By Melina Marks
After living abroad for a long period of time, going back home can be quite the challenge.
Traveling from Cuenca to Little Rock, Arkansas wasn’t easy, but travel is always stimulating and exhilarating, despite the downsides. Going from one big city to another, no matter the continental difference, is always a much smoother process than getting from one small town to another in different parts of the world; it just requires more patience.
The changes along the way and the changes between home and abroad can be quite eye-opening in different ways with each visit.
Sitting in the Quito airport for 9½ hours I was extremely bored. After my computer died and my phone battery was low, and after my hunger was satisfied, I had nothing left to do but doodle in my notebook and watch the people around me. The majority of the people were happy, talking, and excited about the travels ahead of them. Others sat alone, quiet, thinking to themselves like me. The overall vibe of the place, though was alive and filled with expectation, like a mall or any other public place.
On this trip I was traveling alone and ended up trying something that usually shakes me to the core; making conversation with strangers. Because of this, I met people from Ecuador going to study aboard, a very sweet German couple, and some Canadians who were on their way home from backpacking across The Andes. The time that I spent talking to these people provided me with stories and insights into new personalities that were a joy to learn.
Surprisingly, even at midnight, when it was time for me to board my flight, most of the airport staff was calm and helpful.
When I arrived in Houston, the atmosphere was noticeably different. To my disappointment, the people working were simply rude. Yes, it was early in the morning and I can’t imagine an airport being the loveliest place to work, but they were careless with their jobs and rough with their clients. The people seemed so exhausted and fed up, I couldn’t help but feel as bad as I looked.
A women from California I met while waiting in line for coffee had been bumped off of three flights and was over a day late to her destination. To sum it up, in contrast to the previous night at the Quito airport, my first taste of the States was bitter-sweet.
Despite the depressing atmosphere and the fact that I was exhausted, things were going as planned. I arrived in Little Rock, bags and all, and was met by my family on this side of the U.S. border after spending months on the other side.
As many people notice when coming to the States for the first time, or returning from being abroad for along period of time, everything seemed much bigger. From cars to couches, food portions to drink sizes, things are just surprisingly bigger. Life moves faster in the U.S., money goes quicker, people are louder, and work is harder. Even so, thus far I am enjoying my vacation from my busy schedule back home in Cuenca; work, school, writing, dogs, family, etc.
I have to admit that I am lucky. I have two groups of beautiful people that I call my family, in Cuenca and in Little Rock, and I will always feel at home. Traveling can be a risky business, but as my mom always says, “once you are in the system, you are in the system and you just have to go with it… they will get you where you are going one way or another.” My trip went smoothly even though I did encounter some frustrations and saw some ugly things along the way.
Returning to Arkansas and Virginia will always be a welcome prospect in my mind. I will look forward to coming back to Cuenca, as well. The changes between Cuenca and the U.S. are eye-opening and different from those on my last return trip. I can also be sure that they will be different on my next trip back home too.