Airport was awesome. I quickly swerved in and out of passengers to make it to the open floor, and then jogged to the escalator to baggage claim. As I descended below the overhanging beams, I caught sight of my mom and dad, waiting for me. Biggest smile ever. I ran over to them, dropped my backpack and jumped up into my dad's arms. I'm such a daddy's girl. Me and my mom were emotional and excited. I love them so much. My dad grabbed my bad and we headed out to the car. Mitch ran out and hugged me as we walked up and I was having such a hard time holding the tears back from my laughter. I jumped in the car to find my adorable little Blade! I think I missed him even more than my friends and family because I couldn't talk to him.

It was so bizarre to sit in a nice, leather-interior Audi that didn't smell of wetness and feet. The backseat was this enormous expanse of open space, and WE WERE DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! There were no roundabouts, no fields filled with sheep. Just billboard after billboard, and exit after exit populated by Wendy's and Texacos. I told them funny stories and answered their questions, meanwhile texting all my friends. My now-boyfriend Ryan and a few of our friends were hanging out and wanted me to come say hi. It was midnight, I was with my parents, exhausted, and hadn't been home in 6 weeks. So naturally I decide that's a good idea. Clearly I like this kid. My parents drop me off in Orem, bewildered, no doubt. We pull up next to my friends, I say thanks and goodbye to my family, and jump out, excited to see the guy in the white v-neck walking towards me with a big smile on his face. He picked me up with a huge hug and a "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!! I missed you." I'm pretty sure my heart melted. Enough of that embarrassing gushiness.

I said hi to our other friends and we all hung out and talked for a while. Finally, they decided to go up to Kader's "Le Cabin" and watch a movie. It was close to 1 am at this point, so I thought I should go home. Turns out, Ryan's car was parked at someone's house, and it would be a huge pain to have to go get it. Plus I was having a great time. I shot my parents a text to say that I'd just come home in the morning and to go ahead and go to bed, and we piled into Kader's car and headed to Le Cabin. We watched Smokey and the Bandit, which was awesome, and hung out until about 8 am when I figured it was safe to head out to Mapleton without waking anybody up.

I got home, went inside and went straight down into my room. As I opened the door and flipped on the light, the best surprise ever greeted me. A HUGE new bed and cute bedding.

Well, now I feel completely worthless.

My parents had bought a nice new bed to suprise me and welcome me home with. And I didn't even come home until 8 in the morning! Worst daughter ever. I ran upstairs and thanked them, apologizing for not coming home with them. They rolled their eyes and laughed. They're used to me being inconsiderate and making decisions under the influence of fatigue, apparently.

And then. THEN, I went to bed. That bed was a celestial cloud of dreaming glory. I slept till 4 or 5. I can't remember. But it was delightful.

There's no place like home.

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