When I reached the word "flight," I burst out crying again. I was sick of everything already. I had no idea flying could be so stressful -- I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a plane, but I'm sure I'd had more than an hour to find my next flight, plus I'd had my family with me to help me. This time, I was alone. My phone had died on the way up the escalators, so I couldn't even call someone if I missed my flight. I felt sick, and crying made me feel worse, but willing myself to stop wasn't working....
Well, my adventure began before I even arrived in the Faroes. I said goodbye to everyone in Jacksonville and went through security, feeling pretty optimistic. I bought a water bottle and a chocolate bar to eat on my flight and went to sit down by my gate. Everything was feeling awesome, and I couldn't wait to just get on that plane and see everything there was to see.
The flight from Jacksonville to Washington DC was fine, if not a bit cramped. I spent an hour and forty-five minutes wondering how much blood was in my torso from not having any in my legs. When I landed in Dulles, I knew I only had an hour to find my flight, so as soon as I got got off the plane, I shook the feeling back into my feet and started looking around for Scandinavian Air.
I went up to an information desk and asked where the flight to Copenhagen was. I had no boarding pass and checking in online didn't work, so I had to quickly find where I was supposed to go so I could get my stuff together. The woman at the desk stared at me and asked me why on earth I was asking for Scandinavian Air in the terminal for United. She told me I was looking for Gate B and pointed me down the hall, which turned out to be the wrong direction.
I went back down the hall and then down a tunnel that led to an underground area with a train to take me where I was supposed to go. I stared at the maps, but I've always been a poor navigator. I had no idea where I was. I gleaned that the train led to Gates A, B, D, H, and Z, so I stood with everyone else and waited.
The train's first stop was Gate A. I got off for a second and contemplated walking to Gate B, but since I couldn't even read the map anyway, I got back on and hoped it would be faster. I checked my phone. I had less than thirty minutes to find my gate. I prayed I'd get there soon.
The next stop led to Gates D, H, and Z. I was perplexed. Where was B? Was I supposed to get off at A and walk there? Did I miss my chance? Would I be able to get back? That airport was more foreign to me than the Faroes have been so far. So many things were running through my head, my chest welling with despair, and I simply started crying. I was sore all over from my heavy bags and coats. I had a massive headache and no way to relieve it. I was dehydrated and hungry. I had dropped my water bottle and chocolate bar on the way down the tunnel and couldn't retrieve them. I felt miserable and anxious and the tears just wouldn't stop.
I got off at D, H, and Z and planned to just walk to B, but I had no idea how. I was lost. Something in my gut tugged me to get back on the train and wait, but I hesitated. My mind was completely blank. Nothing made sense to me and I couldn't even understand that B was probably going to be the next stop, since it was the only one that hadn't been visited yet. As I tried to make sense of things in my brain that was throbbing, I heard the intercom say to stand clear of the doors. I panicked, and ran back inside. It was a good thing I did, because it finally did lead to Gate B. I checked the time again. Twenty minutes until the plane left.
I made the very poor decision to run up the escalator, and I ended up tripping on my coat and hitting my knee, hard. Now I had an aching leg to deal with, and I started crying again. I kept running, all the way up the two flights of escalators, and came out into a very long hallway filled with gates. I pulled myself together and approached another information desk.
"Excuse me, sir, where is the flight to Copenhagen?"
When I reached the word "flight," I burst out crying again. I was sick of everything already. I had no idea flying could be so stressful -- I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a plane, but I'm sure I'd had more than an hour to find my next flight, plus I'd had my family with me to help me. This time, I was alone. My phone had died on the way up the escalators, so I couldn't even call someone if I missed my flight. I felt sick, and crying made me feel worse, but willing myself to stop wasn't working. The man looked at me in my absolutely pathetic state and smiled sympathetically. He told me I was looking for B40 and pointed me down the hall. I thanked him in an almost-comically high-pitched voice and started running. My backpack thumped against my back and pulled at my shoulders, the handle of my violin case rubbing painfully in my hand, but I kept running, my teeth gritted.
B40 was about fifteen gates down the hall, or at least it felt like it. When I reached it, I didn't even look for a clock, because I saw what looked like a message from God on a big blue screen: "On time."
I stood in line and my tears finally stopped. I was going to make it. I was going to be fine. The fear of the unknown had gripped my chest like a vice, but now that I knew I was in the right place, I was so happy I could have collapsed. When it was my turn, I handed over my passport and waited again while the woman prepared a boarding pass for me. By this point, my stank was so bad it could've killed a cow. My dehydration was even worse due to sweating while running. No more one hour layovers. Ever. Again.
I got on the plane, pleasantly surprised that I was as close to First Class as one could possibly be without being in it, so I had a lot of leg room. I fumbled around trying to store my stuff in my disorientated state, but the man sitting next to me, a Swede named Arne, helped me out. As soon as the plane was safely up in the sky, I took off my boots and shriveled up in my seat. I was a dry husk of a human being, and I could taste the blood in my mouth from splits in my lips.
I spent the next eight hours talking with Arne. He was very nice, extremely helpful, and slightly drunk, so he was a cool flying companion. He talked on and on about his grandkids, his house in Italy, the trips he'd taken, and lots of other things I only half-remember. He knew a little bit about the Faroe Islands (he at least knew where they were and about the British occupation during WWII, which was refreshing), so we talked about them too. When we arrived in Copenhagen, he even offered to walk me through customs, but it turned out it wasn't necessary.
I nervously approached the desk and handed the man my passport. Arne had told me not to tell them I was an exchange student or that I'd be staying for a year, or else they'd give me a hard time.
"Where's your final destination?" the man asked.
"The Faroe Islands."
"Are you an exchange student?"
I didn't want to lie. "Yes."
"And will you be there for a year?"
He directly asked what I was planning not to tell him. I answered truthfully again: "Yes."
He stared at me for a moment. I stared back, trying not to look scared or frustrated or anything else like I truly felt. I hadn't slept at all on the plane, and I know that when I haven't slept, my eyes become red and vainy, so I might have also looked like an insane super villain. The man looked at me for a few more seconds, then opened his mouth to speak. I felt my knees tremble.
"That's cool." The stamp hit my passport with a dull thud and he passed it back to me through the glass. Stunned, I took it back, squeaked, "Have a nice day!" and passed through customs into Copenhagen airport.
I met up with Arne again at baggage claim. He explained to me the layout of the airport and how to get where I needed to go. This was his final stop, and his baggage came out before mine, so when he grabbed his bag, he simply gave me a cheery wave and disappeared before I could properly thank him. I regret not having stopped him to say anything.
I grabbed my bag and checked it in. I grabbed a bottle of water from 7-11 and chugged it. Images of etiolated plants danced through my head as I did. More haggard than ever before, I lugged my unkempt, unwashed self up the escalator to security.
On the other side, the Copenhagen airport turned into a mall-sized liquor store. Everywhere I looked, there were large, shining bottles of wines and spirits stacked like bean cans in a supermarket. I accidentally made eye contact with one of the tall, handsome Danish clerks, and he stopped me and told me his pitch.
"Uh... Jeg forstår ikke dansk," I muttered, looking at my shoes. I was very aware that I had not showered in over thirty hours.
"You don't understand?" he asked, his accent flawless. "I was simply asking if you were interested in our buy one, get one half off sale on [liquor brand]." I lied and said I wasn't old enough, then hurried off to find my gate.
This was it. The final leg. In a little over two hours, I would be in the Faroe Islands. My head was fit to burst, my arm muscles were killing me, and a quick inspection of my knee revealed a shiny purple bruise from where I'd tripped, but I honestly didn't care anymore. My excitement was mounting and I didn't feel tired anymore. I got on my plane and shoved my airline food meal down my throat. I had no idea what it was, but it was delicious.
Two hours later, I was staring at the glorious mountains and valleys of the Faroe Islands. White waterfalls trickled down the mountain faces like veins keeping the islands alive, and I swear I've never seen a more beautiful sight in my entire life. I stepped off the plane right onto the tarmac and walked into the tiny airport.
After collecting my luggage, I left the terminal and ran right into Mirjam, my Youth Exchange Officer. She gave me a hug (which must've been unpleasant) and dragged my suitcase for me. We got into her car and drove to Argir, a village that's merged with the capital, Tórshavn. She explained various things along the way, but honestly, I was half-dead by this point, so I barely remember anything. I arrived at my host family's house just after noon and settled in.
My host dad Eyðun (pronounced Eh-yuh-n), host mom Katrin, and host sister Sanna (pronounced like sauna) were all there, but host sister Maria was helping out at a wedding, so she was not. We sat around and chatted, then I went to unpack my things while Katrin and Eyðun prepared dinner. We sat down and ate roast beef, fried potatoes, chips, and home-made cheesecake, then went on a ride around Tórshavn to see various places. I fell asleep after seeing my new school.
I got home, took a much needed shower, and collapsed on my bed. I barely had a chance to think about anything before I fell asleep and slept like the dead for the next sixteen hours.
Posted on Mon, August 11, 2014
by Catrine Fredrikson