After 22 hours of traveling from Athens, Greece to Denver, Colorado, USA, the navigation through the Denver Airport presented a challenge to the body and mind. US Customs and Immigration area presented its’ usual test of patience. The “food courts” filled with fast food restaurants emitted the distinct American smell of fried hamburgers, french fries, and MSG laden Chinese fast food. I doubted the words “freshly baked” written on a sign next to sugar-coated cinnamon rolls in a kiosk, but I did stop at the nearby Starbuck’s cafe. This combination of smells assaulted my nostrils and navigated its way into my brain’s sensory system which caused a signal from brain to stomach to focus on the word “REVULSION”. The intestines contracted, acidic bile rose, sweat appeared on the forehead, the wall provided support and I breathed deeply through my mouth to avoid what could only be described as a potentially “embarrassing moment”.
My mind filled with words flashing like a neon sign in Times Square: “WHAT HAPPENED TO FRESH FETA CHEESE, GREEK SALADS, FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES?” The cafés of Provence were gone, the pastries filled with fresh whipped cream from Italian farms were a memory, the morning’s fish catch off the Greek island of Paros was not going to pass my lips here…
The coastal walks, wildflowers growing amidst rocks, sipping a cappuccino while watching the Aegean Sea turn different hues of blue depending on the sun’s location, hiking in Petra, riding the bus from Rognonas to Avignon, entering Italian cathedrals and marveling at the beauty, the efficiency of train travel, meeting new friends, 10 months of trains, buses, planes, hotels, guest houses, foreign languages and broken English– in one brief instant, all was replaced by iconoclastic symbol of America: McDonald’s and Starbucks.
Airports encapsulate the unpleasant traits synonymous with Americans and their culture: airport security, the God-awful smell of American fried food, overweight population, constant impatience, sloppy dress, plastic water bottles everywhere – yet – despite it all, my ears welcomed the sound of America’s native tongue spoken fluently and the psyche’s comfort level went up several notches. I had returned home, and sadness enveloped me as the realization of how much I treasured all the experiences of the last year. Will I continue to look, now, at my home country, with the same anticipation of new experiences?” I hope so.
The circuit of 1500 miles through New Mexico and Arizona to reconnect with friends and family was akin to watching a movie entitled “Why I Return Home” – open spaces, small farms, big ranches, can-do attitudes, friendly smiles, different American accents reflecting their home states, entreprenurial minds, and familiarity…..
It has been a gift to feel recognizable arms encircle my body in a now-accepted style of American greeting – a big hug! Conversations recounted lives lived over the last year, some with tragedy and others with new-found happiness, and others -well – non-eventful day-to-day living, which is the case with most people. Conversations lulled, started again, but with a preamble to bring me up-to-date on the event, and eventually comfort levels returned to the conversation participants.
Extended time away “home” and returning seems to be a dance of self-realizations, different lifestyles, personal changes, relationship adjustments, and a longing for the unspoken excitement and tension when traveling in a foreign country. Daily, the click of SHIFT/ALT/DELETE to reboot the body’s computer is required to remind the body to do yoga poses, keep the energy flowing, retain the calmness and don’t get hooked into “hurry-hurry mode”. One is home, but occupying in a different space now.
I remind myself to take a moment and look at the sky….every minute is precious and won’t be lived again.
…..and still settling in…finding the balance….
Take good care,