Saturday, January 21, 2012

a New Old World

My poor, sainted mother's
living room!
A long flight from New York but I am finally landing at Schiphol in Amsterdam.  It's now December 1, 2011.  This will be my first time on the European continent.  I hate flying and I'm glad the longest leg of the journey is over with. The plane was packed and the two guys next to me (a German guy and a Dutch guy) were having a significant bro-mance and gushing over each one's accomplishments. They finally went up by the flight attendants galley to hit on the beautiful stewardess which left me the entire row for the last couple of hours of the flight.  I was happy to stretch my legs and ponder this future I had created for myself... on becoming European... just because it was my roots... was I too American to assimilate into my father's culture?  How long would it take before I felt comfortable in this land with it's vague familiarity and vast cultural differences. Funny... I spent most of my youth fighting for my Americanization in an immigrant family and now in my golden years... I'm jumping back to my European roots... into a new relationship, a new home, a different culture, a strange language and no discernible income. Suddenly I felt like David Bowie's character in The Man Who Fell to Earth... suddenly I was the alien.  I couldn't help wondering what category of "crazy" I actually fit into. 

It was a rainy, gray landing into the airport at Amsterdam.  I was hoping to get a glimpse of some of the landscape but the clouds were thick and low.  As we slowly filed out of the plane I realized we never did that thing where you fill out a form and declare what you have before landing in a foreign country.  Could that have been done away with since the last time I was in London?  Do I pick up my luggage and go through customs here or in Paris?... or at my final destination in Montpellier?  Could I change my seat on the flight to Paris?  I figured out I have a middle seat... I really don't want a middle seat.  Well I have a four hour layover to figure it out.  I remember looking up as I walked out of the jetbridge.  There before me lay a very large airport with unfamiliar signs and confusing directions.  I must have looked sadly pathetic because one of the crew came up to me and (in perfect English) explained where I needed to go next... Passport check... more security. I was very grateful for the help.  After I went through Passport Check I found myself once more in a myriad of walkways with crazy colored arrows pointing in different directions. I also saw some booths people stuck their tickets in and were able to figure out what gate their connecting flight was at and where they sat. I tried one.  Nope, not working for me.  No sooner did I look around for some help when wham... right in front of me was another flight attendant smiling broadly and eager to help... wow, I'm impressed!  She not only helped me with the machine but helped me change my seat on the plane to Paris. I think I love this city. Everywhere I went in that airport, people were smiling and helpful... hey... this is not so bad. I like Amsterdam. I'm coming back for a real visit.

So glad I switched my seat for the Amsterdam-Paris flight.  It was only supposed to be an hour and a half but ended up being almost another hour because the flights into Paris were all backed up... so we were in a holding pattern. Too bad it was still rainy and cloudy because at the very least, a nice view of Paris ... the city of lights ... would have been worth it... but Paris was not cooperative.

Walking out of the jetbridge in Paris compared to Amsterdam... well, apples and oranges.... Where Amsterdam was filled with light and bustling with shiny, happy people... Paris/DeGaulle Airport was dark and almost empty, except for those of us deplaning.  No helpful crew or airport personnel... no signs, no instruction (as we obviously missed our connecting flight).  My first impression of Paris... dark, brooding, dismissive... as I followed the crowd (hoping to hook into those who missed their flights as well) I could sense an inaudible sneer coming from every dark corner of the airport... "you think we care... you stu-peed leetle foreigner... I speet on your neediness... pteww... voila!"

I followed the crowd to baggage claim.  I saw nothing before that... no little booth you could go to for information, no KLM or Air France check ins... just the cattle drive to baggage claim.  I had no idea if my baggage would even be on there since I assume it's going on to Montpellier... or if it is, should I even pick it up... am I going through customs here or in Montpellier? Only one door led out of baggage and that brought me outside the security zone meaning, my only way back in again will mean yet another security check.  I was dying of thirst.... I didn't bring my bottled water from Amsterdam because I didn't think I could get through security with the liquid... bad move.  No place to buy water... just expensive chocolates, watches, and perfume... most people were finding taxis or buses or being picked up by someone.  I tried asking someone where to go to find flight information... just annoyed looks and shrugs ... ok, I finally find my way to Air France check in, but I couldn't get in without a boarding pass... which of course I didn't have cause I didn't have my connecting flight.  Oh my... I asked some passing flight crew to direct me to where I could find help... (I know the captain of a plane can speak English... isn't that like international air language or something)... "klaatu barada nikto" ... ok, I didn't REALLY say that... but I may as well have.  I got a look of utter disdain and a dismissive wave... Thanks for the help ya friggin moron... ok, now I'm pissed!

I finally found an Air France check in.  After waiting FOREVER (and I think amazingly patiently) for them get off their cell phones and give me some service... they tell me there is no more room on the outbound flight to Montpellier... ok, you don't want to go there with me... (yes, I gave them "the look"... ask my sister... it's frightening)... I got a flight out.. now I just had to wait.

"Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home.
Home! And I'm not gonna leave here
ever, ever again, because I love you ..."

The flight to Montpellier was short but wonderful.  It was late so there was hardly anyone on the plane.  I had the whole row to myself.  Now I'm thinking of poor Ian waiting at the airport all this time for me.  I couldn't get in touch with him so I hoped he'd find out from the airport.  Ok, now I'm starting to get nervous.  What will he think after this year and a half of phone calls, google chats and webcams ... what if we suddenly find ourselves not being able to talk or not attracted to each other or  one of us thinking "oh my God, what did I get into?"

I got off the plane and found myself in another empty airport.  Great.  I MUST have to go through customs here!  At least there were signs... EU Passports here... All Other here... ok, I'm all other... I walk through the "all other" door... to a belt with the baggage going through... and to my utter surprise.. there was my Ian... beaming and glowing with a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers... and all I could think of is... how did you get in here!!!

There was no customs, just pick up your bags and go.  I flew into Ian's arms and we kissed and hugged like a couple of teenagers in front of all the business passengers ready to pick up their luggage from a very long day in Paris... and we gabbed and laughed and gabbed and waited for the luggage and then walked out to the car park and then couldn't find the car... but not in one instance did I feel anything but "I'm home... I'm where I'm supposed to be and in the arms of the man I'll spend the rest of my life with..."  I was home and I was in love and I was ready to face this new old world hand in hand with my husband... ok world... bring it on... I'M HOME!

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  1. and I'm here to help - when I can and if I can......Let's hope health lets us get on with it!

    1. don't worry baby, we'll get through this! xx always


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