On the first flight I look up and we’re surrounded by what seems like hundreds of fresh-faced youngsters. From the shirts and lanyards they’re part of a people-to-people program and it’s a short matter of coaxing before the story spills out, one I’m sure they’ll be asked a million times before they arrive. High school kids gone abroad to live with other families — it’s not clear if it’s a full exchange or just a reward for the right kids. And right they are, polite and well-scrubbed and quietly excited to be on their way, BHM-DFW-LAX-HKG, miles and miles before they get their three weeks in China. They take over the plane by sheer numbers; everyone is sitting near one and the insatiable curiosity starts over for them, some of whom are flying for the first time, some who have never been off shore.
It makes my complaining about not hitting the right flight sound a lot whiny, doesn’t it? The evening flight out of Dallas is quiet, everyone taking the opportunity to nap or quietly read as we fly west into the sunset, those colors retreating even as we chase them. Before long now I’ll be home. A week has turned into a day and so quickly now just a matter of hours — at the moment we’re two hours from touching down and we can resume our separate lives, these strangers and me. I open my mouthhand my voice feels rusty from disuse, flat Midwestern accent replacing the Southern drawl I’ve been immersed in for days now. It doesn’t sound right and I still want to order my Co-Cola or Swee’Tea with mah meal, all y’all. In time those thoughts will disappear but the mind will take time to catch up with the body who has moved thousands of miles.