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JFK-FCO: My Return to Rome

My second flight of 2012 was a non-stop nine hour flight across the pond to my current city of residence, Rome. After one month in the US, I was heading back “home”, whatever that means. Part of me missed the eternal city and part of me just wanted to return to a place where I had my own space. Dealing with the Italians at the New York airport was off-putting, yet prepared me for my reintroduction to these people. The Italian language announcements for boarding made me nostalgic, but as I walked on the plane and was met with stares from the eyes of children and the more seasoned, my excitement for the return diminished. I was quickly reminded of what annoyed me about Rome. The constant stares as if I were an alien. Annoyed and shaken, I reached my seat and called my mother.

Whenever I travel, I call her just before turning off my phone. This time was no different. While speaking to my mother and expressing my frustration, I began to cry. In that moment, the last place I wanted to be was on a plane to Rome, a place where I stand out and at times am made to feel as an outsider. I wanted to be back in the arms of my mother, who had taken such good care of me the last three weeks, but alas, I was on this plane. The only “one” on this plane.

Following interrupted sleep by the frequent urinators sitting next to me, nine hours later I was in Rome. We walked for what seemed like miles to get to immigration. I waited in line and observed my surroundings. One thing that struck me  was the large group of black people waiting on the side of this large hall. Some were sitting and some were standing and some gave me what i felt were quizzical looks. I quickly realized that they were sitting in a waiting area reserved for those seeking political asylum or refugee status. In that moment I thought, why has history been so cruel to my people? This is the only way that some of them are able to see Europe.

Immigration was a breeze. They asked no questions, as usual, further confirming why I was able to remain in the country for eight months without a proper visa (yes, I have a proper visa now). After retrieving my bags and finding the man who was holding a sign with my name on it, we headed to the car. Having struggled slightly with my heavy luggage prior to meeting the driver and looking forward to handing them over, I was left holding one of my own bags because of his complaints about the weight, proof positive I was back in Italy. When I walked outside of the decrepit airport that is Rome’s Fumicino, the delightful Roman sun hit me, proclaiming “Benvenuti a Roma!”

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