Monday, August 31, 2015

Why do airports make you cry?

August 29, 2015

Today is my last day in the U.S. and it has been a pretty hectic one. I woke up two whole hours earlier than my normal summer hour, noon, and finished packing. My older sister took me to the mall to get comfortable Nike shoes, but malls over the weekends are crowded and it took us longer than we had anticipated. Nonetheless, we got home in a timely fashion, ate Mom's delicious chicken biryani, and got ready. As per tradition, my family took photos and then we all prayed for my safe journey. Around 5:30pm, we hit the road for Dulles airport.

I'm flying Air France from DC to Istanbul, with a quick layover in Paris. I packed two checked luggage, one carry-on, and a backpack. Luckily my first checked luggage was free, but the second one cost $100. There's nothing in the world I hate more than luggage fees. But alas, such is life. And no, this is not what made me cry at the airport.

Next, my parents and my younger sister went to the exchange booth because I wanted to have some Turkish lira on me before I got to the country. The current rate in the market is 2.91 lira per dollar; but the guy at the booth cheated us and gave us 2.51 lira per dollar, in addition to charging us a $10 service fee. Baba was not happy about this, and I rolled my eyes in frustration. There are some things in life that you just have to accept; sadly, a corrupt world is one of them. Again, no tears here.

The Departure Gates. That's where it happened.

There was a man standing in front of the big sign labeled "All Departure Gates." His job is to check boarding passes and only let traveling passengers through, which means he probably witnesses a lot of emotional moments. What a tough job! Speaking of emotional moments, my family and I had mine. My mom started crying, which made me cry, and we shared a warm hug for a good two minutes. Then I turned around, and saw Baba teary-eyed, and I hugged him goodbye too. Last time I saw Baba cry was when he dropped me off at Bowdoin College back in August 2009. Finally, I hugged my airport photographer, my sister Laraib and proceeded towards the man witnessing the scene. I didn't want to look back but I couldn't help it. I waved my family a final goodbye, took a huge breath (which helped clear out the emotions), and went down the escalators.

Saying goodbye to my family at Dulles Int'l Airport.
There's something about airports that just brings choking tears to people's eyes. I don't know what it is. Maybe they spray something special in airports to make sure eyes water up. Parting from family members, regardless of the occasion, is very symbolic and often emotional. I told my mom she had nothing to worry about because I would be back in 9 months, and she and Baba would be visiting me in a few months too - that we will all be reunited in just a matter of short time. This didn't console her much because I knew the thought that was lingering in her mind -- it was the same one that lingered in my mind. The thought that no one likes to admit but expresses with their tears: what if there is no next time? What if this is it, this is the last time you see your family?

As scary as that thought may be, I'm an optimist so I like to think the best of every situation. I am confident that my travels will be safe and that I will return to the USA in one piece, inshAllah. That said, there was one last thing that made me cry at the airport: I badly chipped my left thumb's nail, so much so that it bled a little. It must have happened at some point while I was handling luggage. I didn't have clippers on me, so a bandaid did the trick.

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