August 5, 2009

By Elena Garcia

rolling-stones-american-flag-tongue-stickerWe’re the kids of the America!

I am home.

On Monday of last week, at 12:30 pm, I boarded United flight 858 from Shanghai to San Francisco.

Days before I had started packing my bags attempting to fit enough clothes for my eight week visit home and all the gifts I had bought for friends and family. Garrett and I tried to predict if my bag would be within my 75-pound limit and quickly determined it wouldn’t. Not unlike me, it’s rare that I am ever within the absurd weight limitations of the airline industries. How is a girl supposed to fit all her shoes, clothes, accessories, in two bags at 75 pounds each? I think the length of your trip should determine the weight limits set by the airlines. A person traveling for a few days should only get one small bag but no they get just as many as I do with eight weeks of packing to do! It’s really not logical at all!

Lugging my huge bags to the check in gate I held my breathe as Garrett used all his might to load them on the scale. The nice man checking me in took his time before glancing at the scale to see if I was within my limits. The anxiety slowly crept in with an incredible erge to shake him and yell, “HURRY UP!” But I refrained from such actions and waited for my verdict.

After checking in, with no over weight luggage fees, Garrett and I enjoyed a last lunch at the Ajisen in the airport and a goodbye before the security gates. Then it was off through the roped lines, the x-ray machines, metal scanners and duty free shopping! I managed to score some not so expensive make-up and last minute gifts. By the time I finished perusing the shops and made my way up to the lounge I was exhausted. But the excitement running through my veins turned into adrenaline and kept me going as I stocked up on snacks and diet coke. As I sat down in one of the plush leather chairs over looking the main gates of the airport I heard the friendly reminder that my flight was on it’s final boarding call. The lounge attendees helped me gather my stuff and rush to my gate,

I scurried through the boarding area and onto my flight, flashed my gold ticket stub and was lead to my big leather seat. Luckily the seat next to me was empty and I was able to get comfortable and store some of my things there. As I finally caught my breathe, the attendant handed me the menu for the flight and as I perused it I took the remote and started flipping through my in flight entertainment options. I was finally going home.

It’s crazy how much things haven’t changed since the last time I roamed the streets.

On my second day home after struggling with the expected Jet Lag I headed out and roamed the streets of San Francisco. Bringing Frankie along; I took him to his favorite park, Fort Mason, to his Vet on Fillmore and then to his groomer on Polk St. The bonding time was nice.

Later in the week I went shopping and had dinners at a variety of my favorite spots and caught up with friends who I missed so much.

It was easy to fall right into pace again, like I never skipped a beat. Everything was like normal. And of course the more time I spend here in the normalcy of American life, the more I realize how much I missed it.

I missed Frankie’s shedding hair, the crisp air of a San Francisco evening, the chatter of people lives and my friends. But I have quickly realized that although many things here haven’t changed, I have! And probably not for the better.

One evening after leaving dinner with a friend I was walking to my car when I bumped (okay maybe slammed) into a person walking by. I didn’t even notice I had done it until the slight sting of the impact began to tingle. I was already a few feet away when I realized I had just walked into him and realized I hadn’t said anything. Not an excuse me, I’m sorry or any form of apology for causing the collision.

My time in China has taken away all my manners!

Upon realizing this, I quickly turned and apologized profusely.

In China, bumping into people is an everyday occurrence. If I apologized to everyone or said excuse me all the time, I would never stop talking. That said, I try very hard to have some manners and say “dui-bu-qi” (which means excuse me/sorry) to all those who’s personal space I have invaded.

No one has yet to return the favor.

Another example is saying “God Bless You” after someone sneezes or “Thank You” after someone says it to you. I use to be so good at it, always on top of it but now… now I forget. I go minutes without noticing. So much time goes by before I realize that by the time I shriek my apology for not having said it, I’m interrupting an already continued conversation.

People in China don’t say “Bless You” after a sneeze. In fact, they usually look at you in disgust and fear that you may be the one to spread swine flu, bird flu, or the animal infection du jour.

Hopefully I get into the habit of having manners again and quickly. I would hate to bump into the wrong person on the wrong day. Ouch.