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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Home Again in Sweden

The long haul across the ocean is behind me once again and while it is 5.10 a.m.and I am awake from the inevitable jet lag, I am sleeping in my own bed with my cuddly little buddy Tanner happily snoozing along side of me.  We await Doug's return on Saturday.
There are many constants in my transition now from the US back to Sweden and Wednesday into Thursday's journey was no different.  I have several zones of anxiety that circle around me when I'm heading back to Sweden.. 
1.  Will the luggage be under the weight limit?
2.  Will check-in go smoothly or will it be a hassle? 
3. Will we get through security in enough time to catch the flight. 
4. Will I have enough time to make my connection in LAX for the overseas flight. 
5.  Will I be able to say good-bye to my loved ones without a total melt down?
Perhaps it's clear that departure day is not my favorite day.  And no matter how hard I try to manage my time well and be organized about luggage and weight restrictions, it seems like the hour before departure turns into one big stress match to beat both the clock and the scale.  After dropping Doug off at the airport for his 5.00 flight back to Minneapolis, I got back to my parent's house with 6 glorious hours to finish my details and depart.  And then it was 1.00 and I was running last minute errands with my dad and wrestling with luggage that was two-three pounds over weigh and feeling very stressed, frustrated and nervous about everything going smoothly.  Finally, the bags were zipped, I had some  lunch and said good-bye to my mom who was not going to the airport. 
I hate saying good-bye.  I'm terrible at it and no matter what state of mind  I'm in, I get teary.  Which is fine but it's also awkward to utter the words you really want to say when departing when your throat is all choked up and you have tears rolling down your face and your stomach is in knots because you aren't checked in.  My nervousness about checking in and getting everything settled before the flight contributes to the anxiety I often feel when saying good-bye those I last see before I travel back to Sweden from the US.   It's always hard.  When it's my parents, it's really hard.
Check-in went fairly well.  Had to carry my winter coat as it was putting my bag over the 50 pound limit.  I feel my consumer, hoarder worst when I fly back to Sweden.  For some reason, I just end up with all kinds  of creature comforts, clothes and other bits and bobs, no matter how committed I (think) I am to a more simple way of life.  I get crazy thinking about not being able to get certain items and so a little bit of this and a little bit of that turns into 50 pounds of gosh why am I bringing so much stuff back to Sweden.  The United agent at the Palm Springs airport could not have been a nicer person.  She really helped calm me down and get everything settled.  After the beastly bags were checked, I ran back outside to say good-bye to my dad and grab my carry on.  After successfully saying good-bye to him, the next big hurdle was security.  So, who knew that peanut butter is not allowed to be carried onto a plane?  What a pain, but again, the security agent was so lovely.  I explained, because you kind of feel like a dope when you've violated one of the rules about liquids, that I lived in Sweden and you couldn't buy it there, blah, blah, blah.  She was lovely.  She asked me what I did, I said I was a minister and she thought that was great.  She helped me return to the United check-in counter where the lovely first agent graciously took the offending peanut butter and put it in my checked luggage.  I was happy I was at a small airport at that point.  While I was waiting for the agent to put the peanut butter in my checked bags, two big flamboyant men were wrestling with their luggage.  I think they ended up wearing three layers of clothes in order to make the weight limit.  They were very funny.  At one point they pulled out these gorgeous luxury towels and I told them to wear them as turbans on their heads.  At least it got a laugh.  Finally, back through security once again, I was ready to roll.  As I had some coins in my pocket, I decided to give my folks one last call and when I approached the pay phone (yes, they still do exist), it said all local calls free!  What a crack up.  A free pay phone.  Anyway...always lovely to be able to chat with them one more time once the anxiety of checking in and getting through security are behind me.
The first leg of this journey was a 30 minute hop to Los Angeles in a 30 seat prop jet.  I was happy I wasn't on this plane for long, but heading straight west with the gorgeous mountain views surrounding me was lovely.  I literally had about 15 minutes in LA to make my connecting flight so I wasted no time hustling down to the other gate.  Now, on the long haul getting a good seat is very important.  So I walked up to the ticket agent and simply asked if there were any seats with an empty seat next to them. She scored me an aisle with an empty.  Bliss.  Always ask for a seat with an empty next to it.  Even up to the last minute.  It is totally worth it.
As I was getting on the plane I saw two kids who were traveling unaccompanied finalizing their plans and saying good-bye to their parents.  They were doing fine, but I got weepy.  Which is horrible in the ticket line.  But the kids were cute and the parents had some anxiety and they were hugging and talking and looking back at each other and I was having a moment.  It was kind of funny too and I was just laughing at myself.  If I could bottle the tears I've shed at the airport...oj.
The guy sitting in the window seat in my row was a young man from London who had been on a 5 week trip around California.  He was lovely and I was finally relaxed knowing that I would be comfortable on the long flight ahead.  The plane for the long haul was beautiful.  It was brand new, had personal video machines at every seat where you could start, stop, rewind, and pause the films you watching.  I had dinner, watched True Grit and sacked out.  The 10 hour flight literally flew by, always a good sign.  The transfer in London was uneventful.  I talked to a friend in London, got a sandwich at a store I like there and waited for the Stockholm flight.  That flight was very uncrowded so I had an empty seat next to me then as well and mostly I just slept anticipating getting home.
As we flew over the greater Stockholm area, the snowy landscape came into view. Black and white and shades of gray had replaced the green hills and blue skies of Palm Springs.  And yet, there was a calming beauty in all of it.  I was home again and that felt good.  I saw one of the big ferries heading to Finland breaking a path through the ice.  I saw skating ovals that had been plowed on lakes and best of all, as my flight descended at dusk, I watched a very bright and beautiful sun drop below the horizon as late as 17.30.  While winter was still surrounding us, the daylight is making its way back up north.
I got reasonably unpacked and did some tidying up.  I enjoyed Tanner's enthusiastic greeting and love having him here with me.  Now, I just need to get my video camera working on my computer so I can use skype and dig into writing my sermon for Sunday. 
It's good to be home.  All of the things that I worry about came off without a hitch.  But I do need to clean out some closets to make room for all of the new things that I have that in some bizarre and silly way keep me connected to my other homeland, the USA.