Dublin to Chicago

One Step Closer to Home

February 16, 2006

We woke up to our last hostel bed today and had our last hostel breakfast, which I might add is quite wonderful in Ireland. The traditional Irish breakfast can keep you full for an entire day. Next, we hopped on the double-decker bus to the airport and both of us started to get this sick feeling in our stomachs. At the airport we used up our remaining Euro and bought some duty free Irish Cream, Irish Whiskey and Guinness toffees. In the airport Tina had a mini-breakdown and honestly I was freaking out a bit myself. The last year had been so amazing. We met so many great people, saw so many amazing things and we were put into situations, good and bad, that we could have never imagined. To top it all off we had so much freedom. Freedom we have never had before in our entire lives. No school, no job, no bills, no boss, no dogs, nothing. Our days were what we made of them. We woke up every morning and decided what we wanted to do that day. The biggest worries were finding a grocery store, transportation to the next town or where were we going to stay that night. Not too bad. The thought of getting a job again and sitting in a cubicle all day made me nauseous.

As we started to board the plane Tina was out in front of me and I got caught behind a group of other people. I was heading towards the plane when I was pulled over for a random check. They asked me to open my bags which included my camera bag and my daypack. When they began to search through my bag they found the souvenirs we bought in Morocco. Our souvenirs from Morocco were some handcrafted wooden items we had tightly wrapped in bubble wrap with brown shipping tape. Honestly, it looked like a block of hash wrapped up and I thought to myself, “great – this should be fun.” The airline attendant wanted me to open this package. I asked him if we had a pair of scissors or a knife to cut it open because it was wrapped too tight to tear open. Well of course not, this would be a weapon, so I was forced to use a writing pen to tear open the tape and bubble wrap. And the one item he wanted me to open up was called a magic box. It’s called a magic because it’s a secret on how to get it open. Trying to explain this to him made things even more difficult. I never got the entire box out of the packaging since this would have taken forever using a pen. Finally, he gave up and let me board the plane. I’m sure he was saying to himself I grabbed the wrong random guy. I boarded the plane and Tina had this look of “where the hell have you been?” So I explained. Thankfully, the rest of the flight went pretty smooth. Most of the passengers were from Ireland so they were full of excitement to get their vacations started. It was pretty hard to see how excited they were when our trip was ending. It was a good thing that Tina was next to the window because she was really having a hard time grasping the finality of it all. It just didn’t seem real that it was coming to an end. Although we both agreed that it was time to come home we weren’t ready to for the gut wrenching feelings we were both experiencing. Thankfully we had each other to vent when necessary.

Once we landed in Chicago another stream of overwhelming feelings hit us. We hoped that customs would go smoothly and were excited to see our friends. Customs ended up being an interesting moment. We’re standing at the carousel waiting for our bags to appear after already grabbing our travel cooler we used to carry our food throughout the entire trip. As we waited a custom’s agent and their cute little beagle came over to us. The beagle began to put his paw on our cooler as to show the custom agent something suspicious was in there. Really we didn’t have any hash from Morocco in the bag. The customs agent began to ask us if we had any fruit or vegetables in our bag on our trip. I said, “yes”, at the same time Tina said, “no”. She asked us again and again we both gave conflicting answers. Tina was thinking throughout our flight and I was thinking our entire trip. We finally cleared things with the agent, but she still placed a sticker on our customs form flagging us for an extra check on the way out. I’m thinking, “Great how extensive is this extra check going to be?” Once we get our bags we headed toward border control and the only thing extra we had to do was put our bags through and extra scanner and we were clear.

In Chicago we were staying with our friends Erin and Matt and told them we would call them right before we left the airport. Well, with no U.S. dollars on us and no cell phone this became interesting. We pulled money out of the ATM, all 20’s of course and we couldn’t find a place to give us any change. Finally we started walking down the line of people waiting for their boarding tickets and started asking people if they had change for a 20 so we could make a phone call. One guy asked us, “Do people still use pay phones?”, as he started reaching to just give us some quarters. The next guy over from him said, “You can just use my cell phone. I work for Verizon and get all the free calls I want.” We accepted and gave Erin a quick call to let her know we were on our way. Experiencing such graciousness was a great welcome back.

We boarded the subway which took about 45 minutes to get near Erin and Matt’s place. The stop was 5 blocks from their place, but it was freezing outside. Welcome back to the Midwest. At Erin and Matt’s we sat up all night telling stories and drinking beer. It still didn’t feel real and there was a part of us that just thought we were still on our trip.

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