In the midst of traveling…

I’m sitting at a French café in the Dallas Airport. I just finished eating a delicious tomato basil soup. Now it’s just a matter of killing time until checking into my final flight to Sacramento!  I’m also updating two kind young women from Chico who I have yet to meet, but have been so generous by agreeing to pick me up from Sacramento and give me a place to stay until my dorm opens up. God’s really got my back!

I did, however, experience some usual airport stress. Both of my flights–from Atlanta and Dallas–got delayed, which makes my arrival to Chico close to midnight PST. Based on my past airport experiences, I’ve realized there is bound to be an unexpected occurrence. Before taking off from Atlanta, stress, adrenaline, and frustration were 3 main themes of the hour. While mom and I were standing in security, I realized the only boarding pass I had in my hand was for Dallas to Sacramento, rather than Atlanta to Dallas. This wasn’t right. Either the baggage check-in attendant handed me the wrong pass or I dropped it, who knows. At this point I had 30 minutes until boarding time. Knowing that security couldn’t reprint boarding passes, my mom and I sprinted across the airport to reprint the pass to Dallas I needed. After returning to security, I almost had to beg a guard to let us jump back in our original spot in line to save a chunk of time. At this point I had 20 minutes until boarding time. Luckily a guard was accommodating. I finally got through security and mom and I said our goodbyes. 10 minutes until takeoff. I grabbed my carry-on belongings, did the awkward bookbag-on-back sprint to my gate to find out it was delated to 3:22pm. *Big sigh of relief* I wanted to avoid the thought of missing my flight at all costs. Then the delay turned to 3:30pm. Thirty minutes rolled around and I was boarding the plane at 4:00.  Four delays for one flight. That was a first.

Fast forward to the flight from Dallas to Sac. Look at that lingo I’m already using. I got a middle seat in the back of the plane for the second time. I usually like the window or aisle seat, but I guess my 4’9 self is ideal for the middle. The older guy sitting to my right said “You’re the perfect middle seat passenger. Doesn’t get any better.” Despite delays and grumpy security officers, one thing I like about traveling is that people traveling alongside one another are generally not hesitant to strike a conversation or help one another. On my way into the plane, a man standing in line next to me heard me ask an attendant if they knew anything about the connecting flight from Dallas. He didn’t help much. So the man in line with me tried to look up available flights for me on his phone. On the first plane, a middle aged woman I sat next to asked where I was from, where I was going, etc. We shared frustrations about the delays. Just a few pleasant encounters and conversations.

At this point, I’m at the Dallas airport. Alex, a girl from the Christian Challenge student organization I’m looking to get involved in, is meeting me at the baggage claim. As I approach the elevator, I’m fully prepared to pull out my phone and give her a call since I didn’t really know what she looked like in person. I’m halfway down the escalator, keeping my eyes peeled, and to my surprise, there’s two girls standing there smiling and holding a sign reading “Welcome Michelle Zhu”. That’s my name! I waved, made it to the bottom, and we hugged and introduced ourselves. I swear my semester had already been made at that moment. Something as small as letters on a sign made a HUGE impact. While waiting to spot my black luggage in a sea of other black suitcases, we chatted about how Southern I am, Christian Challenge, and probably other topics I can’t remember due to excitement and tiredness at the same time. The drive to Chico was great. We chatted the entire 1.5 hour ride. While passing restaurants and stores, we discovered what places we had never heard of. For example, what’s with the Hardee’s being called Carls Jr here? Safeway is a grocery store I’ll have to make a trip to soon. I saw an actual In n’ Out sign! Also, they had never heard of BiLo, Aldi, Ingles, Publix, Cracker Barrel, or Waffle House. But they have a Trader Joes here! I love bridging culture gaps, even within our country.

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