Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Long Way Home

There is no melancholy in this, maybe a little bit in the story, but definitely not in the title. It has nothing to do with Norah Jones either. This is just me telling you, in as matter of fact a manner as possible, how I traveled from Trinidad to Austria, via the USA and Germany. 

On Sunday morning, superlucky me was picked up from home at 8.45AM by my dear friend Andrew. I already knew what a great guy he is, but now you have the official proof too: he got up very early on a weekend just to drive me to the airport. Kwesi also came with and when Andrew had to turn right around after dropping me off to get back to his place and take his Dad out for Father's Day brunch, he stayed with me and waited while I checked in so we could have breakfast together. 

Bumpy check-in and bumpy breakfast. First, the people at the counter wouldn't give me a window seat and instead gave me an aisle seat for the 3.5hr flight from POS to FLL. Not a problem, you say? Well, unfortunately, it is for me, because the way I cope with claustrophobia on planes (induced not by small spaces but by being surrounded by too many people too closely) is to just pretend that the sky is also part of my seat and then proceed to lean very far away from the other people and just discretely ignore them unless they strike up a conversation. That way, I can meet people on planes and chat nicely, while not being bothered by shoulders, elbows or knees touching my shoulders, elbows or knees. It works. The second one is a very long story that involves Subway employees and mayonnaise and it wouldn't have been half as much of a problem if I hadn't been completely stressed out and already anxious about the aisle thing. And about leaving, of course. 

That's where Kwesi's being there went from nice to fortunate and pretty much life-saving. Figuratively speaking, of course. Let me try to find a nice picture to paint for you here. He wrapped himself in a blanket of calmness and covered his face with a scarf of reasoning and then walked into the dangerous sandstorm of my anger (about the sandwich, I know that it's ridiculous) and anxiety (about the flight, which triggered that anger), the whipping bitch-winds lashing at him and tugging at his covers. But instead of backing down and just leaving me to stew in my own bad feelings, he kept going, bravely and stubbornly, until he made it all the way to me, past the storm. And he took me out with him. As in, he calmed me down. Thanks to him I got to have a pleasant last morning in Trinidad, instead of a gruesome one, weighed down by not unnecessary but unnecessarily prolonged negativity. 

Okay, enough with the mental pictures.

How about a real picture? 

This cool guy is printed on the Rituals coffee cups. I call him Beano Suave. 

After a sandwich, a coffee and a brief good-bye, I went through security and walked to my gate. I did, however, not walk off looking as elegantly and chill as Beano Suave in the picture. I'm still learning. Also, I don't have shades. 

Once at the gate, I decided to just ask again about getting a window seat. At the counter I'd been told that the flight was completely at capacity and every window seat had been previously reserved (how, I don't know, it didn't work when I tried) and therefore it was impossible to change my seat. At the gate, however, they simply took my ticket, typed something into the computer and changed my seat for me. Without any question. No hassle. It took like 20 seconds. 

Curious... but who cares, it's behind us now. 

 This is the last picture I took in Trinidad.

The flight then went very smoothly, we landed on time, the queue at immigration was short, the queue at customs was inexistent and I got a trolley for my backpack so I didn't have to carry it. And because Andrew is not only sweet himself but also has sweet friends, he got me in touch with his friend John, who came all the way to the airport to pick me up. We met there, then he took me to my hotel (I booked a room for myself this time, not a bed in my usual hostel) and then waited for me while I checked in and changed into a new shirt. And then, with a quick detour through his office where he still had to finish a few things, we went to one of the best places you can eat in all of town: Chipotle! Yes! CHIPOTLE! It's so good... hmm. I got a salad bowl and he got a burrito and then we sat in silence and enjoyed our food, only continuing the (super pleasant and also funny) conversation afterwards. 

Cool thing that happened there, when I paid the girl at the check-out admired my wallet, saying it was "really cute and really cool" and wanted to know where she could get one for herself. Yay! 

After dinner, John took me back to the hotel and then headed home himself, because it was already after 7PM and he had to work again the next day. I went for a little walk and bought two big things (a can and a bottle) of Arizona Iced Tea in the convenience store of the gas station a few blocks from the hotel, then went back to go online and let everybody know I was in Miami, as planned. The place itself, Miami Springs Inn, was surprisingly nice for something listed as a motel. I'd never stayed in one of those before and only knew them from TV, so I didn't know what to expect. But it was adequately equipped, clean and as close to the airport as they had advertised. 

The next morning I got ready, packed everything back up, checked out and then took a taxi to the airport, because even though it was close, I didn't want to take the bus with all my stuff. 

Once arrived at the right departures area, I checked to see if the airberlin counters were already open and then headed to the Starbucks for breakfast, because they were not. 

Sorry, Rituals, you know I love you, but I was really happy to get Starbucks coffee again. 

I played around on the computer for a while to kill some time and then headed back to the airberlin counters where I was informed that they would be open from 11.55AM, in about 20min, but that I could get in line already if I wanted to. I was the only one there, so I dumped my bags at the front of the line, sat down on the ground and got the laptop back out. 20 minutes later, right on time, check-in began and I got my boarding passes. Two, because there was one for the flight MIA-DUS and another for the flight DUS-VIE. Window seats for both. Success! 

Then I wandered around for a while in search of a bookstore, because not being able to load a new book onto your Kindle is the perfect excuse to finally buy a real book again! And the girl at the bookstore also loved my wallet, which made me really happy - for the second time in under 24h. 

After going through security I tried finding the gate D-twenty-something (I had it written down, but I don't have that note anymore) because there's a Juan Valdez there. I really wanted to get some Juan Valdez coffee, to drink if it was a café or to take with me and make at home if it was a shop. Sorry, Starbucks, you know I love you, but comparted to Juan Valdez you're Rituals. Unfortunately, after walking for 15 minutes towards that gate I came to a sign that said to take the airport train from there - no other way of reaching it - and I decided to abort my mission, because that was too far to stray with a transatlantic flight to catch. Sad moment. 

Instead, I strolled back to my own gate area and had a small lunch there, then sat down at the gate itself to wait with my new book. 

Another calm flight, only slight turbulences, good entertainment selections, enough food and lots to drink - I can definitely recommend airberlin for long-distance flights. Airplane food is usually not something to talk about, but when you fly with a European airline after spending almost a year outside Europe (and also not in the States or Canada), well then you get a little nostalgic when you see things like 'real' cheese again. 

Président. I almost cried.

The only downside was that for some reason I couldn't sleep and only managed to for about an hour a bit before landing. The other 9hrs I stayed awake, watching movies and doing this: 

I didn't have internet to post straight away, but I prepared a few things that I will post over the next few days.

The waiting in Düsseldorf was short and before I knew it, I was off the ground again and on my way to Vienna. On my way to Vienna! ON MY FREAKING WAY TO FREAKING VIENNA, FREAKING AUSTRIA!!! OMG! Although, actually, that's not how I felt. I was calm the whole time. Very calm. Only when I looked out the window and actually saw the city below me as we approached the airport from the Northwest, I started feeling a little anticipation. Or something like that. I remember looking down and thinking "Hmm... interesting". I don't know what that means. 

Then it slowly started to change as I made my way out of the airport, towards the arrivals area where my mom was supposed to wait for me. I had the weirdest feeling of everything suddenly going too quickly as I walked under the first sign marking "Exit Vienna" the first time. 

"Wait, whoa, wait. Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure? Really? Whoa... wow... hmmm... ... whoa..."

And I say supposed to wait for me like she didnt, but there she was, sure enough. Running through the arrivals hall, excited like a twelve-year-old at a Justin Bieber meet and greet. It was really nice to be received like that, it's always great to come back to a place after a long time and see how somebody's happy about it, happy to see you and have you close again. And she's not even the only one, the rest of the family and my friends are already in touch as well - homecoming worked out well. 

Or something like that. 

Because, actually, I didn't come home straight away. From the airport, we went to a shopping centre to get a phone card and a pair of shoes (because I still only had the flip flops) and some other essentials and then the most important thing of all, which had been number one of my ToDo list for coming back: eat a Tschisi. 

Tschisi is an ice cream that was highly popular when I was a kid, vanilla flavoured and yellow and in the shape of a piece of cheese, because 'tschisi' is how you would write 'cheesy' if you assumed it was German, not English. But for some reason it was discontinued a long, long time ago. Only there have been protests, petitions and lots of angry as well as pleading letters for years and the popsicle was brought back to freezer shelves this year. While I was gone! Oh no! So, of course, the first thing I did was to go into a supermarket, head straight to the frozen goods section and get that ice cream. Pay for it and eat it. Right away. No pictures of the ice cream itself, because there was no time!!!, but I have a picture of the wrapper, which looks the same as it did all those years ago. 

First meal: a piece of my childhood.

After all the shopping was done and I had a week ticket for the public transportation system and we had been to the bank and to the supermarket, we finally went home. No relaxing yet, though, because I still had to unpack, hand over gifts and get back online to inform people I had arrived, this time not in the States but in Austria. 

Later in the afternoon I went to see my dad as well and we got food together. It had to be something - like the cheese and Tschisi - that I couldn't get where I was before, so I settled on something very Austrian, very Viennese. Something that, usually, I don't eat very often, because it's unhealthy and I don't eat that much meat, but that was perfect for the evening after arriving. Leberkäse. Incidentally, and I do see a pattern here, that translates to 'liver cheese'. It's not, though, as far as I know made of liver or cheese. I don't know what it is, really. I don't think anybody knows, but it's good. 

 "Leberkäsesemmel mit Ketchup und Gurkerl"

After that I finished unpacking, prepared the laundry for washing the next morning and read some more in my new book until I finally felt tired enough to sleep, at about 10PM. Pretty late considering I'd only slept for one hour since Miami, but I felt it was better to stay up late than to sleep during the day and allow my inner clock to go crazy. By doing that, I woke up this morning at 7.30AM (no alarm) and have been feeling well all day. 

Did I have to take such a long and complicated trip? No. Were there shorter options? Yes, of course. But it would have been way more expensive, and this was fine. Can't spend too much, because I want to keep on moving, right? 

Long days, eventful days, days of change. 

Which I'm now slowly adapting to. 

Memories are coming back, life in Austria is slowly starting to make sense after an initial culture clash and a few (quiet) moments of confusion. But all in all it's good. And it's good to be here, if only for a while. 

But I'm off now, Vienna is waiting!


  1. AMAZING trip! it fits into how you move and your whole adventure.

    spread your sweet vibes in Austria!


    1. It fits into how blessed I am to be surrounded by the BEST people :)

    2. mhmmmm blessments continue!

  2. Today it's raining a lot in Mexico City, I am writing this with city lights and rain outside the window, alone in the kitchen-dining room of the apt we're staying in. Today M and I talked a lot about Europe, about Vienna, about Barcelona, about where to go when we move back to Europe (Lisbon, Hamburg, Stockholm, London, Paris, loads more.) This sort of weather always makes me thoughtful, that's why living in Vienna is so hard! Anyways, this is all to say I miss you, and wish I had been there to welcome you with a goofy smile and a giant muffin. Also, it's to check in and share with you how incredibly puzzled i feel at the idea of going to Asia after being in Latin America for so long. Because now this is what I know better! Argh! Shut up, brain!