Holy crap; I’m going home today.
What a strange feeling. It had been almost two months. Two months of challenges and fears, but also joy and wonder. Two months of intense anxiety, but also indescribable breakthroughs.
I packed up my things (ooh…I’m almost done lugging these dang things around!), checked out of the hostel, grabbed an éclair from a bakery I had passed the day before…
…and hopped on the good ol’ metro to the airport.
I remember wanting to do everything again. I wanted to go back into the centre of Paris in the remaining hours I had and find all the Arago medallions, ride the Ferris wheel that I kept telling myself I had to ride, stare at the Eiffel Tower again for about a day, eat more crepes, run through the Louvre again, and spend the whole day at the Orsay. I could do that in a few hours barely make my flight, right?
(Sigh), no, I had to go.
But I could go back to Giverny! Maybe even La Rochelle and take a trip over to Austria and get that green jacket I’m still thinking about! I’m not done here!
I realized then that I could never be done here. In this wonderful world of ours, there’s always something amazing for me to fall in love with. Unfortunately, Europe would have to wait.
So I boarded the metro and took the 45-minute ride to Charles De Gaulle airport. I arrived, checked my bag, and ate at my last French McDonald’s (which I was kind of bummed to do because I wanted something more French, but McDonald’s was the only thing available). I had a few hours until my flight.
There was nothing else for me to do but wait.
I read more Narnia; I was actually very close to being finished, which was exciting. Another thing I did was something amazing that I had found in the many airports I had visited in the previous two months: massage chairs. Two Euro, ten minutes, and the world becomes a better place. Mmm.
The plane finally arrived. It would be a three-hour flight to Iceland, and then a five-hour flight to Minneapolis. Taking off, I felt the same feeling I had when I left the U.S….Try to realize that you’re not going to see this land for a long time. Savor this. Reflect. It didn’t really work, though. But still, I felt a small hint of sadness as we left the ground.
On the first flight, I was proud to finish The Chronicles of Narnia. The entire Chronicles. I had come to Europe with three of the seven books read, and I finished them before I came home (and read The Shack during the choir trip). So yeah, I felt pretty cool.
After that, I did what I found to be even a better way to spend time on a plane instead of sleep: watch movies. IcelandAir rocks. A small touchscreen television was on the back of the headrest of each seat on the plane, with many movies and television shows available. I watched Duplicity on the first flight. Good movie.
Iceland was nice for an hour. That’s all I really had there. I got some lunch and sat quietly, already knowing the movies I was going to watch on the flight.
Sideways and The Savages. Both great.
And then I heard over the intercom, “We will be arriving in Minneapolis in twenty minutes.”
Soon enough, we landed. I went through customs, and everything went smoothly until they found out I had wine in my checked baggage. Oh yeah…I’m not legal over here.
My parents and Christie were waiting for me outside customs, and didn’t expect to have to deal with a cop escorting me to make sure I wasn’t going to keep the wine.
“Can you claim the wine this gentleman has brought over?” the cop said to my parents.
“Uh…yeah,” my parents said as they nearly pushed him out of the way to hug me. And Christie hugged me too, of course. And from there we zipped over to Buffalo Wild Wings, my all-time favorite place to eat, where some of my friends from college were waiting for us.
The simplicity of placing my order caught me off guard. Habitually, I prepared myself for ordering, taking a deep breath and thinking, “Okay, how can I say this in a way so the server understands me?” I realized then, where I was. America, baby.
We had a wonderful time talking and eating my favorite meal, hot wings.
From there, I said goodbye to my friends and to Christie, and got in the car with my parents to head to La Crosse. As soon as we were on the road, I grabbed my pillow and fell asleep. It was only about seven o’clock, but it was two in the morning to my body.
Then I was shaken by my mom.
“Brian,” she said, softly.
“What! What’s going on? Where are we?” I said, confused, pretty sure we were near a gas station or something in Rochester.
“We’re home. It’s ten o’clock.”
So I got up again, unpacked some of my things, and went to bed in Holmen.
The next morning, I lay in bed with my eyes closed.
I have to pee, I thought, Does my room in this hostel have its own bathroom? Let me think. No, I have to go in the hall. I hope no one’s in there.
And then I opened my eyes.
I got a call a bit later from my dad. “How’s it feel to be back in the United States?
“I dunno. Only a few hours ago I was in Paris.”
It was strangely true. The whole day had been a blur.
Zip to Minneapolis.
My parents are here.
So is Christie.
Zip to Buffalo Wild Wings.
My friends are here too!
Yum. Hot wings.
Aw, Christie has to go too?
Fall asleep in the car.
Zip. We’re in Holmen.
Wake up in my room.
That’s how my day went.
And thus, I started my slow but sure “I-have-to-get-used-to-America-again” transformation. Swallowing two months worth of incredible adventures is not an easy task. Also, becoming acclimated to our culture, not having to listen in public for English because everyone already speaks it, suppressing the need to look for ATMs, pay phones, wondering if I’ll ever find wireless internet, and having to do the scary “okay…how much is that in American dollars?” calculation was something that took some time.
Over time, though, I began to thank God for my experience and realize how lucky I was to have it. Then I realized how thankful I am for the area that I actually live in. This place makes me wonderfully happy, and it is beautiful. The challenge is to continue to find things that excite me about this place, this town, this state, and this country. So that’s my new goal.
To find things that are exciting to me everywhere I go.
To challenge myself to go beyond what I think my limits are, because when I do, I find myself becoming more in touch with who I am and to God as well.
To do something that causes me to want to take a picture at least once a week.
To set goals for myself and improve my life.
To find God in ways I did not know I could find Him before I went to Europe.
To seek enjoyment and happiness in all areas of my life, knowing that God is there.
To help others find that happiness as well. This means also to stand up for social justice and equality.
To meet new people.
To step out of that box that I so frequently put myself in and allow myself to be changed.
(I smell a new blog forming.)
So I’m back from Europe. I have been changed by what I’ve experienced and by the Spirit who has led me.
I have a few more things to say about returning to the States—the fun European things I brought with me, the retirement of my kite, more reflections…lots of stuff!