Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I Hab a Code

I don't feel miserable or anything, but I'm apparently allergic to America now. I got back late Tuesday night, and by Saturday, I was sneezing and had a runny nose. It hasn't stopped me from doing anything, but it's rather annoying. Almost as annoying as continuing to wake up well before the crack of dawn. It would at least make sense if I were getting tired earlier, but I'm just not (except for cold- and/or cold medication-induced sleepiness, but even that's not so far out of the ordinary that it'd be terribly noticable without the 6AM wide-awakeness).

Anyway...so if you'll pardon the sneezing and blowing of my nose, I'll tell you my reflections on my first week back in America.

Tuesday, Nov. 2: I was picked up by my friend Scott at about 8AM local time in Amman to be taken to the airport. Royal Jordanian has a city terminal where you can check your checked luggage the night before your flight (soooooooooooooo very convenient), so that had already been taken care of, it was just me and my virtual plethora of carry ons. I had myself, my jacket, my purse, my bookbag, my guitar, my camera bag, BB, and a satchel (approximately the size of a computer case).

The RJ carry-ons nazi at the airport tried to get me to check my guitar (which I refused outright since it was in a soft case). The security guy understood completely, but apparently the carry ons nazi held sway, so I was sent to the ticket counter to check _something_ (I would have been willing to check my bookbag, just not my guitar). After waiting in line for an eternity (behind about 12 guys who were obviously with some security company in Iraq), I got the counter guy to ok all of my carry ons. He waved me through the carry on nazi, I shared a grin with the security guard, and I was on my way.

The plane was virtually empty. In my row of eight seats, there were two people (including myself), and that was pretty common throughout the plane. They showed three movies on the 11-hour flight from Amman to JFK, but I only watched one of them because the rest of the time I was talking to a very drunk ex-Navy Seal who only likes to be on planes when he plans to jump out of them. That made for some amusing (if repetitive - he being a forgetful drunk) conversation.

We arrived at JFK about on time. My bags took about an hour to come out of the luggage thing, but they all made it, and were still in tact at that point, although one of the trunks was definitely in worse shape than the other. Then I went through customs without a second glance from the customs agent (I guess it's common for one small girl to have four very large suitcases/trunks plus myriad carry ons, then got in line to re-check my backs. Having misread my ticket (thinking that my flight left at 5:20 instead of 7:20 - 1720 vs. 1920 - I'd been on a plane for 11 hours by that point, mostly talking to a drunk guy with ADD - I was tired), I got brought to the front of the line only to be told that there was no way I'd make my 5:20 flight since it was on the other side of JFK...then told that it didn't matter since my flight was actually at 7:20, not 5:20, but since my luggage was already up front, I might as well just leave it and go. Which I did.

I then took trains to the other side of NYC, otherwise known as Terminal 7 at JFK, and sat there until we took off. By this time, I was getting pretty tired. I dozed fitfully the whole way to Dulles. Then I arrived at Dulles and had to walk (and take a bus) across all of DC before I finally made it to where Aunt Mom and Barbara were waiting for me.

Then we went to pick up my luggage. Three of my four pieces made it - the two suitcases and one of the trunks. I had visions of my belongings trashed in the hold of the little commuter plane that took me from JFK to DC, but that wasn't the case...apparently my other trunk had decided to catch a few of the sights in NYC before coming to DC, so they'd bring it out to me when it came in.

By the time I'd landed, we figured out that I'd been awake for close to 24 hours by that point...although thinking back now, I'm not sure how that could be...hm....I _left_ at 8, but I woke up at like 6:30 or 7, which would be midnight-ish on the east coast....ok, so by the time I went to bed (around midnight), I'd been up 24 hours.

But despite that lack of sleep, I still woke up at 5AM...which is noon in Amman, so really I slept pretty late, according to my body's clock. But I got up around 7-ish and tootled around for an hour or so before heading over to the grocery store to sate a few cravings. I'm sure that the Weis people thought that I was insane. For one thing, my eyes were as big as saucers the whole time, but I'd also randomly stop and exclaim over some food item that I hadn't had in most of two years, but hadn't thought about (like apple sauce)...and by the end, I was so overwhelmed that I literally had to talk myself through the end of the shopping ordeal. After that I went to the church to surprise the office staff and pastors. Barbara and Aunt Mom had told our senior pastor, but no one else knew. I went out to lunch with two of the pastors (and had a very yummy steak and baked potato and salad!), then I went over to Aunt Mom's for a while and we planned the surprise for Heidi. When Heidi came to pick Aunt Mom up for her birthday dinner on Friday, I was gonna be there. It was gonna be great. This tidbit will be important later.

That evening, I stopped by choir practice late (so as to avoid most of the Wednesday night crowd) and infiltrated successfully. despite some folks in the parking lot and in conference rooms as I passed by. It was fun to hear the ripple of exclamation start in the altos (nearest the door where I came in), then pass through the men to the sopranos (on the other side of the room). I said hello to everyone, swore them to secrecy, then went to meet Lauren P. who was born after I'd left. After playing with her and some of my other playmates (choir members children), I went back up and listened until I couldn't stand it anymore, then sang with them for a little bit before the rehearsal was over. Afterwards, I was standing outside talking to people when Heidi drove up, thereby ruining the surprise Aunt Mom and I had planned for her, but providing for some amusing hi-jinks in letting Aunt Mom continue to believe that Heidi didn't know I was there, and playing off my "surprise" appearance like it was nothing out of the ordinary to Heidi.

Anyway, so again I went to bed around midnight and woke up around 5...but was able to doze until 7, and stayed in bed until around 9. It was rainy on Thursday, which was interesting. I'd seen rain one time in Amman, but before that it'd been March in Baghdad since I'd seen rain. But I went over to APL to surprise my former boss Clay and former co-worker Sanae, only to be surprised that Sanae was out of town. Clay and I did lunch in an APL cafeteria, then I went and got a cell phone. The cell phones in the States have _WAY_ too many gadgets and things on them. All I want is Snake, a distinctive ring, and text messaging. Instead, even with the cheapest phone available, I got full-color games that you have to download, polyphonic rings that sound like crap, and text messaging that has the "space" button on a different key than I'm used to. So if you get a text message from me and there are an unusual number of 0s, blame Sprint.

Then I went over to my friend Grant's house and got to eat Papa John's pizza and watch the Farscape TV mini-series (at least part of it)!!

Friday, I didn't wake up until 7! Around 11 I went to surprise my graduate advisor at UMCP. He doesn't currently have any research assisstanships open for me, but he's always got proposals out, so maybe by the time classes roll around something will come up. But we had a good chat and he took the advising block off of my record, so now I can register for classes.

After that, I took the Metro into DC to make my pilgrimage to the National Air & Space Museum. It was cool, as usual. Still having ample time to kill prior to returning to Laurel, I figured I'd take a leisurely walk down the Mall...and ended up visiting all of the memorials (except for FDR which I still haven't found). It was my first time seeing the new WWII memorial. That is a beautiful monument...and it's so striking, seeing the wall of stars (each of which represents 10 US military casualties), and seeing the Vietnam Memorial....just how blessed we are to live in the day of "modern" warfare. Don't get me wrong, any loss of life is tragic....but just really stop and consider the tens of thousands of men and women who have died in each of the previous wars compared to the one thousand in this current war. It doesn't at all belittle their sacrifice to thank God Almighty that we no longer just line up and shoot at each other.

That's one of the quirks I've come back with - even though I never personally experienced (or even discussed) a battle, I know people who did, and I saw how they lived. It sounds silly, but it's even hard for me to watch MASH now. "War" movies are out of the question. It's just too personal to me now. My grandfather was stationed in India during WWII, my dad went to seminary during Vietnam, and apparently pretty much as far back as there's been an "American" war, there have been Turners either too old or too young to fight in it...but I got choked up at those memorials because even though they weren't any relatives of mine, they were like the guys and girls that I got to know over there.

War is a terrible, terrible thing to be avoided at almost all costs. Pulling servicemen and women away from their families for extended periods of time, the loss of life, the destruction of infrastructure...it's a miserable, horrible thing. But sometimes it's necessary to root out some great evil which would otherwise spread.

Anyway...back to my story...so then I went to Aunt Mom's house and we got ready to "surprise" Heidi. Heidi showed up as planned, and she and I acted non-chalant, also according to plan. Aunt Mom and her mom were dumsquizzled. Heidi and I both got slaps to the back of our heads for pulling one over Aunt Mom. :) But then we went out and had crab cakes, so it was all good. :)

Saturday morning I went and played with Lauren P. (and her parents) some more, then Barbara, Aunt Mom, and I went to CarMax where I purchased a blue 2001 Ford Escape. Her name is Sydney. Some of you will understand that. She's _very_ nice. I like her a lot. :) Then I went to my friend Grant's house again. We were gonna go out for dinner, but couldn't find a parking place at Arundel Mills, and the next place we tried looked crowded, so we got take-out from Arby's instead. :) Then we watched the rest of the Farscape TV mini-series. :)

On Sunday, so as to keep my secret an actual secret, I skipped church and instead had "coffee" with Sanae (who had come back into town by then) and her boyfriend Marc. It was cool to see them (especially since she brought me stroopwafels!) and just chat for a couple of hours. It was also my first time in a Starbucks since Kuwait. After that, I met Aunt Mom and some other folks from church for lunch, then napped for an hour or two, then came back to Aunt Mom's for her birthday/my return celebratory crab feast. Donna, the crab I ate in your honor was delicious (as were all of the others).

Monday, I got up regular time (I actually woke up at 4, but was able to doze until 6:30-7-ish) and left for my drive to TN just before 8AM. After a completely non-exciting 10-hour drive, I arrived at my parents house...only to find it empty. I curled up on my La-Z-Boy in the den with Monkey (who remembers me) and waited for about an hour before my mom and sister got home. They were appropriately surprised, as was my dad who got home about an hour later, and my older brother who stopped by a few hours after that. Toby then surprised us by driving home from school too (we'd called him). Today's his 19th birthday, btw. Happy Birthday, Toby! Look at his little ear!

Tuesday, my mom took off of school, and Toby stayed home, so the three of us met my dad during his lunch break, then met my brother Jesse for lunch during his lunch break (at an "Arabic" restaurant - that was out of hummos!!!), then we went to Rocketown to drop off my resume. Their HR guy wasn't in that day, but another lady took my resume and showed us around. She sounded hopeful that they'd have a spot for me and recommended that I upload a resume and cover letter to their website (which I did shortly after getting back home that evening).

After all of those festivities, we went over to Jesse's house and ate spaghetti. I didn't get to meet his new girlfriend, but I'm sure I will eventually. We watched the "Clone Wars" shorts from the Cartoon Network, then Jesse kicked us out.

Today, I've pretty much just been a bum, catching up on some on-line reading, checking my email, and updating my blog (it now shows me in my correct location). Everyone went back to school today except for Toby who is still asleep on the floor in the den (I took over his room which was my room long before it was his, so like some would say the Philistines have to Israel, I have a prior claim to it). I know that boys and girls are wired differently in terms of things like sleep, and I recognize that he's a college freshman and therefore keeps weird sleeping hours, but it's now 1:30PM. That's amazing. I woke up this morning before 6.

My only plans so far for tomorrow are to attend some Veteran's Day thing that my dad's school is having. They're not going to recognize me as a veteran, but I'll be recognized as someone who was working alongside veterans or something like that. I dunno. People that I've never met before are really proud of me. They don't know what I did, but they're proud of me.

Oh, and grapefruits still taste good.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you were actually an order of magnitude off on the representation of the stars at the WWII memorial :( I believe there are 4000 stars, each representing 100 casualties -- a total of approximately 400,000.

- sdk

Sojourning said...

Not fully sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but I enjoyed reading about your return to the US. Welcome home! I'm sorry no one warned you about going to the grocery store too early in the return. It's pretty normal to be overwhelmed by it.

a fellow journey person

Leia said...

Sojourning! Yeah, I knew what to expect with the grocery store, but I figured that after almost two months in Amman with their Safeways and Cozmos (although I never actually made it to a Cozmo) that I'd be alright. I don't think it was so much the quantity of choices as much as it was just that fact that everything in my periphery was American rather than Arab...basically the background noise was too much for me, I think. Feel free to drop me an email to tell me more about yourself! And enjoy the blog to your heart's desire.