Leaving on a Jet Plane

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's now Thursday, June 30th at about 11:30pm New Orleans time.  I've been home for about 24 hours.  I was too tired to write when I got in.

On the 29th, which feels like yesterday but wasn't, I woke up at 4:30 so that I could catch Sam before he left for the Nanjing airport and say our final goodbye.  I didn't cry like I thought I would.  I was able to suck it up mostly because I could tell Sam wasn't in the mood to deal with more tears.  We hugged, I told him I'd miss him, and I asked if he could call me from Hong Kong if his phone worked.  I watched him walk to the elevator because leaving our building for the last time was a big moment for both of us, and I wanted to be there for his moment.  And now I'm crying again.

I was able to go back to sleep for a little while before I had to wake up at 7:30.  Everything went smoothly with checking out of my room, getting to the station, and taking the train to Shanghai.  I took a taxi to the airport and arrived about three hours early, but I ate lunch then went through the visa check line, so it felt like I waited for only about an hour.

My seat on the plane was comfortable.  Unlike on the way to China, on the way home there were personal TV's on all the seat-backs so I watched two movies.  Unfortunately, the reading lamps weren't working and the flight crew wanted to keep the main lights off since it was nighttime for all of us, so I wasn't able to read at all on the flight.  I had a harder time sitting through the 14 hours than I did on the way to China.  I just felt like I couldn't sit.  After nine hours I started to have a really tough time, but the crew fed us twice more and though I wasn't hungry, eating helped pass the time.  

When I exited the plane in New York, I felt so glad to be home.  In the next hour, I understood all the conversation that went on around me and I could read everything.  Everyone's demeanor was different from what I'd become used to.  Four people bumped into me and said sorry, and the first time it happened, I didn't realize what the person was sorry about until a second later.
Two funny things happened:  Since I'd gotten used to following the Chinese around because they always knew what was going on better than I did in China, I nearly followed the group of Chinese people walking in front of me right into the non-U.S. citizen visa check line.  Then, the workers checking visas and bags asked me twice if I was with the group of Americans in front of me.  Apparently, I was standing so close to them (by American standards) that it looked like I knew them.
My flight from New York to New Orleans was easy and relatively quick.  My mom met me at the terminal and surprised me by bringing my family along.  My cousin Hossein, in particular, was a surprise because he just came back from Afghanistan and I'd had no idea he was home.

We all went to my house and had a party, even though it was 11pm and I was tired.  My mom made taco soup and we had midnight margaritas.  I had an email from Sam waiting in my inbox.  He sent a message from the airport in Hong Kong to say that his first flight went well.  I haven't heard from him since he's been home in England, but I'm sure he's enjoying spending time with his family just like I am.
During the drive from the airport to my house, I couldn't believe how clean and deserted the streets were.  The absence of crowds still feels strange.  Also, my house seemed so much softer and nicer than I'd remembered.  And my bathroom didn't smell like sewer water.  I miss China already, but it's great to be home. 

When I pulled back the covers to get in bed last night, I found a big surprise from my mom.  She got me a new iPhone as a welcome home present.  I love it.

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