Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get me on a plane! Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

This here is the story of how one shy, gawky teenage girl ended up in a foreign country. She didn't speak the language, didn't have any international travel experience, and was only 14.

After finally realizing that arguing would do no good, I began to really think about this trip, and what it would mean. 3 weeks away from everything I know, to a country I knew nothing about. 3 weeks of living with another family. 3 weeks of hearing very little of my native tongue. 3 weeks of standing out like a sore thumb with pale skin, freckles and bright red hair.

It sounded FABULOUS.

We began having meetings every so often (weekly? I can't remember) going over various things we would need to know. Vaccines had to be scheduled, things like an MMR have to be given over a series of months, etc. We learned to say hello (prevyet), goodbye (dasvidanya), please (pjelsta) and thank you (speseeba), along with a few other words that didn't stay with me. Tips were given to us about what gifts to bring to the family, to never refuse food, even if you don't like it, eat enough so you don't dishonor your host, etc. One thing was to carry cash, as the exchange was TERRIBLE in Belarus at the time, and flashing a little USD gave you serious bargaining power with street vendors.

After arranging things with teachers, etc at school, we packed two huge suitcases and a stuffed carry on, and I was on a plane without my parents for the first time in my life. We'd traveled a great deal prior to this, but I'd always been with at least one parent.

The kicker for me, eventually, was as I was sitting there, I noticed that there was an in-flight progress map up on the screens. It was a 14 hour flight, so there would be movies, but they hadn't begun yet, and so I was glued to seeing how far we'd gone. Being 14, and having my first boyfriend, I began SOBBING. When you're coming from Oregon, and you see something like this...

It suddenly becomes abundantly clear how FREAKING far away you're going. I eventually cried myself to sleep for a few hours at the beginning of the flight. Pitiful, but I WAS 14.

When I woke up, I finally started feeling excited. We flew over Greenland, which is huge sheet of ice and incredibly beautiful. We saw a polar bear (I think) making its way across the vast whiteness, and the pilot had lowered our altitude so everyone could check it out and take pictures.

The flight ended in Germany, which was a total bonus to me, because I'd never been outside the US at all. Coming into the Frankfurt airport, all I could think was "wow, the Germans really do things better here"

Going through the security that had armed (with machine guns) guards was interesting, and not as scary as it sounds. The streets were impossibly clean, the hotel clerks were VERY friendly, and everywhere was beauty. We ate at a fun little hole in the wall place, eating outside on some wooden benches, wandered around a little, then crashed for the next day's flight.

That little 2 hour flight was the most exciting flight of my life, on my way to meet the family I would be living with for the new few weeks.

That flight changed my life.

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