January 7th, 2016.
Tulsa “International” airport.
I’m packed for a new segment of my college life! Italy is the destination but first I must depart from Oklahoma. I sat at my gate thinking about my life and everything that’s happened up to that point. Having the grace of my friends and family, their support and understanding meant the world to me but I struggled with sharing that with them daily prior to my departure.
I boarded the plane and there were roughly 17 people on a 30 seat plane. Quiet and peaceful, the way I love it.
I made friends with a young woman on her way to South America to do volunteer work. What a great way to start off already! Nice job, Andy, conversing and connecting with people about something not related to accounting or school…She was going to be there for 3 years and wow what pretty eyes she had. The flight was only an hour and a half but truly delightful! I never ended up getting her number (and I already forgot her name by the time we exited our gate) but I can envision us running into each other again. It is quite a small world at times.
I arrived in Atlanta, GA for the next international flight out to Rome. The excitement was slowing building and by the end of my 2 -hour layover I was primed to explode! As I sat at my gate, I began looking around to see who I was about to travel with for the next 17 hours. Businessmen, a few couples, and a lot of families. Italian Families.
After a few more minutes of scanning my environment, my boarding class was called. We gathered into something remotely resembling a line and a small hunch began to form in my head.
How possible is it that these people have never seen an Asian person? or at least how long has it been???
I board the plane and find my seat next to an extremely well-dressed man (he must surely be Italian)! Great! A wonderful opportunity to practice my caveman Italian. Thank god I have this handy dandy introduction to Italian guide.
I spent five minutes getting my seat ready and I could see the other passengers studying me silently. Maybe they’ve never seen an Asian as tall as me at 5’7? Maybe I’m so well-dressed that I turn heads? Nope, just being Asian was enough to attract everyone’s attention! My suspicions were indeed confirmed! I smiled, laughed to myself, returned their gaze with no hostility and took my seat. Not the end of the world! Obviously, I did not take any offense to it since I am sharing the story so openly here.
I sat down and introduced myself to my fellow flyer. He replies in Spanish.
Not only can I not communicate to him in English, I cannot even use my level zero ‘eye-talian’, instead I must use my high school Spanish from five years ago. He was patient with me and I with him and we learned much from each other. He spoke small bits of Italian and helped me work through some phrases and keywords. All was not lost.
17 hours later we touch down into Fiumicino Aeroporto, and my ass hurts like hell. I was ready to be done with that leg of the trip! Playing 10 hours of Civilization only to lose to damn computers was frustrating. I picked up my bags, bade farewell to my friend and proceeded to the arrival area. The first thing I took notice of was how many other American study abroad groups there were in that small space!
How many mutha’uckas? Too many to count, mutha’uckas!
I felt remotely like a kid on the first day of Italian middle school. Which group is mine?! Which sign do I need to be looking out for?
I guess I’ll just sit here and wait.
…TO BE CONTINUED