Water, shooting across the plane wings sprays overhead, then streams down my window. The white stream of water, like a firefighter’s hose is misleading; the water curving down my window is a light pink, channeling miniscule silver bubbles to cluster on the thin sill. The soapy water is blasting away ice collected during the plane’s previous flight. I’m sitting in a cramped seat in a compact plane in the Harrisburg, PA airport. And I’m alone. Ok, so technically there’s a seatmate squashed next to me, two people smooshed in front, two shifting in the back, and one more narrow row, across the aisle from me. Still, this is my first flight where I’m entirely alone, and the man next to me isn’t particularly talkative. Personally, I thrive off of connecting with people, and learning about them, but right now, it’s very quiet. Ultimately, my seatmate’s silence is rendered unimportant, because as soon as the plane engine begins revving, the possibility of talking drops away with the ground. Lucky me, I have foam earplugs with me, of a pleasant purple color.
My puddle-jumper flight landed me in the Chicago O’Hare Airport. On the way in, I had a wonderful view of Lake Michigan; the lake and the sky had matching royal blues, with only a layer of clouds separating the two. It was my first time being in Chicago, and, unfortunately, I had to stay in the airport. While sitting in O’Hare, I worked on a few Sudoku puzzles, broke down a little when my dad called, and tried to entertain myself. Luckily I was rescued from boredom by a gentleman who, for his privacy, I’ll call Jamal. I had a thought-provoking discussion with him. Jamal lives in Dubai, and told me about the city and his travels. He said it’s an extremely safe city, and suggested I try to visit some day. I’ve already written it on the travel list I keep with the places I want to visit one day.
Eventually, we were able to board the plane (this one feeling much closer to the size of a football field). Jamal took my bag for me, which at first made me nervous because (as everyone keeps telling me), I was trying to be alert. So I stuck close by him, kept my eye on my bag, and together, we headed onto the plane. Honestly, even though I was overly cautious, it was a relief to have his assistance. By this point I had lugged my heavy carry-on through two airports and several security lines. Because of the American Eagle airline’s baggage limits, I couldn’t bring my usual rolling carry-on. Callouses were forming on my hands, and my shoulders wanted to detach from my body. On the plane, my seatmate was a young woman who was flying to India for her friends’ wedding. She said that she, the bride, and the groom had all met in graduate school. The bride was an exchange student from India, and although they lived in (I believe) Oklahoma, the wedding was taking place in Calcutta, India. We chatted about schools and I had the chance to discuss two of my previous classes; Arts of Africa class, and Worldview and Privilege class. The pleasant chat lasted us until dinner, after which I completely powered down.
The last person I met on this flight to London was a guy standing behind me in the morning line for the bathroom. He asked me about where I was going and I told him about my college having a sister campus in Budapest. I also mentioned that I lived in Pennsylvania. He asked me to guess where he lived, so I took a shot at Illinois (since the flight was from Chicago to London). “Good guess,” he smiled, but I was wrong. So, I swung at South Carolina. I swung and missed. He hinted that a person could tell a lot about someone based on their clothes. I considered his outfit for a minute. He was settled in jeans and a light blue checkered flannel shirt, so, “Montana?” Not quite, but “close” he said. I finally landed on his home state, Nevada. Then, he asked me what part he lived in, and said it was the most beautiful place in Nevada, to which I could only shrug. I couldn’t have named him the capital. He asked if I skied. I told him I don’t, and he speculated that was why I didn’t know. I believe the place he said he lived was near Tahoe Lake. Our conversation ended there when the bathroom door opened to allow me inside.
The final flight I took was from London to Budapest, Hungary. Several other McDaniel students joined me for this leg of the trip. Our plane took off and entered the heavy cloud coverage above London. As we dove through globs of white and swung past massive columns framed in the blue of the sky, it felt as though we were swerving and dodging even though the plane was set on a straight course. After several minutes we burst above the cloud tops to find swooping crests of cotton candy, pinched, pulled and separated by a child’s hands. Globs and swirling wisps of cumulus clouds clumped beneath us as straight-backed stratus clouds hovered above, casting shadows on the mounds below. The shadows from the stratus clouds dyed the cotton mountains a blueberry color.
As an hour passed, my wandering eyes were snatched into focus by a reddish-brown cloud shaped like a drake swooping away across a dessert of rigid white boulders filled with gashes and ridges. A little while later, several miles off, a plane shot in the opposite direction, sending a rust-colored stream-line into the air. Minutes later, a second plane left a streak of rose lipstick which the wind immediately smeared. We descended towards Budapest near sunset. The layers of color outside my window started with a large top layer of light gray-blue, then a thin line of peach that faded into magenta. Following was a section of cornflower blue which tinted the cushion of clouds into which we slowly descended.
The first night in Budapest, Hungary started with a group ride from the airport to our hotel. Our flight had touched the ground around 5:30pm (11:30am EST). My roommate, BreAnna had arrived earlier than I, closer to noon. I dropped my baggage in the room and relaxed for about 30 minutes. We then trooped down for a pizza dinner, after which we headed to our room to check emails, and then back downstairs to explore the city. When BreAnna and I arrived in the lobby, we discovered that the rest of our group had returned downstairs as well. They were following two McDaniel Budapest students (one Hungarian girl, and her friend who had been there for 5 months) to a “cafe.” BreAnna and I decided to tag along. After walking a ways and jumping on a tram, we found ourselves at a bar. The drinking age in Hungary (and basically all of Europe is 18), so almost everyone in our group purchased a Hungarian beer. BreAnna and I opted out, and wound up chatting to each other for the first hour. After two hours, we were beginning to nod, so we asked for assistance in locating our hotel. One of the girls who had brought the group agreed to take us back and was really nice because she walked us most of the way.
Back in our hotel room we caught the giggles, and began wondering if someone had slipped laughing pills in the drinks we never had. Then, we decided to place blame on the water we’d had at 6:30 with the pizza dinner. Exhausted silliness ensued. After we’d settled enough to change clothes, we practically stumbled into our beds and passed out.