Here I am, at the end of a two week escape from my escape, at gate 102, waiting for the bus to shuttle us to the place where we will board the plane that will take us from Macedonia to Switzerland.
I crawled out of bed sometime around 7:15 and enjoyed probably the last of Albanian breakfasts that will meet my lips for sometime. Regardless of your preferences, I cannot fathom one not enjoying thick bread, feta cheese, and cucumbers, today’s quick choice. I said goodbye to my aunt and then walked with my cousin to where her father was waiting in the car. On the drive, we sang along to our favorite songs of the two weeks, top 100 sounds that I would have never heard without her influence, nevermind that it was only 8 in the morning. After we checked in at the airport, my uncle treated us to one last cup of warm tasty delight (have you noticed how positively I speak of warm beverages?) at the little cafe situated in the area before security checks. It was the perfect way to end my trip, one last relaxing chat over drinks, especially since my uncle and I daily enjoyed a cup of coffee this past week while my cousin and aunt were away at school, one learning and once teaching. He’d just had a surgery to remove something suspicious from his forehead (alhamdulillah, all is well and there seems to be no cancer) and had time off of his work at the embassy. His final advice? Finish university on time, marry a good Muslim man, be a good Muslim woman, and learn Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. Oh, and it was the first time that Tansu and I have managed to find hot chocolate so that’s always a plus. We did finally do the whole scene of the goodbye, kind of sad, but kind of hopeful.
Which leads me right back here to gate 102. The plane from Zurich has just landed in the time I’ve spent writing this and I’m still left fascinated that I get to breathe the fresh air and walk right up to the plane, climb a steep set of stairs, and settle in for a day of travels. Two planes, two trains, and a bus. This last bit is less fascinating, let’s be honest.
Macedonia has not only treated me well (yes, even despite Tansu’s constant ache to get away from the country), but it has also opened my eyes. It brought me back to my own history, my family, and my culture. I constantly matched my aunt’s actions to my grandmother’s and realized just how rooted in our Albanian heritage my entire unbringing has been. I lived in the shoes of my young mother, raised in the United States by her immigrant parents. In the shoes that spent summers reunited with family in Macedonia, not a care in the world, catered to by back-home hospitality and comfort. After these two weeks, I know that I must return. Macedonia wasn’t another country to add to a list or a destination marked for leisurely travels. No, it was much more, an introduction to a new place that I can be a part of. I pray that I return next time with my mother or my grandmother, again with my future husband whoever he may be (insha’Allah, somebody well based in the deen), again with my children. I also have a desire now, more than ever before, to learn Albanian because, to be honest, I don’t want to abandon the past. I want to carry my ethnicity forward. In the end, I can’t speak for the future, none of us can, but insha’Allah it’s bright and insha’Allah it includes Macedonia.
Back to Switzerland, back to the West. You know, 3/4 is the worst sort of layover; not quite enough time to hit the city, but more than enough time to be considered a “comfortable” amount of time in the airport. I left the airport for a brief amount of time, heading to the shopping mall right across the way. I tried a mango sundae from McDonalds. I don’t eat fast food, but I’ll eat their desserts so I’m really not doing much to save myself from the fatiness of it all. But honestly, it’s just interesting to check out McDonalds in different places. Each country sells something different, something unique. I also bought a sunflower eat pretzel from a vendor which was mouth-watering. To be honest, Switzerland hasn’t brought quite as much reflection. At the airport in Macedonia, I was still in the country, still in sight of the beauty of the mountain landscapes, but now? Well, now, I’m in a country with no roots and I know Macedonia is behind me so all I want now is to be back in my Manchester flat. I have just over one month left of this experience: final essays and medical school application materials to get in line, a trip to Paris in line, more trips on my mind. It’s not much time, not when you know how fast time really does go. I need to go go go and do do do and smile and laugh and enjoy these last days. Here’s to that.