Adventure America

Hello and Goodbye

12:45Meg Cowan

Old misty eyes glistened behind wrinkled eyelids and his weatherbeaten hand touched my face.
The culture we had immersed ourselves in had become a part of us. We were completely foreign and yet entirely welcomed and at home.

He, the mayor of this small town, was like the spanish grandfather I never knew I wanted. She, the old aunt and 'mi primera amiga', was my first friend in Alcoba, both representing a snapshot of this sleepy life altering hollow.
On the day we left, faltering language was not enough for me. I pulled our friend Jaime with me down the street and asked him to convey with more accuracy my pain at leaving.
As someone who is not prone to many long standing attachments, but rather the kind of person who gathers a menagerie of friends wherever she goes, I was surprised at the depth of my feelings as our departure loomed. Some women kept giving the children toys, and others bought money for them. I had painted cards, faltering when I realised that the woman holidaying nearby was a known spanish artist, but proceeding regardless because I gave not my skill but my heart.

The night before our departure, Jaime returned to Alcoba. He who's house we now called our own. We talked in the street until dark, retelling the stories of our escapades with his crazy friends, who just like his house, had become ours also.
We invited him in and the evening continued, with wine, cheese and new varieties of cured meat bought from further south.

With all our bags wedged into our compact rental and my relic from the demolition site, rescued from destruction after 150 years, restored and squeezed into a backpack, resting on my knee, we headed out of town.

The drive south to Madrid was hot and a little subdued as the deeper realisation that we were again headed into the unknown became ever more apparent.

It was a beautiful whirlwind afternoon that followed. We flew into Germany where we were met by our old friend Timo. We enjoyed a later dinner with him and some of our favourite german friends before one of the kids self destructed, I lost it and we all fell asleep. A few short hours later, as the birds were only thinking of rising, we scrambled through breakfast and towards the train station with our longtime buddy Marcus who had lived with us in New Zealand for a year, starting when E was only five months old.
Our train took us from Basel to Frankfurt with one transfer from platforms required in the middle. It was in that 10 minute window that both children decided they simply must go to the toilet and so I walked them through the terminal towards the bathroom. As we exited, partly in jest and an effort to keep things moving, I joked that our train was almost there and so we'd better get a move on. As we bounded up the stairs I found Mr Evans, standing at the open door of our nearly departing train, his eyes frantically scanning the crowds for us. We dove onboard all together and sighed as the train pulled away from the station.
Thinking that we had dealt with enough travel rush for one day and confident in our more than adequate time allowance for airline check in, we made our way to the Lufthansa terminal at the Frankfurt airport. Only to discover that two days prior our american ESTA visa had expired and although we only had a two night stopover in LA on the way home, we would need these renewed.
No problem, we have lots of time. Mr Evans and the children left to find some lunch while I set up myself up near our collection of cases and pulled out the laptop. Some 40 minutes later, after answering all manner of questions about my mental and criminal history and that of my family, I paid the fee and pushed send. At this point I received the following message. 'Thank you for your application. We will process your request and your visa may be issued within the next 72 hours'. Right, and I am now down to 45 minutes left to check in. Brilliant.

After finding a helpdesk, which was more hassle than help, I again went back to my laptop, with now only 20 minutes elbow room and instructions to redo the forms. Fortunately soon after I began we found out the payment for some of us had to be processed seperately which I rushed through and with a small tick of the minute hand left we were checked in. Another quick jog to the end of yet another terminal and through security before we collapsed at the gate to wait the short moments until we boarded. It felt good to get on the plane and finally rest, albeit in a somewhat twisted position to accomodate the sleeping children.
Flying back into LA felt strangely comforting. We know what it means to go to America now. Rental cars and wide roads. Diners and Wholefoods. There is a familiar twang in the voices and we unwittingly adjust our accents to accommodate it. While I've never really been a fan of LA, our only previous experience was the highway to Anaheim and then the magical kingdom so I had little to judge the city on. This time we simply stayed a shorter distance from LAX and spent a day exploring Manhattan beach.
Standing partway around the world we splashed and played in the pacific ocean that linked our worlds. The younger generation of hasslehoffs were present and on duty. We walked home and crossed under the pier I remembered so well from watching inappropriate clips of Baywatch as a young girl. It was a completely different LA and we liked it.
Then in what seemed to be the blink of an eye we were NZ bound. Excitedly we found the empty row next to ours, which I snuck into pre take off to claim as our own, was in fact a skycouch. G and I stretched across it, his little frame tucked into mine and we prepared to sleep our way home. I looked across to see Mr Evans, tired but ever attentive to our girl, adjusting pillows and preparing their rows for sleeping. Despite of and because of everything that has transpired over this trip I looked at him differently as he tucked her in. If we were strong before, this trip was our crucible. Heated through pressure and change, I burned as we were reshaped and now I looked across the aisle with more conviction than ever that we must continue to live out the unconventional lives we've been called to together. Our dreams must be let out, given up and then found again, allowed to evolve until they become a reality better and brighter than we could have planned them ourselves. We locked eyes and hearts in a moment, and with knowing smiles, prepared to head into the unknown once again.

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