It has been almost exactly one week since we flew out of Chiang Mai for the last time, but it feels like a lifetime ago. It almost feels like I never left! The journey home felt way longer than the trek to Thailand, and by our second flight, we were over it. Luckily, on my 14 hour flight from Dubai to Chicago I got to sit right in the middle of two engineering students, one from India and one from Pakistan. I would always rather pass time chatting with someone, so it was really fun to be able to share what it is like in our own countries and share our college experiences. What was interesting is that most Americans are scared of the Middle East, but the student from Pakistan was nervous about coming to the US, and his family even told him to keep the fact that he was from Pakistan a secret. One of the coolest parts about traveling and meeting people from around the world is that you realize that for the most part, people are just people, regardless of their religion, culture, or heritage. It is pretty humbling to realize.
When we finally made it to Chicago, we all were running on fumes. Our flight had over 1,000 checked bags on it, so we waited for almost an hour until we got out bags. Customs went very smoothly as well as getting to our last terminal, but security took forever. By the time we got to our gate we were all super hungry, thirsty, and falling asleep, but we still had a two hours until we got to board. Let’s just say we all have forgave each other for our terrible attitudes during that time. It felt so good to know that we were in America, but we were still so far from being home. We were all trying to stay awake so we could just go to bed when we got back around 9pm, but we could not keep our eyes open. I literally woke up when our plane landed in Minneapolis! I can’t tell you how good it felt to drive away from the airport, knowing I wouldn’t be on a plane for a long time.
It was really fun to be able to spend the weekend with our people! We got to experience being a local celebrity at church and share many quick synopsises of our trip. How do you condense an entire month of traveling into an answer for, “What was your favorite part?” I really should just give out business cards with my blog link so people can fully understand our experience:)
Doing American things was so unreal. Having the freedom to drive my own car has been a luxury! The grocery store was full of foods I recognized and I knew exactly where to find what I needed. My kitchen had pots and pans to cook with and all the flavors were exactly as I remembered. One thing about American food that is different is that the flavors are extreme. Compared to the Thai processed foods, things here are really salty and really sweet. For example, in Thailand, they don’t even have salt on their crackers, and some crackers here, you literally have to scrape off salt so your mouth doesn’t pucker. The only thing about American culture that has been a little weird is that it feels like I walking around in my underwear after wearing longer shorts in Thailand! It will take a little getting used to for sure.
Going back to work was another amazing thing. I was just floating around in a happy bubble because I got to see blood, pull IVs, solve problems, connect EKG lines, and talk about nursing for an entire 8 hours. I didn’t realize it was such a big part of my life, until it felt like I was literally feeding an addiction when people would ask for help or try teach me something and I was just pumped. It feels really good to use your brain after a month of coordinating meals and transportation. Don’t most people smile when they hear that the next patient coming out of the operating room is a kidney transplant?!
One thing I have realized since I have gotten back is that there are many different versions of home and family. Going back to my parents house for the weekend was one home and family, and then going back to my apartment and my roommates was another version. It sounds a little weird, but going back to work felt the same way. I spend so many hours on the floor I work on with the same people, and while I cringe at the cliche, we really are a family. Work to me is to the point where if I am ever stressed with school and have two papers due the next day and an exam, I love going to work because I can’t do homework, I know exactly what to do to do a good job, I learn cool things, and I get to be with some great people while getting paid! It’s pretty rare to find this with a job, so I am going to try really hard to find something similar when I graduate.
It was really fun to share my hospital experience with my coworkers! Most were pretty shocked and would reply with, “Well good thing we are here!” Maybe I was able to give people perspective for at least a few minutes before the complaining started again:) Even though cleaning and making beds are my least favorite parts of my job, I now can complete the tasks knowing that not everybody gets the luxury of a clean bed or clean equipment. It still blows my mind.
The weirdest thing about being home is that nothing has changed. Besides a few new songs on the radio, warmer weather, and some new posters at work, everything is the same. It is almost as though I pressed pause when I left and play when I got back. This is both comforting and scary at the same time because if we don’t travel and switch things up once-in-a-while, our life can go past in a blur of everyday monotony. However, one thing that has changed is me. I have seen and experienced things that have given me new knowledge and perspective that those who were not on the trip can’t understand. After thinking about how valuable this trip was and how much it opened my eyes, I got really scared I wouldn’t get to go on another trip before life got too crazy, so Beth, Maria, and I started planning our next one, just to make sure that it happens. I really thought it would take more than a few days to feel like the next trip needed to be in the books, but I really should not be suprised. There is only so much time before life gets really busy and really expensive, so I feel like every opportunity I have to travel needs to be seized.
The summer is going to fly by and then all that stands between me and being a big kid is two semesters! It is both exciting and terrifying. I will be using this blog for my next adventures, whether it be local, domestic, or international, so stay tuned! Thank you for following our crazy adventure and being so willing to share our excitement, photos, and stories. Until the next trip!