I cannot believe that it has been a month since I loaded two suitcases in the rental car and drove myself to the Atlanta airport, it feels as though I have always been here yet just arrived, too.
Of course I'd packed the night before, and knew the checked bag was going to be overweight just by hefting it. I went online (thank-you BlackBerry and AT&T, you got me through those last crazed American Dayz!) so when I found out how much the overweight charge was going to be (over $200) I stopped at Target on my way out and bought another bag-saved $100+ that way) and shifted the load.
I got to the airport and turned in the car, got on the airport train, and made my way to the boarding area. BTW, I cannot recommend online pre-boarding and baggage check-in highly enough-doing that made the entire 23 hour trip much easier!
Went through Security...again, online research made that ordeal somewhat less of one. I dutifully pulled my Zip-Lock 3-1-1 bag and laptop from my carry-on (OMGsh, the rolling laptop bag was a total lifesaver!), clutching my passport and boarding pass (with my other papers handy in the front flap of the laptop bag), I slipped off my shoes (another thank-you to online research, I chose to wear quickly removed shoes) and lined up with my fellow International passengers.
The line moved quickly. The agents were politely impatient with those of us travelling for the first time under the new laws after 9/11 and we inched along until it was my turn in the screening cage. I planted my feet on the marks, raised my arms as requested by the agent, and promptly set off a silent alarm.
"Single female of Middle-Eastern appearance with metal at the middle!" I heard the phrase repeated by several agents, and as I was directed to stand in a separate area from my fellow travellers I looked around for the interesting female...
Erm, finally figured out I was the interesting female when I was surrounded by several agents who briskly waved several wands at my middle, and I said to the one agent who dared to make eye-contact with me that I had a row of three metal waistband hooks holding up my linen slacks. For a nano-second I thought about lifting my blouse hem to show her but decided against it, probably a wise decision.
I passed muster and was permitted to move along to an area where I could retrieve my passport, boarding pass, laptop, and 3-1-1 bag, LOL, all the while thinking, Wow, Middle-Eastern appearance? Must be a slow Security day!
My flight was called, I boarded, and as we circled the Atlanta Metro area, I looked down at where I'd spent the last five years and yes, cried a little.
Not that I was nostalgic about leaving Atlanta, although the people of the area were actually rather wonderful to me, but because I knew this was Step One in my leaving the US for a completely different life...
Chicago was pretty neat. I had to ride a train to my terminal, wend my way through several sets of connecting hallways, plus find something to eat and a place to smoke a couple of cigarettes before getting on plane for Sweden. I managed all of that, finding myself listening to the sounds of Chicago-O'Hare Airport from the baggage area outdoor (but of course) smoking area.
My last experience on American soil. I called S_D of course first thing after the plane landed in Chicago, even before I found the smoking area, but standing outside listening to the taxi drivers bantering, the radios blaring, and the gossiping Airport Authority employees on break, was curiously nostalgic and I found myself thinking that it was somehow perfect that the last American place I was at, was Chicago.
People say that New York City is THE American City, but NYC is so cosmopolitan it could be any big cosmopolitan European city.
Chicago IS America in a way that I am unfortunately unable to articulate, I'm sure far better wordsmiths have found a way.
And then, off to Stockholm.
Because I'd done all of that online research prior to the trip, I knew that to avoid jet-lag I should stay up the entire 24 hour period before the embarkation. Which I did, so falling asleep on the long flight across the Atlantic was far easier than many people would believe.
However, first we had a drink and snacks, and enjoyed watching the CCTV that treated us first to the scenes of the baggage being loaded, the take-off, the flight...Yes, movies were available, but I chose to tune my personal screen (built into the seatbacks, amazing things those) to the CCTV.
I was able to choose from several exterior camera views of the flight. Um, I do not recommend the run-way shots if you are at all nervous on take-offs and landings. Also, once you get over the Atlantic, if flying at night there just isn't a lot to see. Our afternoon flight path took us over land until Nova Scotia, we then jumped across to Greenland, from there to New Zealand...but by then I was fast asleep and missed nearly all of the amazing view.
However, before I could become SOUND asleep, the lovely flight attendant forced me to accept a dinner tray (when you fly Economy, you have little choice in the dinner tray menu) of herring so strongly fragrant I thought I was going to need the airsick bag.
OMG, OMG, OMG! What had I got myself into??!! Hadn't S_D asked me how I liked my herring? OH NOES, would I ever taste BEEF again?!
In Stockholm I found the smoking kiosk (OK, I like the Swedes, very nice people, but oh wow, those smoking kiosks are really awful despite the ventilations) after buying a pack of Swedish Marlboros, then found my gate and planted myself.
I sat there listening to the comforting and familiar Scottish voices, I sat there watching the comforting and familiar Scottish, Welsh, and English faces.
I found myself thinking I'd found myself in a most peculiar position-The American Going Home To The Land Of Her Parents-in America I'd been told all too often that I had a faint British accent (acquired thanks to my dad's habit of employing 'folks from home' and his insistence that his children grow up speaking properly) yet through-out my trip I'd been told I had the most charming American accent...suddenly the woman with the famous Nerves Of Steel was becoming more nervous at the total insanity of just what the hell I was doing.
The trip across the North Sea Did. Not. Help. So bloody turbulent I thought the flight attendant was going to throw-up, or cry, or scream. Sleeping was at best more of a doze and an uncomfortable one at that.
And finally we descended too fast (oh, my poor ears) and then we were making our way through Customs.
Where I was grilled by a Border Agent intent on reminding me that I must leave Britain in accordance with my trip plans, and wanting to know just how I'd met S_D (she was singularly unimpressed when I told her we'd met online in a current events forum, and was further unimpressed by my answer to her "You didn't come to Britain to fall in love did you?" was "Well, it would be kinda nice" followed my a big cheeky gap-toothed grin...), she seemed to feel better when I told her the amount of funds I had to spend as An American On Holiday In Great Britain.
But finally I was granted a six-months visitor visa, and was dragging my two rolling suitcases and little rolling laptop bag through the gates to S_D.
I was intent on getting outside-that Border Agent scared the pure hell out of me and I was therefore totally afraid to greet S_D warmly. I tried to signal with my eyes that I felt we were being watched by every Border Agent in the Edinburgh Airport, and begged to get outside...not the best face-to-face beginning, I think.
But we've managed, lol. I think he's going to keep me. It seems I passed a serious test last night at a small dinner party with a couple he's been friends with for years.
I'm keeping track of the goings on in the US, and frankly don't want to have to go back to await a fiancee visa-things are becoming worse there by the day. Of course, as I've been saying for years, this whole collapse thing is global-things in Scotland are difficult as well as in the US. But where I was in the US is not a place I want to be ever again-going to sleep every night with S_D is a tremendous comfort I cannot ever again do without.
Waking up with him every morning is indescribably comforting in these uncertain times, having someone to talk to and with is just the most amazing thing!!
Now to get Mozart and Gonzo across-Gracie has found a furever home with her carer, but my little feline furballs should be here by Christmas.
I miss my son and grandson, but I did from Atlanta, what's four thousand miles when you are estranged anyway?