Returning to the Netherlands

May 15, 2017

Airports are never quiet. There are always people waiting for or arriving from different destinations. The businessmen, in their suits, always looking down at their phones with the same concentrated look on their face. The sleepers that end up missing their flights. The experts, the ones who are always able to travel with no problem at all. Finally, the lost ones, the people that always have to ask for directions. I used to be like them. You’d think that someone who has been traveling all her life would know their way around an airport. But then you forget that when traveling alone, it becomes ten times more difficult. You have to make sure you arrive on time, check-in, go through security, find your gate, and on top of that make sure you don’t starve yourself before getting on the plane. Over 100 flights later and I still am not able to eat the soggy airplane food.
I am sitting at my gate, D33, eating my sandwich and listening to music. I am wearing my favorite black Nike’s, jeans, white blouse and an oversized coat. It is summer, but to me, it always feels like winter. My hair is tied up into a bun, which has become my daily hairstyle.
I check my watch, 7:30 pm. Just a few more minutes. My heart begins to skip. Butterflies race into my stomach. Just a few more minutes until I am on my way home. A giant smile appears on my face. I must look crazy right now. But I have a reason to. It has been 10 years. 10 years, since I have last seen my entire family. Facetime does not count. The last time was at my wonderful grandma’s funeral back in 2016. Although everyone was there, we were all mourning over our loss. This time is different. It is now 2026 and my sister is getting married. My sister, getting married. I will be the only one left. I feel like I am back in my junior year of high school when both my sister’s left me to go to college. However, that is a different story that makes my head hurt just thinking about.
    “All priority passengers on the 8:15 flight to Schiphol International Airport, please have out your passports and tickets. We will start boarding in just a few minutes”. I check my watch, 7:45 pm. I have been talking to myself for 15 minutes. I look around. No one seemed to have noticed me. Good. I take all my stuff and walk towards the line. I search through the front pocket of my suitcase for my passport and boarding pass. Nothing. I look inside and see nothing. Absolutely nothing. What am I going to do? Did someone take it? This cannot be happening. Not now. I set my carry-on on a nearby chair and start taking everything out. I still see no trace of my documents. Great, just great. I lean my head in my hands and almost begin to cry.
    “Umm, excuse me, Miss.” A voice came from behind me. I sigh and turn around,
    “Yes?” A woman, appeared to be an airport staff member, was standing there.
    “Are you alright?” She asked.
    “Who me? I am fine. Nothing wrong. I am just re-organizing my bag like normal people do.” I turn back to my bag and start to fidget with the zipper of a different pocket. Praying that what I am looking for is inside.
    “Are you sure you don’t need...”
“No I’m...fine” The pocket finally opens and I start taking out more stuff. Please. There, at the bottom of the pocket, was my passport and boarding pass. I breathe a sigh of relief. I do a little jump in the air.
“So you have found what you were looking for?” I completely forgot that she was still standing there.
“Oh um, yes!”
“Well, safe travels, Miss.” She walked past me and made her way down the hall. I look down at my watch, it’s 7:59. I try to throw everything back into my bag. So much for “organizing”. I rush back to the line, that is actually gone now considering I took so long. I try to put on the most convincing smile as I give the flight attendant my ticket and passport. She scans them and places them back into my hand.
“Welcome to Delta, Anne-Fl…Flu…Flo”
“Its…ummm never mind. Thank you!” I cut her off and rushed down the tunnel and into the plane. I make my way to my seat and sit down. I watch through the small window as the plane leaves the gate and takes off. Just 8 hours to go!
“Goede morgen dames en heren!” I jump in my seat hitting my head against the screen in front of me. Ow!
“Ik ben uw kapitein! This is your captain speaking!” I shiver. It is so strange hearing someone speaking Dutch again. I’m not sure why.
“In 20 minuten landen wij op Schiphol!” Finally, I am ready to get out of here. I just want to see my sisters, and my parents, and cousins, and…
“We willen jullie bedanken dat jullie hebben besloten om met Delta te vliegen, vandaag! We would like to thank you for choosing Delta!” You’re welcome, I thought in my head. It’s funny how weird I can get after long plane rides.
A few minutes later, I see the flat plains of the Netherlands coming into view. My stomach flips in excitement. I’m here! No matter how many things could go wrong while traveling, nothing can change the way you feel when you reach the destination. Which is the way I am feeling right now. Nothing beats coming home.
Before getting out, I check my seat to make sure I have not left anything behind. I can’t afford to actually lose something now. Then, I practically sprint out of the plane. I keep picturing my family waiting for me. They have waited long enough! I reach the passport check and impatiently stand in line. When it is my turn, the officer looks down at my passport and then back up at me. Down and up. Is something wrong? I start to freak out. Great! Not…
“Oke, welkom in Nederland mevrouw v.” I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Dankje wel, meneer” I walk past him and make my way to the baggage claim. My last stop. When I get there, my bag is already standing there for me. Finally, something goes right. I walk out of the gates and search for my family. I could not spot anyone until,
“There she is!” I turn around and see them. They are all standing there. By all, I mean all of them. My cousins, my parents, my sisters, my uncles, and my aunts. Everyone. I run to them and hug every last one of them. Especially my sister.
“Het is heel fijn om weer terug te zijn!”
“Welkom thuis (home)!”

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