Swapping Americas

“Welcome to the USA” says a brown and white sign in a long, empty hallway. These words, green twinkly lights at the foot of the escalator, and a sunrise greet me at 5:50am in the Houston airport.

I was surprised at how funny it felt to fish out the dollars from the bottom of my backpack and get clean money back as change instead of the odd assortment of rumpled, taped-together notes, hard candies and aspirin. Welcome back to the place where different-colored people politely say “excuse me, is this yours?” when you accidentally leave your belongings behind. The place where a middle-aged woman in a pink t-shirt solemnly looks straight ahead, arms up in ballet motion ready to pirouette right out of the body scanner in the security line, and you try not to laugh as you witness this misplaced grace.

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Airport Timeflow

The woman bent over to adjust the rubbery legs of her handy little tripod, and her shirt lifted up to reveal the strap of a money belt, and half her butt crack. Enclosed travel spaces like airports are not conducive to helpful breezes that act as reminders to pull up one’s pants. So maybe we should take a moment to remember to turn around every once in a while, and see that there are people on the other side of that billboard suspended in the air that doesn’t quite reach the ground, who are vacantly hoping their flight’s gate will finally be assigned, ready for any small source of amusement, however crude.

Dictionaries Will Be No Help

There are precious moments where you feel the meaning of a word in your body. Your understanding not just of the word itself, but also of that word’s existence in your language-world, is affirmed beyond sway.

Such was my experience with the term “breathless” upon facing Victoria Falls in 2010. The power of beauty stopped my breath and pounded down through my emptied lungs. 

Vic Falls

Vic Falls

Taking the plunge

So I took the plunge

 

Confused In Translation

The four of us finally flopped into a booth, setting down our backpacks while trying not to lose our hats or trip over our hiking bootlaces. We weren’t running late, exactly, but we would only have time for a sit-down breakfast if we ordered immediately and asked for the check early.

Hasty glances at the menu. I probably ordered pancakes, my sister maybe a sandwich, and I can’t imagine my mom not getting an English muffin involved in the start of her day. Tata ordered eggs before turning back to his map of Idaho.

“And how would you like your eggs, sir?” asked the waitress, leaning in to get his attention. He looked up, confused. “Erm, I, um… almost raw?” More puzzled looks all around.

Motherly matter-of-fact damage control: “He’ll have them scrambled.”