When I moved to DC in early 2013, my parents were thrilled. Yes, the job was a great opportunity, but I was also just an hour away from my little sister who attended a small liberal arts college on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Washington College. Though we didn't see each other very frequently, what with both of us extremely busy and lacking a car, we did see each other for holidays and had a few nights out together. Back then, I thought attending her graduation would be a breeze. My parents would drive down, pick me up, we'd head to her school, attend graduation, and I'd be back to my house on Sunday before missing Antiques Roadshow. However, life had other plans for me and so at 12:00 am on a Friday morning, I found myself waiting for my taxi driver to take me to the Jeddah airport where I would begin the first leg of my 28 hour trip home for MacKenzie's graduation.
Now, there are many times that I, Sydney Meredith, fantasize about carrying around an emergency blow-up pregnancy belly to wear (for the sole purpose of enjoying the VIP perks of pregnancy, i.e. people giving up their seats to you on the metro; people being generally nicer to you; being able to buy junk food at the grocery store and no one judging you; being able to cut the line for the bathroom; being able to board a plane first; being able to act completely irrational and insane) and my experience at the Jeddah Airport has proven once again how much I, and millions like me, could benefit from this device. Now, you may think that sounds crazy, but when you wait in 3 insanely long lines at the airport (where you finally get to the front and they tell you to get in the "other" line) and hustle up and down stairs in an abaya to find the right ticket agent because for some strange reason Saudi Airlines won't let you check in early for flights to the US and Canada (Seriously, Saudi Airlines? Why was this a good idea?) it makes me wonder how many of those obstacles I could have avoided with my emergency blow-up pregnancy belly. I'll never know for sure. Regardless, the airport was extremely confusing and disorganized and running on zero sleep made me want to just lay in a fetal position (Hahaha!) on the floor and cry. At last, I boarded my 14 hour flight to DC and passed out.
When we got close to landing, I pulled a Clark Kent and transformed from Abaya Sydney to Western Sydney. It felt so nice to get the visa immigration slip and check the box that said "Citizen of the United States." I was SO happy to be back, I raced to the passport check point and almost kissed my immigrations officer. I caught a taxi and drove to Dupont Circle to catch up with my best friends, and to drink as many mojitos as possible. (Tip - if you ever find yourself in Dupont Circle, Raku has the best coconut mint mojitos EVER!)
After catching up for a few hours (we really needed a few days), I caught the orange line and headed to New Carrolltown to meet my dad, who would drive us to Chestertown. It was an extremely happy reunion, and it was great to actually hug my dad instead of sending a hug emoji! We met my mom and my sister, MacK, who were finished packing up her dorm room before heading out to dinner (sans MacK). MacK's campus is a picturesque college in a small town and also happens to be my mother's alma mater, so her graduation was a very big deal, one I would not have missed for the world. After watching her walk across the stage, graduating with a double major of Theater and French and a minor in History, which doesn't make her smarter than me, we enjoyed a party with extended relatives who were all excited to see me, and I them. It's kind of fun to be that adventurous relative who lives abroad! It garners lots of attention.
On Sunday, we packed up the car and drove back to the Dulles airport where I would travel another 17 hours to get back to Jeddah. After many tearful goodbyes, similar to the first ones before I moved, I boarded the plane and flew into the sunset. In total, I traveled for 45 hours to be back in the states for 44 hours. And it was absolutely worth it. When my taxi driver first took me to the Jeddah Airport on Friday, he mentioned he had left Pakistan to work in Saudi and had only gone home once, after more than 5 years of being away. I sat in the car realizing how gosh darn lucky I was that I was able to see my family after just 6 weeks of being away. Very lucky indeed.