Trump Travel Trauma

Trump will be president in January.

The world is changing, and so am I.

This past weekend I flew in a plane to Baltimore and back by myself. It was an important  success for me.

When I was on the first plane, I developed a personal mantra as soon as we hit turbulence.

  1. It’s okay to be scared of flying and turbulence
  2. Do you want to fly the plane? Do you want to do everything in life? No? Then let go and let someone else lead right now
  3. What are you going to do about it right now? Breathe. Relax body. Sit back in chair. Breathe.
  4. Repeat steps until feel comfortable again.

I used this technique for all three flights- Kansas City to Philly, Baltimore to Dallas, and then Dallas to Kansas City. My travels back were less eventful than my travels there, thankfully. I was impressed that I got on the plane to go back as well- still had the option in my mind all weekend of booking a train ticket back to KC. But I got to the airport, and got onto the plane. And closed my eyes whenever I saw something that made me nervous. And kept my eyes closed pretty much the duration of the travel days. Listened to music, let the xanax lull me in and out of weird lucid dreams, and made genuine connections with the people of the world.

I think I love traveling connections that are made- because I always interact with these people as though it’s the end of the world. As though they are going to be the last people I talk to. And I connect with them as though it’s the most important thing to me. Because it is, in that moment.

Landing in Dallas, I had to take the skylink to another terminal. I really like the Dallas airport, and I always arrive to take the skylink right when the sun is setting. Jumping on the train, a man sitting in front of me starts talking to me.

“You have a Buddha Bag! Where did you get it?”

Kansas, I say.

He laughs, and tells me he moved to the US from Nepal 3 years ago, to be with his kids. He tells me he has Buddhas all over his life- in his car, in his kitchen. He tells me how my Buddha Bag is a traditional Nepali bag. I think to myself, how am I going to get myself to Nepal. It’s as easy as jumping on a plane, which I am about to do. If he got to the US, I can get to Nepal. I make it a mission to go. I tell him it was good to speak to him, and jump off the train at my terminal. He waves goodbye, and flies away on the skylink. The whole interaction lasted less than 40 seconds probably, but he inspired me. Tired and walking from one plane to the next, someone to shake up your world, tell you hello, and inspire you to get on more planes is just what you need some days.

The pretzel woman. Melted my heart. Everything that’s wrong with this presidential election, she made right in that moment in the pretzel line. She was a Middle Eastern immigrant, her hijab matching her blue hat and uniform of the pretzel company. She got my order wrong like three times, and there was a line of about 10 people behind me. We laughed and talked with each misunderstanding, and I really didn’t even care about getting the right pretzel, I just wanted to make her feel welcome and loved in America. Any by doing that, I felt welcomed and loved in America. In the world.

She told me when I felt, “Have a good flight. And have a wonderful time wherever you’re going. Thank you for being so patient with me.”

I told her thank you for being here, and I went over to eat my pretzel, and plan ways to get a scholarship to study or work in the Middle East in the near future.   

While waiting for my flight from Dallas to Kansas City, I took a walk around the airport. During my walk, I thought I heard over the intercom that they had changed the gate for Kansas City.

I hurry back toward the old gate, and find people standing in line. I ask the guy standing in front of me if this is still the gate for Kansas City. He tells me, he hopes so. Because he’s ready to get on this plane.

We end up talking for the next twenty minutes or so, a real end of the world conversation. We get into politics, religion, identity, etc. He’s a Bernie fan from rural Arkansas, and he’s loud about it.

Stamped into one another’s life forever from that one little moment. The feeling of sealing some secret of humanity. Knowing that there is good, there is always change, there is opportunity to create our world in every moment. Empowerment that we matter, and the connections and choices we make daily matter. In the most profound and beautiful way.

I have a beautiful cat sitting on my lap who matches the hard wood floor of the apartment. I just got done with orientation at the resettlement office, then dropped a girl from Benin, Africa off across town.

I am cooking rice and beans, and I am reading the news. I ordered foreign policy magazine, and plan to get more engaged, while I choose what is worth my time thinking about, and what is not.

What is worth my time thinking about?

The purring cat on my lap. The beautiful gift of having an opening into the immigrant community this year. The challenge of our nation to grow, and become educated. With regards to sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia. It’s all laid out on the table now. We have the chance to really address issues, and educate the public about respect and understanding for the other lives in the world.

Today at the resettlement office, we had an all staff meeting following the election. Everyone was shocked, and the immigrant community was reeling. One of my friends at work said he wished he could “change his eyes blue and his hair blonde.” Another coworker talked about how the immigrant kids were all getting physically sick in school today, and were being sent home in tears. Refugees and immigrants were calling all staff throughout the day, asking what this election result could possibly mean. And staff didn’t have an answer. Because, honestly, no one wanted to imagine this ever happening. Until it did.

The cat has a cold, and is sneezing and drooling all over me. He just sneezed in my eye. 

The the AFS conference this weekend, we filled out a friends exercise chart. On it, they make you fill out demographics about yourself (age, gender, ethnicity, education, religion, language, etc.) As you might imagine, the exercise was designed to show us all how small our circles really are. We form close friendships with those most like us usually. Those that align most closely with the culture we grew up in (i.e. most of my friends were white middle class college educated English speaking 20 something girls). Tonight at the refugee orientation, as I interacted with people from all over the world, I thought about why these people were not people I hung out with regularly. I think part of it is that I don’t usually pursue people- I let them pursue me. But also, I do occasionally hang out with people very different from me, demographically. I have a good friend from the Middle East, who shares radical feminist ideas and cracks me up with her off hand comments, but we don’t hang out all the time. This is because she’s older and has a kid for one, so we have different schedules. But also, it takes work to communicate cross culturally sometimes. And not just meaning different country cultures, but even in the US, the different cultures we have within our states. We don’t like to cross over demographic lines if we don’t have to, because it takes work, can make us feel uncomfortable, and there’s a lot more unknowns. With the election casting a lot of unknowns in the world though, it’s time to start pushing ourselves to be a little uncomfortable, and to start doing some real work to understand one another. Because we’re already uncomfortable. We might as well be uncomfortable with a purpose. 

She walks with a cane, we find her a new purple satin winter coat. As her and I are walking down the stairs at the resettlement office together, she turns to me, and tells me her story without English. She holds her stomach, trying to tell me that it hurts. Then I realize she’s not just talking about a stomach ache, as she raises her cane, and makes a gun motion with it in storyteller mode as we are still walking down the stairs. She mimics a machine gun, clutches her stomach again, and says very clearly: “Congo.”

She looks straight into my eyes to see if I understand. I nod, and try to communicate a limitless amount of things, returning the eye contact.

She smiles then, and puts the cane down to walk with it again as we get to the bottom of the stairs.

I say goodbye, and it was wonderful to meet her. She tells me “Mungu akubariki sana.” I later google the phrase, and find out it means “god bless you and thank you.” 

A recent email from a volunteer American family who is mentoring a new refugee family:

“Yesterday was their first time to jump in big pile of fall leaves! There were lots of shrilled giggles from the kids. They had went and bought a car last week so my husband gave the father and eldest son their first driving lesson. My husband said when the father would start to go faster than 10 mph the others would call out, ‘slow brake!’ So funny.”  

I love this. I think we want to do this for the rest of our lives.”

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