The 29th. We were on our way back. The flight from Ushuaia was not terribly exciting. Not that any of the flights were. That's beside the point. I was in the middle, in between Josh and some person that was not with the group. I cuddled with my penguin, dubbed Popper (even though it's a Magellanic, not a chinstrap…. Popper is just way too good of a penguin name), and tried to sleep. Josh's shoulder was very comfortable, but I still couldn't sleep.
Then we landed in Buenos Aires. It was hot. We got off the plane (out the back door… That was different), and I walked to the bus that would take us to the terminal. Once outside I almost instantly started coughing because the air was so hot and heavy. Despite being in a T-shirt it was way too hot for me. We went to the baggage claim, and some of our people decided we needed to wait and make sure our bags didn't come out, since they were supposed to be sent through to Miami. Probably a good idea, but I was desperate for air conditioning and ice cream, and decided I would trust the system…. But we were sticking together, so I stretched out on the concrete floor because it was cool. Yes, I am pathetic.
Our bags did not come, so we headed out. First we decided to pay our airport taxes to get that out of the way. Then we found out that they were included in our ticket price, so that saved us a step. Then we walked to terminal A. Besides being where the international flights were, the majority of our group desperately wanted McDonalds. I really didn't, but I was desperate for an ice cream. So we walked to terminal A. I was again miserable, since we had to walk outside.
I got a McFlurrry, because I really wanted ice cream. An oreo McFlurry. It tasted OK, though I wasn't too excited about the chocolate sauce they added. It wasn't too much, so I survived. Then I wandered around as the rest of the group ate. I wandered just about every direction that I could wander…. And I found out that our gate was in terminal B, not terminal A, so we would have to go outside again. Awesome. Also found out that my stomach does not appreciate the idea of McDonalds, even in Argentina, and even just ice cream. Some amazing premonition that morning had me put a pack of pepto in my carryon, so that helped.
So everyone else ate and I walked around in circles…. A lot. Once everyone was done we headed back to terminal B. Again outside. Again Emi was not happy. I seriously started coughing every time we stepped outside. I apparently can't survive in hot humid places, because I cannot breathe.
So we went to terminal B and went through security. Every single one of us got patted down, which was weird and awkward. And somewhat ironic (I did NOT get patted down or body scanned during any of the 4 times I went through security in the US). Then we had to do some exit immigration stuff… And then we were up in the gates. I again was one of the first people through. I found out our gate, as well as Michael and Cinda's gate. They were in terminal A, but the terminals were connected by a skywalk, so a few of us went to go stalk them. Though most of our group opted to go crash at our gate instead.
I went to stalk Michael and Cinda. We hung out with them for a bit, until their plane got ready to board. Then we said some goodbyes (again…), and headed back to our gate. There was some intensive snacking, discussions, and Bananagrams. And some work on homework too. But mostly talking and snacking and Bananagrams.
We had a red-eye flight back to Miami. So we were all pretty tired when we boarded. I was again in the middle, this time in the middle of the middle, between Desiree and some random person. Desiree switched with Josh so that he could have the aisle.
Amazingly, I slept. I was tired enough that even I managed to sleep on the plane. This seldom happens, but I did it. I woke for dinner. And then slept again. I slept almost eight of the nine hours of our flight. I woke up an hour before landing, having had a nightmare about my apartment collapsing into a sinkhole. This was likely connected to a crack about sinkholes that I had made earlier in the day. But I had this nightmare, and it was really annoying because it really freaked me out for whatever reason, and there was nowhere for me to go. Usually after a nightmare I get up and walk it off, but I really couldn't do that…. Everyone around me was asleep.
But then we had breakfast, and that helped. They had little packets of dulce de leche, and everyone in my section gave me theres…. Even the random lady next to me. I realized that I couldn't get through security in Florida with dulce, so I ate four packets of it. Straight. With a spoon. It was delicious.
Then we did our customs forms. It was somewhat of a challenge, as the only forms they had were in spanish…. But we managed.
And it was the 30th. And we landed. And we were back in the US. And it was time to part ways.
We got our bags, and went through customs. It was surprisingly fast, but then it was about 7:00 in the morning in Florida…. Then we gathered as most of our group at international arrivals. And did our final goodbyes. I surprised myself by not crying. But it was hard. Much hugging occurred. Some pictures. And then we split up.
Josh and I were both flying US Airways, so we went there together. Got our tickets, and then split up. There it was: I was on my own again.
I went through security with only minor problems. They had to scan my bag again with my camera and binos separate, but then they were happy and let me go. I knew my gate was in J terminal, but I had about 7 hours to kill, so I decided to go to the Delta terminal to find people from the group again. I wandered over that way and found Jamie, Kristina, and Kristin. We set up by a charging station, and there were many phone calls made…. And I got everyone with iPods online, since I had payed for the unlimited wifi for the month (it was the same price as an hour, so why not?). I joked about how we had gone full-circle… The 4 of us were together on the 14th, and there it was the 30th and it was the 4 of us again. Though we were later joined by Brandon. Then Jamie, Brandon, and Kristin left, and it was just Kristina and I. We both had flights after noon, so we wandered a bit. Went to my gate to see if I could get on an earlier flight… That was a no, so we grabbed some lunch. I had some spinach and cheese Italian thing that was delicious, and a bowl of dulce de leche ice cream. Both were quite tasty. Then we lurked at Kristina's gate for a while, because her plane was leaving first. Some little kid ran up and petted Popper, who was sticking out of my backpack, which was very cute. And then Kristina's plane was boarding, and I headed down to my gate. And again I was on my own.
The flight to North Carolina wasn't very far, and I again slept most of the time. Apparently I learned how to sleep on airplanes. Which is nice. When we landed in NC it had been over 24 hours since we left Ushuaia. I was so tired…. I called my mom to let her know things were looking like they were on time, then called Teresa and talked to her for a while.
Then we boarded the next plane. I was not feeling as tired, and was instead quite bored. I watched as we chased the sun west…. The sun beat us, and before too long it was dark. It was also cloudy, so even lights were hard to see (though when we passed over big enough cities you could see them). We had wifi on board, and some guy nearby was sharing a promotional code that would allow you to access for free. So I hopped on, if only for the novelty of it. Got on facebook, and ended up talking to Kristin on facebook for a bit. By then probably everyone but me had gotten to where they were going…. And I was still working my way across the country.
Then I fell asleep. I woke up as we started our descent into San Fran. For the first time I woke up confused. I was confused by the person next to me. Having spent most of our flights sitting next to Josh, my first thought was "Hey, you're not Josh…." And for the first time I really felt alone.
I had about an hour to make my connection in San Fran. It was late, and not too many people were around. Much to my dismay, I had to switch terminals. Apparently there's a super secret shuttle that allows you to do this without going through security again, but as all the signs said to go through security to switch terminals, I did. I also called my mom to tell her it looked like things were going to be on time. Shocking!
I got out and tried to figure out where I was. I knew I had to get to the other terminal, and was trying to figure out how to get there. I was also trying to figure out what gate to go to, since I thought knowing the number would help. Well, I was in the other terminal, so there was no information on my flight….. So I tried to follow the signs to the other terminal, but when you do that the signs just end, and you aren't at the other terminal yet. I walked around in circles for about 30 minutes, about ready to break down because I was so tired, so lost, and so alone. And there was nobody around to ask. I still wanted to know what gate I was at, because I thought that would help, so I went to one of the self-check-in machines, hoping to get some flight information. The info I got was that my flight was delayed a half hour (big shocker there….), and that was it…..
So I finally figured out that I could take the Airtrain to the other terminal. And got confirmation from some fellow airtrain passengers that I was going in the right direction.
Finally I made it to the right terninal. And then I had to get through security again. They were down to one security line, but had two people checking boarding docs. Of course I got in the line that didn't go straight through to the security, so I was in the line that had to merge with the other line. Horrible game plan SFO had running there…. But we eventually made it through. Me still tired and frustrated and getting very very complainy. It had been abut 35 hours since I left Ushuaia, and I was so over this airport thing. Everyone else was back home, and I just wanted to be someplace not in transition…. Honestly I wanted to be back in Argentina or Antarctica with the group, but I was willing to take Eugene….
Made it through security, and found out what gate I was at….. And found out my flight was delayed an additional half hour. Called my mom to let her know. Then found a spot to plug in my iPod and get wifi. Got on facebook, complained about being stuck in San Fran… And then played some games on the iPod.
Finally we were able to board the plane, and were on our way to Eugene. It was a short flight, and I chatted with the person next to me. Then we landed, and I was one of the first off the plane. Thirty-seven hours since I left Ushuaia, and finally I was where I needed to be.
Went down to baggage claim, and joined my mom. Was quite pleased to see that my bag had successfully made the long journey with me, and then we were on our way home.
And that was that. It was over. And now I am all caught up on writing about it. That night I showed my mom some of my pictures, ate some alfajores, and finally went to bed. Cuddled with Ret and went to bed.
It was a long long amazing journey, and it was worth every second. Every penny. Every scary hard moment. Every awe-inspiring sight. Every word I had to write to get credit…. It was worth it. I still relive it. Whenever I fall asleep, I'm still there. I dream it. Walking across campus by myself, I'm there. A piece of me is forever in Antarctica. A piece of me is forever on the Sveteva, laughing with the group, throwing snowballs at Michael and Jamie, hanging out with penguins, falling asleep watching orcas…. I'm there.
I know I'll be back someday. I don't know when, I don't know how, but I'll be back. Maybe not until I get my final three continents, but I'll be back. Back in the driest, coldest, highest, windiest, most beautiful place in the world. My favorite place in the world. Where I belong. If home is where the heart is…. Antarctica…. Is home.