These ARE the good old days

Earlier today, I spent about an hour on the phone talking to one of my best friends, Perla. She moved to Austin at the end of the summer to start at the University of Texas. Even though we text each other about once a week, I always forget how good it is to have a real conversation. I miss her terribly, along with all of the other people I had become accustomed to seeing every day for the past two years.

Perla and I, stopping for a mirror photo in Germany. (Also included: Jessica, the photogenic photobomber)

Perla and I, stopping for a mirror photo in Germany. (Also included: Jessica, the photogenic photobomber)

A few weeks before spring commencement, Perla, I and the rest of The Ranger gang were furiously working on the last edition of the paper, final projects and tests, and getting ready for graduation. It had finally hit me that most of us would soon be walking the stage, but while I was staying another year at Amarillo College to finish two certificates, the majority of my friends would be leaving. Sadness set in and I frantically began attempting to make the most of the little bit of stressful time we had left as a group.

These are the people who accepted me when I returned to school, even though I was older, even though I knew nothing about journalism and even though I’m one of the most socially awkward dorks in Amarillo. What was I going to do without them?

Vanessa, me, Bailie, Robert and Perla, posing in San Antonio on our last trip together.

Vanessa, me, Bailie, Robert and Perla, posing in San Antonio on our last trip together.

Sometime during those final weeks, one of us came across this story. The author and her friends were just like us – a group of misfits, somehow fitting together in the puzzle that is a newsroom. The story reminded me of Andy in The Office, when he says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”

Reading the story gave us the chance to realize these WERE our good old days, in those last moments before parts of our group splintered across the state. But it did a couple of other things, too, at least for me.

It made me stop and realize that I couldn’t do what I usually do once a friend moves: lose contact. I’ve done it too many times in the past, too many times to count, and I don’t want it to happen again. I don’t want to remember the good old days while wondering, “What ever happened to them?”

It also made me realize that I need to stop more often and just appreciate the people around me and the time they spend with me – friends that are still here, as well as family that I don’t see nearly often enough.

Then, about a week ago, I ran across this comment on reddit:

It sums up perfectly what I feel every now and then, in the newsroom, with my family, or sitting at home with Brandon. Every once in a while, everything just clicks into place, the edges line up perfectly and there’s a moment of pure happiness.

Just like Checkpoint-Charlie, they’re one of my favorite things about life.

Just like this moment. Oh, Perez, what are we going to do next semester when you're gone, too?

Oh, Perez, what are we going to do next semester when you’re gone, too?

 

Adventures in Europe

 

I was looking through some things today when I came across my passport wallet. I hadn’t touched it since shortly after I returned to Texas from Germany after spring break.

Europe

The minute I opened it, all of my memories of the trip came rushing back.

I traveled with a group of 15 Amarillo College students and faculty members (six of them fellow media students and a media adviser) as part of the inaugural Global Competency class. We spent 10 days traveling across south Germany, and Prague in the Czech Republic.

The trip was a bunch of firsts for me. The first time I left North America; the first time I flew internationally; the first time I paid to use a toilet.

It was one of the best experiences of my life. Before the trip, they gave us a travel journal that had the following quote on the front:

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

You know how you hear a quote and it’s just that? A group of words that people try to attach meaning to?

Once you’ve taken a trip that changes your life, the quote above becomes so much more than that. This was the trip that did that for me.

When I opened my wallet today and pulled out all of the mementos waiting inside, I remembered little things about every single one. Once I started remembering, it was a flood of images, smiles and laughs.

Europe 5

Money

I love coins from around the world. Before this trip, I had a collection, mostly from my time as a cashier. But these are special. I received these coins in change each time I had to figure out the conversion rates and which coin or bill to use, and each time I had to employ what little German and Czech I had learned.

There was no middle man. These came directly from the source, to me, as I floundered my way through another culture and they will forever live in their own special coin purse.

Europe 1

Kafka watch

Speaking of the coin purse – that’s not what it always was. It first held my Kafka pocket watch, a watch I bought at Prague Castle after (or maybe before) visiting a torture museum with Vanessa. She, Perla, Raylyn and I each bought a watch (the guy gave us a deal) and we spent the rest of the trip obnoxiously pulling them out and asking people to ask us the time.

Perla and I wore them for weeks after – I only stopped when it started smelling like pennies. But every time I looked at it, it reminded me of Europe – mostly because it still runs on that time.

Europe 4

Memory cards (Impression cards?)

After I put the watch away, I had to look elsewhere to remind myself of the little things from our trip. What looks like a random note card was so much more than that. Required by Judy Carter, our fearless leader and Honors Program coordinator, these cards were to serve as journal snippets. They weren’t just a rundown of the day – we were supposed to tell about something each day that made an impression on us.

Most nights, I was too exhausted to write and would leave it for the next morning, using the breakfast hour to furiously scribble while eating meals that were larger than I’ve ever had that early in the day. It was a pain (the writing, not the meals). But when Judy handed me my cards at the end of the semester and I began reading them, I cried. Like a baby.

Europe 3

Boat ticket

I cried because I remembered things like the boat ride in Prague with the sailor who yelled at another student because she slammed the windows and then she tried to sarcastically joke with him about being crazy and there was a moment of long, awkward, unbroken eye contact between them and he ordered her to not touch anything else on the boat AT ALL and we were terrified to do anything else that may have gotten us thrown in the Charles River.

That was when we realized that sarcasm is not popular in all parts of the world. When I say I cried, it was because I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe when I remembered it.

Europe 2

Frankfurt airport

And finally, looking over all my stubs and receipts and mementos, I came to the plane tickets flying from Berlin to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Dallas. Of all the ways to end the trip, it had to be the experience at Frankfurt.

We arrived at at Frankfurt with about half an hour to make it to our connection. We knew we had to hurry, but we didn’t expect a woman to suddenly appear, ask if we were flying to Dallas and then demand half of us follow her to another area. We’ve all seen movies like Taken and Brokedown Palace. You NEVER leave your luggage unattended and you NEVER blindly follow and trust a stranger in an airport.

But she was so sure, she knew so much about our flight and we were running out of time. Plus, she was wearing a name tag.

So we followed her and let ourselves be separated. After a couple of students were stripped to their tank tops and manhandled, and I was pulled into a tiny room and had my cameras swabbed for explosive residue (things that hadn’t happened at any other airport), we were reunited at the gate, answered a never-ending list of inquiries about our travels and finally allowed to board.

We never did find out who the woman was. Maybe she’ll be there again this spring break, this time when we leave Italy.