The last three weeks of my life were quite packed. I quit my day job and moved out to a different continent, among others...
It started as usual, shooting all sorts of stuff. Community events, portraits, breaking news...
Then I took a weekend off and visited some good friends of mine in Southwest Kansas. It is a tad over 5 hours of driving one way, so I had some room to think.
Visiting with friends was awesome. I didn't take photos over there, except for family portraits of my friends and their month-old son. They helped me quite a bit when I came to Kansas, so I was happy to offer something to them.
I thought that once I am going back, I'd stop by one railroad bridge, to grab some pics of it. It has been one of those places I've been thinking about photographing every time I was passing by but never actually did. However, as it happens, I left my friends after it was dark already. Driving by, my thoughts were: ".. it's dark, almost 10 and I've over 4 hours to go… and tomorrow will be filled with assignments… but this is probably the last chance for a long while…" suddenly cancelling cruise control, hitting my left blinker and stopping under the structure. I could set up some lights, wait for the train, and do whatever to capture the place's glory. Instead, I decided to capture the moment: me on the road.
As expected, as soon as I arrived in the town, it turned into a massive chain of work that didn't let me rest out a lot...
However, I found a moment during one afternoon to get out and relax a bit…...in an abandoned ruin of a house.
Meanwhile, everything else had to be done: magazine and advertising shots, features....teaching the new photographer who’s replacing my position all about the paper’s online services, archive system, and more. I had a good time doing all that, but don’t get me started about unpaid overtime.. Uh.. Anyway.
The day I left my job, I started the process of moving. Within one week I had to reduce three years of my life, fully equipped two-bedroom apartment and a car into 100 pounds (50 or so Kilograms), that I could carry on a plane. I tried to sell whatever could, things that didn't sell I donated to charities, and threw away the rest. On one hand, getting rid of such a boatload of stuff is sort of liberating, but it is a lot of changes at once, a tad overwhelming.
In between of selling stuff and cleaning the apt, I enjoyed the Kansas sky at its best, and tried to say goodbye to my friends.
Time flew faster than Shinkansen, so it seemed like a second before I passed the security checkpoint at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, with only two backpacks. One small suitcase with a few pieces of clothes went under the plane.
The description of my flights is a bit more complex, since I had time to burn while flying and the AA does not have an Internet connection on their planes. So I typed my observations while the flights. You can skip down for some pics if you want.
On my way to the airport, I’ve received a call that my flight will be delayed an hour. As soon as I’ve arrived, they told me that it’ll be delayed for two more. The ticket I have initially purchased went throughout Madrid, but the delay resulted that I had to take a flight throughout London. But an AA employee promised me 21C, a seat in the emergency exit row to have more legroom, so I was good with that.
They just couldn’t get the aircraft to be ready. Once they finally got it, we had to wait for a hail storm above Chicago to quit.. 5 hr after the Initial departing time, we finally took off.
I had to smile once they started with the traditional instructions. It's been over a year now since I flew somewhere and I sort of missed it. As soon as we hit the air, the captain announced some strong crosswinds (who would ever expect that in Kansas?) and the plane started jumping up and down, but things calmed quickly.
By the Kansas City, the flight was as smooth as butter all the way to Chicago. There we had to wait for a gate to open, which caused more delay. When I got out of the plane, TVs with departing times said that the flight to London is already finishing boarding and getting ready to leave. I started sprinting to the other side of the airport. As the Chicago's international airport has a respectable size, running through it with my backpacks was quite a task. When I got there, the gate already closed but the plane was still docked. A bit of a chat, and I got in!!
However, they told me that there's no way to get my check-in luggage. Also, the AA employee screwed up, because 21C is, damnit, a row after the emergency exit. So I got to look at all that 4-5ft tall people spreading all over while me, 6'6", I got crumbled in a room designated by a small guy with a great sense of humor. We were prepared for departure but had to wait for a runway to clear. Once back in the air, sunset created an exceptional light.
I got an aisle seat next to some Arab family. A three (or so) year old son dropped a toy. I picked it and handed it to his mom, who sat right next to me. She was covered in scarves that only her eyes were visible, didn't say a thing. There wasn't much of communication what so ever, she didn't speak to anyone but her kids and husband. Once she wanted to visit a bathroom, she asked her husband, sitting three seats away from me, to tell me to move out so that she could get through. I wish I would understand this culture more, but it didn't feel friendly at all.
This makes me think that traveling by a plane is an interesting sociological experience. It's like a small, closed world with random samples of community. Small flights are usually more relaxed and filled with similar people, while transatlantic flights are a mix of all sorts of cultures, usually louder and messier.
During my ICT to ORD flight, I got to talk with a girl from Ireland who attends a college in Oklahoma, which she represents in swimming. From earlier flights I remember talking with people from every continent except Antarctica, everyone with impressive stories. I think it’s pretty cool to join, or at least observe all the interactions.
Sometimes; however, it can be a bit annoying too, if others don't have any respect. Back to my flight: The husband of the lady couldn't stop talking in their language. It was fast and very loud. Like, "Kalakacharmak laha hattolachamba ralkasakitmatimtata…" I couldn't understand, and I also couldn't sleep. At about six hours of flight, a crisis begun to appear. "How is it possible that people with a much shorter height than I have are constantly moving, kicking your seat? Sit still, people!" My legs felt like all that fossils turned into a stone, but I got a reminder that they're still alive every time a steward ran that miserable roller around, over my foot. Children started to scream and crawled under/over the seats; an old guy in front of me suddenly got upset about how small the TV was in front of him. I haven't slept or moved yet, and I needed to move my legs into the corridor; otherwise, they would have to cut me out of here. My goodness, it feels good.
Good enough that I fell asleep immediately - for two minutes. Two minutes before somebody tripped over me while trying to reach lavatory. Right; it's like meditation training, to suppress some violent thoughts towards people around (at the moment I was confident that that's why they banned knives on board, not because the 911), and to be separated from all the mayhem. "Wait. I've done this before, calm down," I suddenly realized. Earphones with Nine Inch Nails isolated the mess nicely. It was like to watch a mute film. Suddenly I was good again, the crisis stopped. Good.
As it has been all day, we arrived to London late. One American Airlines lady waited on me (and other thousands of people who had screwed schedule because of their mess) and gave me a new ticket for my last connection. “You can’t catch this one, so I rebooked you on another one, over four hours later.” I was like “what the.. I still have like 30 min or so..” “no, you can’t make it, it is on the other side of the airport… but try it, if you want..”
So I began another run, this time across the Heathrow. And sure enough, jumping over the people, security, sprinting and sweating like an idiot I’ve arrived at the gate while it was still open. However, there all troubles appeared. American changed my flight without my consent and it resulted that even though I was there in time and with a ticket in my hand, they could not let me on the plane, as my seat was cancelled, and already taken by someone else. British Airlines didn’t have the authority to change the ticket back, so they send me to talk with an AA and took off. Willingness to help of the AA representative was total rubbish. “Um, I am sorry. There is nothing I can do now.” She said and printed a new boarding pass while she tore the old one. “Do you want to keep this (the old ticket, now in two pieces)?” She asked. I was looking at her, thinking if she’s serious or not. “So I could frame it and hang above my bed or what?” I replied. “Yeah, exactly. And get out now. Don’t think that you are the only one who has a bad day.” Flipping Nora, that was irritating. The waiting time was too short to leave the airport to the downtown, but long enough to be annoyed on as hell. No earlier connection, no refund, no help.
Last flight experienced another delay, but I’ve arrived safely and surprisingly also with my check-in bag. So I’d call it good (though I’ve no desire to choose American next time I’ll fly).
I am moving to the Netherlands. However, I used the opportunity of being on the go to stop by my former hometown, to visit with some family members and friends. Here are some photos I’ve taken the first day after my arrival.
I used to walk through these streets, and they became ordinary scenes. They feel very fresh now as I haven't been here for years.
So there I am, back in Europe for some time. Expect more stories about the new environment soon.
Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories