I'm back home, and it feels so refreshing to be with family and friends. The travel back home was long and taxing. 37 hours and one emotinoal breakdown later, I was in South Dakota.
The emotional breakdown happened in the LAX airport in Los Angeles. I was planning to meet my friends Kara and Brandon for supper before my connecting flight. HOwever, our plane was one hour late, and the line to go through customs was long. I knew we were back home when the people were queing up to stand in line for customs. Those of us who had been in China too long were not so good at standing in line, and people started to yell profanities at us...Ahhh America. I didn't feel like being yelled at, plus I was actually happy to go to the back of the line. Lines work in America...people respect the principle of lines and order. . .it's wonderful. I no longer have to be aggressive when I want to buy groceries or use the restroom. I can simply stand in line and know my turn will come. So at the LAX airport, I was more than happy to go to the back of the customs line.
After I got my bags, I looked for my friends. They were nowhere to be found. In the process, I tried go back through the way I had come, and got severely yelled at by an airport worker who then told me I couldn't even stay in that building... what? People take their jobs seriously at the LAX airport. . . let me tell you. So, I was stuck waiting for my friends, but being too scared to go back to the place where people were waiting for arrivals from the airport. I tried to use the pay phone to call my friends, but let me tell that payphones, for what they are supposed to stand for, a convenient way to reach others, are very difficult to use. Finally, I called collect to my parents' home, but the time kept running out (I have no idea how a collect call can run out of time) and I could only hear my parents' voice, but they couldn't hear me as i started to cry on the phone, "I can't figure out how to use this stupid pay phone." And, no one around me was paying any attention to help...also a sign I was back in America. In China, if the foreigner would have been distressed, at least 5 Chinese people would have swarmed in to see if they could help. But here, people just preteneded they didn't notice. I crouched down in a corner and started to cry with the reality that I might not get to see my friends who live in California. But finally, we connected (with another collect call to my parents.) and they took me out for Mexican food before my connecting flight.
In the Minneapolis airport, I started to notice that the people heading to Sioux Falls all looked familar to me...like they had formally been my neighbors or second cousins or something. I also noticed that the airport was loaded with foreingers (Americans.) After living in a Chinese city with a million Chinese people and only about 30 foreigners in the entire city, I am not used to seeing so many foreigners. I will be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed staring at the "foreigners" and feeling strangely at home. And I also had a lovely conversation with the saleslady at the airport book-shop...simply because I could..I could understand all the words out of her mouth..it was amazingly easy. And to make the Midwest feel even smaller, she said she knew South Dakota and had even traveled with her former boyfriend to Grand Rapids...(which we later determined was Rapid City.)
When my plane landed in Sioux Falls, I exhaled...whoofta..and I started to cry when I saw my parents waiting for me. It was surreal; only 11 months before, we had been standing at the same place in the Sioux Falls airport as I was preparing to leave for China. Now, I'm home. I understand people. I know how most things work (although I am rusty on the workings of phones apparently.)