So, after giving Casablanca (and if you are DaveKlein, Morocco in general) a big old middle finger, we were ready to come home. We were ready to assume that a dryer would always be at our disposal. We were ready to sleep in our own bed (albeit, in my little brother’s old room at my parents’ house). We were ready to speak English all the time. We were ready to see more friends. We were done.
We bid adieu to our second to last Starwood stay of our trip and hopped in a cab. I spent the whole cab ride looking out the window at the Casablanca traffic as 220 days sped through my mind. There was the time I got lost on a motortaxi in Mandalay. There was the time we made friends in Bangkok and felt a little normal. There were all the noodle soups. There were laughs on friends couches and beers and a few burgers. My pink hair was gone. Our beach times in Bali were gone. I felt like sand was pouring through my hands and I couldn’t catch it all. Why didn’t i keep up my sentence a day journal? How come I only took 3,500 pictures? Why didn’t we go to India? What will life be like when we return? I gave into travel ennui. I got cranky.
Which was good because that’s exactly what the Casablanca airport greeted us with. There were about 10,000 people dressed in white about to make the Hajj who clearly had never been on airplanes before and were standing in non-line-lines while talking animatedly. For a minute, I was jealous. These people were just embarking on the most important journey of their lives. Ours was over. Then, as you do, either a celebration or a protest broke out in the airport as we were checking in. Unclear. Throngs of men were chanting, dancing and holding up pictures of a dude. With a beard? The King? The not-King? Unclear if they were happy about him, sad about him, avenging him, or protesting him. But they had drums. And were screaming in Arabic. No one appeared to want them to stop. And then with all the people in white. Chaotic lack of lines. No one could hear announcements. I felt dizzy. Airline logos began to bleed together. The departures level swirling around me. I walked to the front of the TAP Portugal line and demanded to check in. turns out the “line” wasn’t for TAP but a fragment of the Egyptian Airways line at the next counter over. Hooray American brashness!
Then we got to security. Dave went through first and as usual had a short conversation about his passport case and the agent’s preferred soccer team based on his Chelsea passport case. They had a pleasant, final Moroccan interaction. Then the agent looked at my Domo passport case and was like, SERIOUSLY LADY? And starts pointing back at Dave and then pointing to my child’s passport case and laughing and shaking his head. The crankiness broke.
Then I focused on being exceptionally nervous. For weeks I had been scared of this specific part of the journey. After all my flying for work, and all our flying on the trip I had one last hurdle to face.
A 18 seater Beech 1900.
I don’t love little planes. It’s just too much science per square foot for me to deal with. It requires a lot of hyper-vigilance from me to keep airplanes IN THE SKY. A small one somehow requires more.
A box with a sandwich, a bottle of water, and earplugs lay at our seats. There was no flight attendant.
There was no door between us and the pilots.
I started to dry heave. I was about to lose it. Luckily the Portuguese pilots were EXCEEDINGLY handsome and I didn’t want to look like a baby in the presence of such hotness so I just kept wiping my sweaty hands on my jeans and making my bi-annual plea to the baby Jesus. ( I think the last time I did was when we were on that open water crossing to Gilli Air. )
Hilariously enough, the flight was very smooth. Do you know what co-pilots do? They look up from their magazine every now and again to adjust a knob a little. The end. It was a beautiful day to fly. It was brief. Watching landing out of the windshield of the plane over beautiful Lisbon was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My time on the Beech 1900 is now a fond memory of the closest I’ll ever get to flying private.
As we disembarked I noticed our plane had a name– Esquilo! I thought this was cute! We later googled it and found out it means “squirrel” in Portuguese. This was something good to know after the fact.
After a sagres beer in the Lisbon airport to kill the last of our Euros and the high of our tiny plane journey behind us, the rest of the day was an airport blur. We weren’t bound by time. We flew to Frankfurt and landed very late at 10pm and checked into the airport Sheraton.
We slept in a bit too late (weee! not bound by time!) and make our flight the next morning by a margin that was a bit too close for comfort. We missed breakfast in the process too and had sailed passed “hangry” and were firmly in “HITCHY”. The Frankfurt airport is so big that the employees bike around. After 3 weeks in Morocco prices in Euros were so staggering we were too stubborn to buy food. We waited in grumpy silence. We ate all the food on the plane (thanks to my new favorite trick of being an ovo/lacto – vegetarian on planes, I got served first). I also had three glasses of wine on the Air Canada Flight. I got flight attendant side-eye. How could I explain to her what we had just been through? I quit before she cut me off and watched the Katy Perry documentary in a red wine haze suddenly missing the sequins and energy of my old job. I always felt a little like a showgirl for equality. Now I wasn’t a traveler anymore. I didn’t have the identity of my job. I didn’t live in DC anymore. I didn’t have pink hair. I wasn’t anything. I was on my way to unemployment and living with my parents. I felt empty.
We connected in Ottowa before our flight to Philadelphia. Yes, you read that right. We flew (thank you, miles!) Casablanca –> Lisbon –> Frankfurt (Overnight on points!) –> Ottowa –> Philadelphia.
We went through Canadian customs with sudden smiles on our faces. NORTH! AMERICAN! ENGLISH! The kindly agent had told us to go get our bags since leaving Frankfurt we were told they’d be checked through to the US. They wouldn’t be. If it weren’t for him we’d have had some other adventures!
When we went through US Customs in Ottowa (since we were on a shuttle flight to Philadelphia) I started to get tense. I hadn’t seen my family in 8 months. Would they be the same? Would I be the same? I hadn’t seen most of my friends. What were they like? I suddenly felt the huge divide of time from when we left and that moment. People had announced pregnancies and had the babies! So much had changed. I’d changed. But also not? I felt like I had been away not for 8 months but 8 years.
And like that, we were home. My parents jumped up and down (well, my mother. My father was on one of those knee scooter things after having serious ankle surgery in March) outside the F terminal at PHL. And like that it was over. I think my mom double checked that I had 10 fingers and 10 toes.
We were home.
I had tomato pie. I took the world’s longest shower. I slept for precisely 400 hours.
It felt like waking up from a dream.
In a lot of ways, it still does.