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Monday, April 14, 2008

lazy bum

that's what i've been lately. i just have not been motivated to blog since i returned to the states. which seems like kind of an anti-climactic ending to the insane story of my exile. a lame trailing off...

so i will try to whip up some enthusiasm here.

my return was nothing terribly special. i got stuck in passport control in st. petersburg. again. this time the problem was the lack of similarity between my passport photo (blonde and tan in florida) my visa photo (blonde and pale and haggard two days before i went to court) and my current appearance (not-so-blonde with bangs but still haggard). the lady asked me to write my signature on a scrap of paper. asked me where i got my new visa from. asked me (for the five billionth time) why my original visa expired to begin with. called another passport inspector over to gaze skeptically at myself and my pictures. finally, after twenty people piled up behind me and were starting to grumble, she let me go, with the warning of "you don't look like your photos." as if there is anything i could do about it. i offered to go dye my hair if it would help.

then i flew. the first leg of my journey was on a tiny puddle-jumper that smelled like a dirty bellybutton, accompanied by at least 50 extremely loud black people from england. fortunately i had my ipod so i could drown them out. i landed in vienna around five p.m., got my bags, and wandered around for a half hour trying to find the free airport shuttle through the dense clouds of cigarette smoke. i think part of qualifying for inclusion in the EU is that at least 90% of the countries population are required to be chain smokers.

at last i found the shuttle, which was really a little jellybean-car with a bland-faced chubby guy driving it. i randomly yelled out "flughafen!" because i have this weird compulsion where i have to yell out german words when i see them (an unfortunate compulsion to have when in a german-speaking country) but the driver merely raised one eyebrow at me in the rear view mirror. he politely deposited me at my hotel, which was a random box on the edge of nowhere. apparently 89 euros doesn't buy much in austria, because my room was the most hysterically spartan thing i've ever seen. the whole flight i'd been anticipating having a nice bath, but all i had was a little miniature stall shower. the bed was a twin with a baby blanket on it--it didn't even cover me on both sides when i laid completely straight. i went to call art to let him know i was okay, only to discover my room had no phone.

i didn't want to dwell on the disappointment, so i went downstairs and asked the front desk people if there was anything within walking distance, and they shrugged noncommitally and said there was a little village called fischamend down the road. i got the impression they were reluctant to even mention it. but i didn't care if it was a hovel; i wanted to get away from the depressing mental-institution feel of my tiny room and stretch my legs.

at first i was a little disappointed with the area--i guess i'd expected the alps and curtain-clad von trapp children cavorting on hillsides--but the more i walked the more i liked. the air smelled like flowers and woodsmoke and river. there were wildflowers everywhere. i realized after about ten minutes that the strange and unfamiliar sounds i was hearing were birds singing. i hadn't heard birds singing once since i left the states. i passed by a cemetery with big wrought-iron gates, and when i found they opened i had to go inside. maybe it seems morbid, but it was beautiful. that graveyard was the prettiest thing i'd seen in ages. all the headstones where pristinely clean, and covered in bowls of pansies. there were blue spruce everywhere, and picturesque ivies crawling over statuaries. i wandered around for awhile, taking pictures, watching the sun start to set. then i walked down into the village proper, amazed by the cuteness and cleanliness. i could have eaten off the sidewalks they were so clean. i saw a tower off to the right, so i wandered in that direction to see where it lead. it was part of a big yellow church sitting right on the danube river. i was so happy to be somewhere that was so pretty, and smelled so nice. a woman walked by me carrying a basket of vegetables and bread and i went to look the other way as is customary in russia, but she said hi to me with a big friendly smile.

i burst into tears.

fortunately she was already past when i had this outburst. it's like i couldn't handle it anymore. all the ugliness and meanness of the last month i spent in russia was brought home to me by the extreme contrast of this little village and i broke. i tried to get myself under control by walking over to the river to look out over the bridge. the rush of water and that deliciously damp smell of moss and sodden wood made me laugh with delight. i was extremely fortunate that this area was deserted so no one could witness my bipolar reactions.

after that i walked around some more, went to a little store to buy myself some bread and fruit so i could avoid eating at a restaurant, and made my way back.

that part was awesome. the rest of the trip was typical of a stressful international journey. the flight to JFK was long, and boring, and i was having intestinal issues. i amused myself by taking note of funny oddities. like the fact that the whole plane was full of orthodox jews, complete with phylacteries. one of them looked like justin timberlake. that amused me greatly. there was a really hot fashiony kind of european guy, looking around with that condescending "i'm God's gift to women" look, who i caught digging in his nose like he was searching for egyptian treasure. also, there was one of those gross quivering dogs with an underbite sitting on some lady's lap and wearing a sweater and diaper.

the flight from vienna was late, and i had less than two hours to get my luggage, go through customs, and book it over to the jetblue terminal to catch my flight to NC. of course, mine was the absolute last to come out. i RAN like a crazy person to the train, and anxiously willed the monorail to go faster. i got there, checked my bags (not fun to run with a heavy suitcase and guitar), and ran to the terminal. i called art from a payphone to let him know i made my flight, and got on the plane about two minutes before it took off. ha! i was so glad. that flight was interesting--i sat next to a pilot who talked the whole way, so that passed the time. finally the plane touched down, and i wove my way through the crowds, so excited to see art. it was late, so i knew the kids wouldn't be there with him, but i didn't mind. then i came down the escalator and saw art and the boys standing there, each kid holding a bunch of flowers for me. i burst into tears, gave them all hugs, made out with art unabashedly while people stared, and we were off.

since then my brothers have come and gone, my dad got remarried and is on his honeymoon, and art and the boys and i are trying to fall back into some kind of normal rhythm. even though it still gets old sometimes, i am really enjoying things like cooking and cleaning and reading stories to the kids. and watching LOST at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and we can finally relax. maybe it's not as exciting as all the "adventures" abroad, but it's certainly nicer for me.


Sam said...

flughafen!" OMG!! This is so funny!

Heather said...

What exactly does a dirty bellybutton smell like?!

Jonathan said...

I giggled about the baby blanket. I could imagine you shifting back and forth trying to get it to cover you. I half expected to find out that you were in Lilliput or something.

Steve Nelson said...

Dude, what if Justin Timberlake was Jewish. How much would that rock?

SO glad you're home with Art and the boys! And I am very happy that we're friends... your life gives me so many great sermon illustrations! :D