The past 72 hours are a blur. The days leading up to Friday seemed to stretch on forever. Once Friday was here though, everything seemed to speed up rather quickly. I had a great time Friday with my family. We ate homemade fried chicken, courtesy of my stepmom, and chocolate chip cookies.
We sat by the pool chatting and sharing stories. As the sun slowly sank into the trees in the backyard, the stars began to twinkle, and our raucous laughter kept the bats away. We played Heads Up, which is a charades/taboo app that records the hilarity that ensues. It is a wonderful game to play spent surrounded by family and friends. And while consuming adult beverages. My dad proved that his motor skills could use a little refresher. You are supposed to tip the phone down if you get one correct to move on. Since it is on your forehead, my dad actually tipped his entire head to advance the cards. Like an ostrich digging for food. I’ll forever have that image in my brain, of my slightly tipsy father pecking at the ground because he couldn’t figure out how to turn a phone on its side.
It was a fantastic night and a wonderful way to sail off into the next big adventure. I even got a goodbye hug and kiss from my niece and nephew. My niece’s kiss came complete with melted ice cream.
I finally fell asleep around midnight Friday. I woke up the next morning 45 minutes before my 4:45 alarm, because I heard the storm unleashing a torrent of rain. I immediately ran to the window and starting freaking out. All my clothes and boxes are outside! I ran to put my shoes on, only to realize mid shoe slip on that the movers picked all that stuff up two days before. In fact, I had been dreaming that my clothes were still outside. My glad my brain has its priorities – don’t get your stuff wet vs. sleep. When the alarm finally did go off at 4:45am I rolled out of bed and stumbled around trying to get dressed while simultaneously still shoving things in bags.
We left for the airport while it was still dark. Right before I left Charlemagne decided he wanted one last look at me and ran out into the garage to say goodbye. I’m going to miss my adorable little dog, who has been adopted lovingly by my dad, again.
Unfortunately, he is a bit of a diva and moving around frequently doesn’t agree with him. Well that and he loves his little acre of land, freedom to roam, and leather couches. At least he lived up to his name.
We drove in darkness to the airport, but as soon as we came close to the airport the sun started to peek through. The remnants of the morning’s storm were illuminated with hues of orange and pink. It appeared as if someone threw paint into the sky. It was the Oklahoma sunrise I love. We dragged my bags to the United counter and waited for a Kenyan family to repack all 15 of their bags. As I saddled up to the baggage scale, I was incredibly nervous that my bags were going to be excessively overweight. Then this happened:
I hit the luggage jackpot. I didn’t have to repack my bags or take anything out. It just happened that way. I was incredulous and was far too excited for the baggage line at 6:00am. After my bags were whisked away to their holding cell, I proceeded with my dad and stepmom to security.
And that’s when I started crying. It seemed so final and so momentous at the same time. The last time I left, for Peace Corps, it was temporary, sorta. I knew it was only two years and that I’d be back. I felt like Harry Potter this time. This time when I left, Oklahoma was no longer home. I even felt like a spell was lifting when the airplane took off. Nothing bad, just different. I know that I will return to visit, but I’m no longer a resident. My home now is wherever I am.
I flew to Houston and then on to DC. My flight from Houston to DC was amazing. I had an entire row to myself, enough leg room to not be able to touch the bar under the seat in front of me. I slept soundly for most of the flight and had an overall fantastic experience. The flight attendants were incredibly sweet and welcomed me to my new home right before we landed. As we landed I was privy to this view:
That big building in the second picture – that’s my new employer. It’s hard to see, but there’s a beautiful and gigantic American flag flying in front of it. As I landed I actually thought to myself USA USA USA. Soccer fever no doubt, or maybe just an overwhelming sense of pride and patriotism. As we flew by the mall with the Washington Monument and the Capitol in view, I couldn’t help but let out a tear or two. I think it finally hit me that this is real. I landed my dream job. I am going to serve my country, doing what I love.
I took a taxi to my new apartment. We drove by the Potomac on our way into Arlington. I was incredibly surprised when we passed the Iwo Jima memorial at how huge it was. I managed to haul all of my luggage inside without any assistance. I received my keys in no time and had a fun time chatting with the Nigerian front desk guy. He’s already planned an outing to a good West African restaurant for some of the State people in the building. Maybe I did inherit some of my mom’s people charms.
As I proceeded to my apartment, I kept waiting for someone to stop me and tell me “oh no, there has been a mix up. You aren’t actually supposed to be here. We invited the wrong person. Here’s your return ticket.” Then I opened my door and the key worked and a little bit of that anxiety disappeared. The first thing I noticed was CARPET! Fluffy carpet! I love carpet. I love walking barefoot. I have been without for far too long. And so without any further ado, a tour of my new fully furnished “I can’t believe this is real” apartment.
They even left a little note for me with my name welcoming me to DC. When I saw my name I thought, okay maybe this is legit. I love having a couch, that’s something I’ve never really had. My only complaint is the comforter on the bed is a little motel-esque. My Ghanaian one is on its way to DC though, so soon enough I will be reunited with my little things that remind me of home. So far, I’m loving it. This is the first time I’ve lived alone since 2011. Even in Ghana I was always in a family compound. The quiet is amazing.
I still feel like a fish out of water. I probably will for a while, but now that I’m all settled in I’m feeling more confident. I made my way to Harris Teeter for some household items yesterday. Today I braved the Metro and made my way to Whole Foods (old habits die hard). I miss my team member discount. But there is beer and wine in the grocery store! IN THE GROCERY STORE. This is big. I loaded up on stuff I have never seen before, namely awesome frozen foods. I found Korean frozen tacos in packaging that looks like a food truck. I was sad to find many of my favorite things were not in the store though. Whole Foods’s Southwest region stores have much more Mexican food options and prepared foods. My new Arlington store has a really good produce and fish section, but the salad bar and hot food bar have nothing on the Oklahoma City store. I’m going to need to talk to Prepared Foods and suggest they start shredding radishes, beets, and squash like they do in the Southwest. I was also sad to find a lack of fresh prepared foods in general. Gone are my days of endless Siriacha chicken salad and potstickers. Also, no Whole Foods 365 brand cold drinks were on hand. I want my sweet green tea! It was rather funny how indigent I was staring at the cold cases wondering: “how do these people live without 40 different types of iced tea?!” My Peace Corps self actually laughed at myself.
It’s all changing and I couldn’t be more excited. Tonight I will meet my new colleagues for the first time at a welcome mixer. I sure hope everyone else saw the part about informal, because I’m showing up in jeans and t-shirt.