I had to cross the Atlantic to get to Germany. But I had to cross the Atlanta airport first.
My layover was brief. Atlanta was noisy, crowded, a labyrinth to navigate. And this was the first time I had ever been on my own this far from home.
Sweat poured down my back and the weight of the book filled backpack dug into my shoulders as I hurried through crowds of strangers, checking my ticket every few minutes to be sure I was headed to where I was supposed to be.
Finally my gate came into view and I was able to board the flight that would carry me to Europe. Filled with relief, I dropped the enormously heavy backpack on the floor in front of me and settled into the seat I would sleep, eat and read in for the next 9 hours. I was really on my way!
Uncle Bill was waiting for me at the Frankfurt airport. This airport was quiet, deserted nearly. It had been a long flight but I was used to being stuck in a seat for hours at a time, as I had grown up taking 20+ hour car rides all over the country with my parents and siblings. Bill was warm, friendly, a wonderful welcoming committee. We found my two green suitcases, found Bill’s car in the airport parking lot, and began our drive to Koln. Uncle Bill is a story teller and a question asker so I don’t know that we ever ran out of things to talk about when we were together. 🙂
The next two days were a blur. I was severely jet lagged and it was difficult to process my new surroundings being so tired. I attended a basketball game that same night (at which I promptly fell asleep) and briefly reconnected with my aunt and cousin who both led busy lives of their own.
It took me about 48 hours to adjust to the time change. And to realize two things:
- My life in Germany would be drastically different than my life in our little town of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
- Homesickness is a force as powerful as a freight train and it would fill me with the most intense emotions I had ever experienced in my 14 years of life.
Which led to only one question:
How in the world was I going to survive the next five months??