Friday, July 28, 2006

Taking the “Dull” out of Dulles

Yesterday morning I was waiting at SFO for a flight to Hartford, CT, when I had a strange feeling I was going to run into my friend Jeremy. It was fleeting, and probably more wishful thinking than anything else, since I hadn’t seen him in a few months. I was probably only thinking of him since I was heading to Massachusetts, which happens to be where both of us grew up. “That’s silly,” I told myself, “Why would he be headed to Hartford when his family lives near Boston? And besides, he always takes US Airways red-eyes. He wouldn’t be in the United gate area, especially at this time of day.”

I quickly got distracted by something shiny and forgot about it. But later, I was roaming the hallways of Dulles, wondering how to kill a three-and-a-half-hour layover and fuming that the women’s restroom near my gate was out of order. (How does a whole room break? This doesn’t make sense.) I was also wondering what the chances are of running into my friend Wendy, who lives in Richmond (and who I happened to know was traveling that day), or maybe my grandparents, who live just outside of Washington, D.C.

I never did see any of them, but as I was stomping around angrily looking for a working bathroom, I was snapped out of my funk by someone calling my name. Oddly enough, it turned out to be Jeremy. He was also just passing through, and having anger issues of his own, having to do with a grossly delayed flight.

So we had a good old time amusing ourselves at the airport, gossiping about old co-workers and cursing United, for, I guess, not being able to control the weather better and not personally checking the plumbing at every airport they serve. It’s a small world.

Well, at least mine is.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Home Again

I’ve traveled 18,890 miles, covering all 360 degrees of longitude (and about 30 degrees of latitude). I’ve been through four countries, three of them new to me. I’ve traveled by plane, train, car, boat, bus, subway, rickshaw, bike, funicular, and cable car. I’ve worn out one shirt, a pair of pants, a watchband, a pair of sunglasses, and two socks (sadly not a matched pair). I lost four pounds. I gained 13,571 frequent-flyer miles. I slept in five different people’s homes. I slept in a nomad tent. I spent seven nights on a train. I learned how to say, “I’m sorry” in four different languages. I went 10 days without seeing a fully dark night sky. I went 36 hours without my luggage.

And now I’m home.

I felt ready to come home at the end of the trip, but that didn’t prevent me from some pretty intense culture shock. I woke up every day for a week not knowing where I was—that’s the longest that effect has ever lasted for me. It’s so good to be home, though. I’ve been drinking water right out of the tap whether I’m thirsty or not—just because I can. After weeks of train compartments and budget hotel rooms, my apartment seems huge, even though it isn’t really. I can’t believe that I can take a cold drink out of the refrigerator any time I want. I can put ice in my drink. I can eat anything I want without peeling it or boiling it. I can get a good cup of coffee anywhere. I know where everything is. I can tell what the weather is going to do.

The best part is that it’s just so good to see everyone. My cats have been like living earmuffs at night, sleeping one on either side of my head as if they’re afraid to let me out of their sight. Come to think of it, Pipi’s been acting similarly, which is sweet. We’ve been having a little bit of a honeymoon, which is nice and just might make up for six weeks of loneliness. (What’s worse than being lonely but not alone? Not much.) I’m finally starting to get caught up on emails and phone calls, although I know a lot of you out there are still wondering if I’m lost in Mongolia or something. I’ll be back in touch, I promise.

Because I’m not going anywhere any time soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Still More Photo Galleries

I’ve finally gotten to upload the last of the photos. Here are some images from Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as links to the older photo galleries: Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Train photos, Mongolia, Beijing, Shanghai, and three Japan galleries: Enoshima, Kamakura day 2, and Kamakura day 1.