Viva Roma!

Nervous beyond belief, I stumble into my tiny hotel room. My mini suitcase hits every corner of the room. As I kick off my shoes and strip off my uniform, I connect to wifi; and send the message. I’m here, I finally made it! Rome!

He’s on his way. In just a few short moments, we’ll reunite. 11 years later. A childhood between cousins broken and separated by the depths of the ocean. And a question that haunts; will this reunion bring us closer together or tear us further apart?

I quickly change, and freshen up after a long overnight flight. I look tired, my skin is flushed. No time to dwell on mediocre observations. I hurry downstairs, and wait patiently with my phone in hand. Who are we kidding, I don’t know what patience is!
Pacing back and forth at the hotels front entrance, sun beaming, the heat is magnificent. I missed it.

I had planned this moment in my head for weeks now, exactly how to act, react and what to do and say when I’d first see him.
And when I finally did, I forgot what I was suppose to remember.

He looks identical to his father; my uncle. Spitting image. When I had left Poland, we were still kids oblivious to what this separation meant. Now, he sure didn’t resemble the little annoying ragrat I used to play with.
In each others embrace, I sensed a sigh of relief. Not only from me, but from him too. For a few moments, silence filled the air. What do you say? How do we begin, after so many years?

And for ten hours straight, we couldn’t stop talking. So many questions, so many answers.
We circled the city maybe 5 times, I really wish I could tell you where exactly we walked but my mind was not paying attention to my surroundings but focused entirely on his stories.
Glossy eyed, reminiscing about our childhoods back home in Poland. That family void I’ve been feeling for years now is beginning to patch up slowly.

He’s everything I was hoping for, our personalities are nearly identical. We talked like we’ve never been apart. I was the happiest at that moment. We’re blood, practically brother and sister. We’re family. Living worlds apart, united by our native tongue.

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Drafted

Tears were bottling up in my eyes. I was furious. I could feel my ears getting hot and tingly. Surely I was beat red.

This was my first taste of “Anything can happen at any given time”

After my Reserve schedule, or in human terms, on-call, where I sacrificed my life for two months and practically lived in the UK part time… I was finally able to bid on my most desired flights. And so I bid. AVOID UK!

To my surprise, my first real flight schedule was pretty incredible for someone who just started on the line. Three layovers in Barcelona and a Rome! Rome was the one I was looking forward to the most. Main reason being, there lives a young lad who I haven’t seen in 11 years. And we’re suppose to be family. After arranging our mini reunion, all we were waiting for was the day to come.

And so it came.
Here’s the play-by-play.

Suitcase zipped, lunch ready, snacks packed, uniform on, shoes patiently waiting at the door. A quick last minute schedule check; happy to see familiar names on the crew. Twenty minutes later and I’m scanning my airport security pass and pushing past the heavy doors. My suitcase trails behind me.

Post briefing, we pick positions on the aircraft. I of course, due to my seniority (or lack there of) am last to pick. At this point I was ready to shut the aircraft doors and take off. This was a big step for me. I needed this moment, to once again unite our family. Nothing mattered, not even that I was left with a position I only knew about from what I read in my manual. Never actually having worked the Club Section, I was petrified. Word got around pretty quick and I had help within minutes. I relaxed. My destination was about to change and all within those same minutes. I hear the faint calls of my name. My supervisor rushes on board and by the time I had a chance to process the information I was no longer going to Rome, but to Manchester! For 48 hours!

I was being drafted!?!? But I had plans! In Rome, not Manchester! I was finally going to reunite with a cousin who I haven’t seen in over a decade! This was NOT happening.

Being introduced to the second crew, combined of 6 young girls, who have been travelling together the last few days, I immediately felt tension and I knew exactly why. They were all French, and I speak none of it. The theme of the flight was “forgetting” to speak to me in English. Most of the 6 hours, I spent alone. Even during our duties the only words exchanged were “Please pass the orange juice” or “Do you have ginger-ale on your side?”

I speak the truth when I say I have nothing against French or French people. I actually love the language and am learning it at the moment, but I managed to gather one nasty impression of the culture within this short time. No details shared, but I’m sure you’ve guessed that this was not my best flight. Actually, it was horrible. What made this whole thing even worse was that I realized Rome and Manchester had two very different climates. My suitcase was prepared for extreme heat not Alaska! All I had were sun dresses and flip flops. I was on the verge of a breakdown, everything was crumbling before my eyes. And this wasn’t even that bad. Would I be able to handle this? These last minute changes. Would I ever be prepared for this? Nope, you can never be prepared for this job. The trick is, and I learned it that day is to stay calm, take it for what it is. I signed up for this job knowing my life would be on the go. The routines were over, it was just an adjustment.

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Manchester wasn’t so bad after all. And the two days gave me time to rest and visit the city. Since I had no proper clothing and I was not going to spend my time sitting in the hotel, I had to go shopping. Primark saved my life and my wallet. While browsing I ran into a colleague of mine from my training class. Smiles and giggles erupted. In moments we were engulfing each other with hugs. She was flying out the next morning, so we decided on dinner that evening. Others who joined us, were also from my training class. All of a sudden I’d forgotten what I had felt just a few short hours ago. This IS what I was meant to do, this is what made feel complete. That at any given moment things could turn upside down, and just when you think the world is against you something amazing happens. This was my lesson. Who would have thought that from my miserable flight where I was sure I would have the worst two days of my life abroad with no familiar face around I ended up with not one, but two crews filled with those who I shared this change with.

So what did I learn? To be patient and calm. To appreciate what I was given, because not every person gets the opportunities I do. And what I thought was the end of the world for me was merely a small stepping stone. It could have been a lot worse.
But more importantly, I learned I needed to reorganize my suitcase!!