Obviously Paige and I made it home safely or I wouldn’t be telling any of these stories. But there were times when I wasn’t sure we’d make it. The night before we left, Paige and I discussed our travel plans with Sharon like good little girls. There’s some website that gives you all the latest information about the train system, and Sharon checked it out for us. From her research, we pieced together that the train from London Bridge was down (again) and we’d have to ride to Three Crosses (or something like that) and then get a straight ride to the airport. But we did not go so far as to ask for the directions. And we didn’t check what times the train heading out from Charlton Station left.
We knew we needed at least two hours to check in. London-Gatwick is a huge airport. Our plane left at 12:20 so we wanted to be at the airport at 10:20. We gave ourselves an hour and a half to reach the airport so we slept in and made ourselves ready for the 8:50 train leaving Charlton. The last night of our foreign travels was my responsibility to book. Well, I didn’t. And we had to find somewhere to sleep that night. Sharon graciously allowed us to use her bedroom because she had other guests coming in that evening to use the guest bedroom. Sharon had to find somewhere else to stay that night. Paige and I felt terrible, but we really had no other choice. In the morning the guests came downstairs to use the bathroom. Being in a foreign country, you feel the compulsion to speak in a foreign language. All throughout France I wanted to speak in Spanish. Finally, I got to speak in Spanish! The couple was from Spain. I got to tell them with great joy that “mi amiga esta en el bano.”
Then Paige and I left for the train station. We waited for twenty-five minutes without spying a train, and then Paige decided to go check when the trains were coming through. Not until 9:30. Paige also asked for directions to Gatwick-Airport just so we could be sure to not get lost. Joy. The trip would take us an hour and forty minutes. We didn’t reach the airport until 11:10. When we reached the platform exit, our Oyster cards wouldn’t work. Nobody told us that London-Gatwick is outside of London and that our cards were invalid. The man in uniform took us aside and once again should have charged us about forty-five pounds but only charged us twenty. This was a time that I didn’t think we’d make it to America. Once again our boarding passes for our connecting flight in Iceland wouldn’t print. And this time my luggage wouldn’t get sent all the way to America so my luggage had to be put under Paige’s name. We didn’t really care about the difficulties in Iceland because we were in such a hurry. There were only two people working check in. The woman was too busy flirting with two guys to actually work, and the guy who was helping Paige and me moved as if forty minutes was plenty of time to get checked in, go through security, and board the plane. We finally made it to security, and guess what? It didn’t like my purse again. Only this time, it really didn’t like my purse. My purse was sent through the x-ray machine and was put into the sketchy pile. Nobody wanted to search my bag though. A worker finally came through and asked if she could search my bag. NO! I’M IN A HURRY! Really? Of course you can search my bag. She took out two of my makeup bottles, my primer and my foundation, and sent them through the x-ray machine again. Then Paige and I RAN to our boarding gate. By some miracle we had time to buy and scarf down some muffins and iced coffees before boarding. We also got to see our friends from the first Wow flight again. Paige was so happy to see them. She seriously stalked them at every stop during our flight back to America.
Our layover in Iceland gave us no trouble this time. We had separate seats for the five-hour flight, and I had an entire row to myself. Robert Frost and I became good friends on that flight–well, better friends. He even mentions Dublin in several of his poems, which is the closest thing to a happy place that I have.
Our layover in Boston was two hours. We were both dreading customs. I was expecting a horrible line and lots of angry faces while workers interrogated you about what was in your suitcase. But instead I stared at a computer and uttered unintelligible utterances while a tiny camera took my picture. So my mouth was open. At least I gave the passport-control man a hearty laugh. I would’ve retaken the picture, but there really wasn’t enough time. At first we were afraid that my luggage hadn’t been sent from Iceland, but we finally did find it. And then we had to wait over eleven minutes for the right shuttle to arrive to take us to our terminal. But again, by some miracle Paige and I were able to buy some yogurt and coffee before boarding the plane that would take us straight to Charlotte.
We exchanged our currency in Charlotte but could only exchange one pound notes and above. So I got to keep a lot of pence as souvenirs. And somehow I missed three pounds that I should have exchanged and didn’t. Oh well. More souvenirs! Paige and I split up at that point so that I could get my bag from baggage claim before the workers stole it. I couldn’t find my correct baggage claim. By the time I found it, Paige had already finished exchanging her currency and had picked up my bag.
Paige’s mom drove us from Charlotte back to Greenville, stopping to let us buy some fast food for the trip home. I walked into my new apartment at 12:00 Monday morning and had a note from my new apartment-mate saying that she had made my bed for me. The next day I had to face an apartment cluttered with my not-yet-put-away furniture and other belongings.
I have been back in America for a week and a half now. The magic is starting to fade. Routine is starting to set back in. The romance is beginning to be forgotten. I miss the European “me.” So Europe didn’t really change me in any dramatic way. I’m still the same girl who fears people and loves them deeply at the same time. I’m the same girl who doesn’t want to need anyone but who wants to be needed. I’m the same girl who wants to be heard but refuses to speak. I’m the same girl who’s still lying to herself about what she wants and about who she loves. But while I was in Europe, I felt hope once again that that girl can change. That girl can become the girl who loves without fear of vulnerability, who serves without asking for anything in return, who speaks out for Christ, and who can wait on God to control her relationships.