Coming home

On July 5th, 2010, at about 4:00 in the morning Poland time, we said goodbye to our Polish host siblings and made our way to the Krakow airport.

Our Krakow to Munich flight left at 6:50 am, but we arrived at the airport more than two hours before to make sure we would have ample time to check our bags, go through security, etc.

I just realized that our flight isn't actually on this board...oops

Goodbye, Poland...

Our first flight went very well. Once we arrived in Munich we had our passports stamped, got some breakfast, and relaxed for a while (our layover lasted about four hours).

We were all pretty sleepy from having awoke at 3:30 am, but most of us took naps either on the plane, in the airport or both, so we were okay. :)

Before boarding our flight to the US, we had to go through a passport check and another security checkpoint. I appreciate that United Airlines wants to keep terrorists from hurting America/Americans, and going through security’s not that bad…but at the same time, going through the same checks multiple times in one day can get a bit tiring.

We boarded our next flight around 11:30 am. Unlike the last flight, which was only two hours and over land, this flight would last 9 hours and 20 minutes and take us all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, back to the land of our families.

Because this flight was in the middle of the day and because of the drastic time change (-7 hours), I thought that trying to stay awake for most of the flight would be a good idea. After all, when we came to Poland, the flight was at night and I slept the whole time, and my body was (for the most part) already on Poland time when we arrived. This was my philosophy for this trip. However, staying awake as well as entertained on a 9 hour and 20 minute flight is not necessarily as simple as it seems. This flight definitely seemed much longer than the flight coming to Europe — but the main reason for that is I slept for at least four hours of the flight to Europe, not to mention that the other flight was actually two hours shorter. (I’m not sure why that is…something about a tailwind? Or a headwind? I’m not a pilot, so I’m not really sure.)

The difficulty of my endeavor was significantly lightened, however, because of the type of plane we were flying. We were fortunate to be flying on a 777 on this leg of the journey. Although not as large as a 747, the 777 boasts a feature that seems to be very well-accepted by the under-20 crowd: television screens in the back of every seat. :)

There were about ten channels that showed films in continuous loops throughout the flight, as well as one channel that played a couple of television shows, and one channel which showed a map of our progress. I think I might have actually enjoyed the map channel the most, if only because it was different every time you turned it on. I watched us fly over Germany, a teeny tiny bit of Denmark, the UK, Iceland, Greenland, very cold parts of the Atlantic, and finally Canada and the USA. I got pretty excited as we were nearing the US, because Iowa gradually made it’s way onto the map. “We’re almost home! We’re almost home!” I kept saying to Gretchen, who was sitting beside me.

We landed in Chicago around 3:00 pm Central Standard Time. Although it might seem as though only four hours had passed, don’t be fooled – remember the 7 hour time difference. In Chicago, we went through another passport check (and stamp! Yes!) and security screening. We also had to retrieve our checked bags to take them through customs. This was a new experience for me, as we had virtually no customs check to go through when we arrived in Frankfurt or Warsaw at the beginning of our trip. Here, we had to declare what items we brought into the United States, how much they were worth, whether or not we came in contact with any livestock while overseas, the purpose of our trip, etc. We all passed the test of the customs people and made it to our next departure gate with about 30 minutes to spare.

I really enjoyed turning my phone on in the Chicago airport and recieveing many “Welcome Home!” messages from friends and family. For the past month, I had only turned my phone on to take a few pictures — my phone is not equipped with a SIM card slot, and there was no service in Europe, rendering my phone useless as a means of communication. Thus, receiving messages of welcome as well as talking to my parents again was a very nice change.

Our flight back to Cedar Rapids ended up being delayed for close to an hour because they were having trouble collecting all of the luggage from the international flight and bringing it to the plane.  I kind of felt like apologizing to the other people on the plane who were only flying domestically, since it was our luggage that was causing the delay. The pilot handled the situation extremely well. He came on over the intercom and you could tell by his voice that he was very, very sorry about the whole situation. I didn’t mind waiting around so much, but I was a little bit impatient to be home. However, we did eventually take off. I had a window seat on this flight (my first that day), and it was very comforting to see the gravel roads and enormous fields of Iowa once again. Before you could say “I’m coming home to Iowa and I’m very happy even though I’ve been having a wonderful time in Poland for the past month” three times fast, we were beginning our decent into Cedar Rapids.

I think we were all glad to see our parents again, and they to see us.

The past two weeks have been very…uneventful. And nice. I’ve been able to reconnect with almost all of my Iowa family and friends again. My time-change-adjustment tactic worked pretty well, although I did take multiple naps the first few days after coming home. I’ve been reading quite a bit, as well as relaxing in the pond and hanging out with friends. Bonfires have become at least a bi-weekly occurrence.

As nice as it is to be home, I do miss quite a few things about Poland.Here’s just a few of the main things:

  • My host family. I really enjoyed getting to know the Długozewki family and I miss being able to talk with them on  a daily basis. If you’re reading this — thank you again, so very much, for opening your home to me!!
  • Hearing people speak Polish (or simply any language that isn’t English). Even though I understood almost no Polish (or German, for that matter), it was nice hearing bilingual people speak. It was also pretty fun to try to figure out what people’s conversations were about, and trying to pick up new vocabulary words here and there.
  • The food. Although I love knowing the names and ingredients of everything I eat here at home, I do miss the types of foods we ate in Poland. I think part of that is because there are many Polish foods (like pierogi, żurek, nalesńiki and black currant juice, just to name a few) that aren’t widely available here in America. To help with this withdrawal, I’ve been eating black currant jam at least once a day, and I attempted to make sweet pierogis with strawberry sauce the other day. It’s not quite the same, but it’s similar.
  • City living. I love how quiet it is here on the farm, but I do miss living in large cities. It was so nice being able to walk wherever we went, not having to drive long distances to get anywhere.

Well, that’s about it for today. I want to thank you all for all of the prayers and encouragement on this trip, as well as for simply supporting me by reading this blog! It’s been fun to be able to share my travels with you. Maybe I’ll write some more soon…who knows!




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