Well, it’s a good thing I opted for the longer layovers between flights rather than the dangerously short ones I’d considered or I might still be in Atlanta. They suspended all take-offs and landings in the Atlanta airport for two hours last (Friday) night because of a giant thunder storm. If I’d taken the later flight from Albuquerque that I’d considered, I might have missed the connecting flight to Madrid, and since we were two hours late taking off from Atlanta I’d DEFINITELY have missed the earlier flight I’d considered booking between Madrid and Granada. So the several hours I thought I had to burn in Madrid shrunk to just an hour or so. I arrived relatively refreshed, having slept a lot on the plane over the ocean (thanks to homeopathic No Jet Lag and some over-the-counter sleeping meds). I got through customs quickly but then had to take a long bus ride from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4, with suitcase and carry-on, and find my way around Terminal 4. My strategy so far: Use Spanish as much as possible when I have time to make up for mistakes! If I had needed to rush to a plane I’d have used English, but as it is I’m using Spanish and allowing a little extra time to get where I’m supposed to go if I don’t understand as much as I like to pretend I do!
But here’s the thing: I’m here!! In this beautiful, modern airport with wavy ceilings and green glass tiled floors. Where they don’t announce flight departures on the the PA or play bizarre pre-recorded messages that the security level is Orange so keep your eyeyour bags and don’t let anyone hand you a mysterious package and run away with their fingers in their ears. It’s quiet and beautiful. I stopped to recharge at a cafeteria with some café con leche and tortilla Espanola - the very meal I had on my first morning in Granada with Charles and Ariel in December. It’s some kind of magic. I don’t know how a food and drink can make me feel so comforted and welcomed, but it does.
It’s not quiet in this cafeteria like out in the terminal, but it’s the noise of conversations and laughter. Looking around the room I see hardly another table with just one person. All around me are couples, families and groups of friends, talking, gesturing, laughing loudly, hugging hello and goodbye. I think of all those Americans in airport food courts, sitting side-by-side alone, looking at iPods or laptops. Here I am, alone, looking at my laptop. OK. In two hours or so I’ll be picked up at the Granada airport by the woman whose house I’ll be staying in for a month. What will she be like?? It dawns on me that I’ve approached this arrangement (a room in a house I found on Craig’s List Granada) as I approach a new movie or book, asking just enough questions to determine if I’ll like it and then letting myself be surprised. I hope that’s not a fool’s strategy here. I suspect not.
At the gate for the plane to Granada I find myself among a family from England – a mother, father and their two sons in their twenties. The dad has a strong British accent but he used an expression (saha!) that I used to hear my grandparents say. I inquire; he’s British, from Egypt, but I don’t have time to dig out more. On the plane I doze again, opening my eyes just as we start dropping down into Granada, over what look to be olive orchards. In the airport, passengers and the people meeting them are separated by two automatic doors marked: “Punto de No Retorno.” As I wait for my bag to come around the luggage carousel, I kep peeking through the automatic doors, wondering which of those faces might be the woman whose house I’ll be staying in. At last my suitcase comes out, one of the last, and it’s wet! Left outside in the storm at the Atlanta airport?? Must have been. No time to worry about it. I grab the handle, wheel it around, ask one of the Brits to snap my picture, and walk through the Point of No Return.