August 07, 2007

long way home

*Revised - I realized my error when I was reading over my notes this evening. The correction certainly adds weight to an already extensive circumstance.

The flight from Atlanta to Panama City was 3 hours long. We had previously just flown from Nashville to Atlanta - a 30 minute flight that was shorter than the time we sat on the departing runway. We were laid over in Atlanta for hours longer than planned. Finally, seated in the next to last row, a 3-day migraine in-tow, we headed to a place none of us had ever been before.

I sat between two women. To my left, a Swedish girl - about my age - declined to watch the in-flight movie because she had watched it on her previous flight that day. She had been awake and traveling for 24 hours.

To my left, a Panamanian woman sat quietly. Peering out the window with anticipation most of the trip.

I made little small-talk with these women - only enough to find out what I relay to you now. I spent most of the flight desparatley and unsuccessfully coaxing the searing pain in my right cerebrum away. Breathing deeply and regularly to keep from losing hold of the in-flight pasta dish with side of spritzed 'salad', decent dinner roll, and gummy peach tartlet-thing.

I could not help but notice, however, as we made our initial decent towards foreign territory, that my neighbor to the left grew more visibly anxious the closer we came to land. She was not a nervous flyer. And although our arrival was by night, she pressed her nosed to the pane to see any and all signs of our impending destination. I watched her for awhile, smiling. I could tell she was headed home.

She must have felt my stare, because she turned to look at me. It was then that I asked her if Panama was her home. Her eyes widened and her bright teeth came forward. She answered affirmatively, and in the best English she could muster, told me she'd been gone for ten years*. For ten years she had not seen her family. For ten years she had not seen her home. This was her homecoming.

As I smiled back at her and welcomed her home, I understood a little better about this place I was only visiting for one week. This place that is home to many people just like this woman. In this place, I would be the foreigner. I would be the one far from home. And in that moment I felt a slight place-switching between she and I.

Somehow amidst all the planning of this trip, I had failed to recognize one very fundamental truth. This place I would visit would be the treasured home of everyone I met there. I deplaned that night with new eyes that would seek to acknowledge my week-long home with the esteem of a life-long native.

3 Comments:

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Ellyn said...

What a sweet post! Good writing EM!
I always wonder what people's stories are....I love that you were able to find out some!

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger CL said...

You were in the ATL? Hey! Doh!
I'da said hi.
Blessings on the new house.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger holly said...

Good stuff, Emz.

 

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