I’m on my way home to Europe today. This has always been a complicated statement to make—saying it has always made me feel a bit guilty. Guilty because I have chosen to live in a place far from the people that I love. It is tricky being an expat.
The last six weeks have been a whirlwind of planes, trains, and automobiles. We visited family and friends in three different states and multiple towns. It’s left me wondering how the hell I got so lucky to have such deep connections with the most amazing people on the planet. These friendships haven’t gotten weaker with distance, instead they have gotten deeper with time. I love my Boulder people, Paonia people, Durango people, my Colorado family, my California family, and my Oregon family. Thank you to all of you for making this trip feel like a lingering dinner party that goes deep into the night filled with joyful conversation.
Leaving the US has been a Covid-related logistical nightmare. Greece requires a negative Covid test that must be conducted with 24 hours of arrival. This may not sound too complicated, but my departure city was rural North Bend, Oregon, where there wasn’t a test to be found without a doctor’s order or physical symptoms. No problem, I thought, I’ll just get tested during my seven-hour layover in San Francisco. Nope: United informed me they would not let me on the plane in North Bend without all the required documentation.
The only way to fulfill Greece’s requirement was to cancel my existing flight then rebook it as two separate flights—one from North Bend to San Fran and another from San Fran to Athens.
Once in San Francisco I had the option of getting a $250 Covid test in the airport, or taking public transportation to where I could get a $69 test. I went with the latter. There were no issues on the bus ride there, but my heart started to race when the return bus was 30 minutes late. I was one stop away from the international terminal when an airport employee got on the bus. She seemed familiar with the bus driver and gave him a sincere hello. I marveled at the connections that people living in urban places make with one another—slight interactions in their day that become routine. I was imagining that it would make life feel a bit more personal amongst so many strangers.
The woman tried to pay the bus fare with a transit card but it did not have enough money on it—she was 50 cents short. She didn’t have any cash and the only way to add more money to the card would be to get off the bus and go back into the terminal. The driver wouldn’t budge. She offered to sing him a song, which I thought would definitely work, and was looking forward to the tune, but he still didn’t budge. I reached into my wallet and found 30 cents, which I gave to her. The driver still wouldn’t budge. Finally I asked the six passengers on the bus if they had 20 cents to spare, but they all completely ignored me—it was as if I was invisible. Knowing that the bus did not offer change, I insisted on giving her my $5 bill to pay the 20 cents. She handed the $5 to the bus driver who still didn’t make a comment.
The woman insisted that I give her my address so she could send me a check. I told her it was not necessary, and besides, I was on my way home, and home was far, far away.