After a long and slightly confusing series of plane rides, I have arrived on the other side of the world, the side I started on. Here is a list of the noteworthy things that happened to me on the trip:
1. I was forced to give up the four mosquito bats that I had bought as presents, which was very sad, but it could have been worse. The reason they're not allowed in luggage is because they hold a charge (since they plug into the wall). I was thinking that my computer also holds a charge, but didn't say it out loud, for fear of having to leave behind the computer. I am mourning the loss of the mosquito bats. But it could have been worse.
2. One of my sneakers refused to come home. It launched itself out of my pack and into the netherworld of baggage, leaving only it's pair, now worthless as a single shoe, to be spat up into the bright claims area and tucked back into my backpack. Oh well.
3. I sat next to a guy from the Dominican Republic who was very nice. We shared plantain chips and tamarind with our free ginger ales, a real international picnic. We were joined by an old lady named Velma from Florida, who was afraid of the punk rocker in the seat in front of us, and Eladio and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince poor Velma that the guy's hair was deliberately mussed, and had not become all spiky like that from natural evilness. Welcome back to America!
4. China Airlines is amazing. They feed you terrific meals with surprising frequency. Compared to the stark "you'll eat if you pay for it" USAirways, it was not a bad way to fly at all. Also, China Airlines employs those little personal TVs in the back of the seat in front of you, which play movies and the like, but also do a special program called iXplore which links you to the cameras mounted on the front and underbelly of the plane you're in, so that you can see what the pilot is seeing. This was fascinating and I spent a long time watching the videofeed, even when it was dark, hoping to see Superman or a meteor or something.
When I got to the airport I remembered that I no longer have a cell phone which works in America (no big deal) and I used the payphones to call my Dad, who was just getting out of the shower. Thirty minutes later there he was, My Dad! Wow! It's so good to see my parents again. We loaded all my stuff into the car and from that point until almost noon, I didn't stop talking. I was sleep deprived and dirty and sort of woozy from being in a metal box for 30 hours, and feeling buzzy from being suddenly back in the land of Very Familiar Sights, and I just kept talking. He took me to my Mom and step-Dad's house, where I will live this week, and they allowed me to disembowel my suitcase all over the living room floor so that I could find everyone's presents. It was great to finally match up the slippers, the chopsticks, the various carvings and pearls and robes, with their intended owners. I told the stories, I showed a few pictures, I distributed durian candy and coconut candy. Finally, everyone had to go to work and I was left alone, happy and exhausted. I spent the rest of the day unpacking and knitting a mitten.
The best part of the day was when my younger brother came home. Things are pretty casual amongst my siblings, and we don't really mind not seeing each other for great periods of time, but I was really glad that A came home last night, because... he has a girlfriend! Not just a person he's seeing (which have been many) but a real, long-term, serious Girlfriend. As a brother with a penchant for beautiful over brainy, A had not really impressed me with his choices in the past, and I had never refrained from telling him so, but over the past year or so my Mom has been telling me little snippets about this girlfriend, O., who sounded like a decent catch. It was O's birthday this weekend and she and A had been skiing up in West Virginia, and when they walked in the door I felt proud like only a big sister can when she realizes that her little brother is loved by someone very worthwhile. O is blonde, sure, but she is smart and kind and has lovely manners and tells funny stories and is just so present, not vacant, that I cannot help but want her to stick around for ever. She works as a clinician in a mental hospital a few hours from here so A only gets to see her on the weekends, but looking at them talk at the dinner table you see how much time they've had together. My brother finally found a beauty with brains! Somebody great loves my brother! It's a very new feeling for me, and I am enjoying it very much. It was her 23rd birthday so my Mom got a cake with numbers on it and we celebrated after dinner. I must say, I've had a great example of how a big sister should act when meeting her little brother's girlfriend, so K, thanks for teaching me how to behave. I can honestly say I didn't embarrass him (or her!) or anything. It was a real turning point in our history of being siblings. So, hooray for little brothers growing up.
And now I'm off to brave the frozen air. It's walking time.