I've been back in the good ol' USA for the past two weeks. It was certainly a nice reprieve from the long, German winter.
This was my second time going home in the almost year-and-a-half I've been here. Homesickness always sets in unexpectedly, like when you're sitting on the runway at JFK on a plane bound for Europe. A few days before, my two-week visit seemed almost too long but I found myself wishing I could have one last lunch with my mom, pet our dogs one more time, and have one more night's rest in my bed at home.
The first couple times I was on an international flight, hearing all of the foreign languages spoken around me was exciting. This time it was a reminder that I was going back to Germany, a place that can sometimes seem perpetually dismal and dreary and a little less friendly (and a lot less sunny) than charming Deep South America.
I found myself wondering when I would return to the home of the brave. When will I be able to exchange pleasantries with my favorite cashier at the grocery store again? From here on out it will be a curt and perfunctory "Danke" to the cashier at Rewe as I frantically collect my items and shove them haphazardly into a bag while simultaneously trying to get out of the next person's way.
Gone are palm trees and complimentary drink refills, ice cubes and my favorite Chinese buffet. I'll miss the sound of country music and the taste of boiled peanuts. An ocean away, I'm six hours ahead of my family, my best friend, and my beloved East Coast.
I felt a strong surge of patriotism for my country as I soared over New York City and thought about everything. No matter where I go in the world, and for how long and far away, I am fortunate because there's a place that always takes me back with open arms. It's worth it to leave for a while just to hear the person at passport control say, "Welcome back home."