Well, finally I have come to wrap everything up. A friend of mine reminded me that I had promised to finish things up after I returned home (Thanks Krista!). It only took me 2 weeks. I will attribute that to jet lag and reintroducing myself into regular life again.
I will pick up where I left off on Sunday night the 18th. Andrea and I both got up bright and early Monday morning at 5:15 am in order to get the last things packed and make sure we had a taxi to the airport. We left the JFRC right around 6 am. Everything went pretty smoothly through ticketing and security. I even made it to my gate with more than enough time and was able to relax a little. My flight took off on time and was expected to arrive at JFK a little early. I was even hoping to try and get an earlier flight home so that I wouldn't have such a short layover in DC. I was thinking that seeing the Pope was my miracle travel elixir. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Because of an impending storm coming from the midwest and heading towards the east coast, all flights to the midwest had been canceled. Just my luck. Just after landing I found out that American had automatically rebooked me to fly to Charlotte and then to Cincinnati. I just had to wait a few more hours. That seemed ok. So I proceeded to go through security where my 3 bars of soap that I was bringing back prompted a full security search of my carry on (Andrea will appreciate that aspect). There's nothing like your stuff getting rooted through in front of a lot of people. I should have known that was only the beginning of the downfall... To summarize the next 11 hours in JFK- flight delayed, flight delayed, flight delayed, waited in line for possible rebooking for 2 hours, flight finally cancelled. And this is where the Pope came through for me (or at least I like to believe so). I got one of the last seats on a flight going to Charlotte that had been set to leave at 1 pm that afternoon, but didn't leave until 12:15 am that night. Very long story on that one. If you ever want to know it I would be glad to relay it in person. Needless to say the majority of the people in the plane had been trying to leave for the past 11 hours. There was actual cheering from the plane when we took off. I arrived in Charlotte at 1:42 am (26.5 hours after I woke up in Rome). My flight left Charlotte at 7:25 am and arrived in Cincinnati around 8:45 am. I have never felt so happy to be home! I would have kissed the ground if I could have without looking like a lunatic. At that point, I had been traveling for 33 hours. It will be a VERY long time before I think I can get myself on another airplane. If you have been reading my blog you will know that I said my hell/purgatory would be riding the 913 bus in Rome forever. Well, I think being stuck at JFK airport may give that one a run for its money. All I could picture is never being able to leave...now that would be a great horror movie that I would never want to see.
Enough with my travel woes. In the end I made it home and have readjusted to normal suburban life again. I will say it took me a good week not to start nodding off at around 7:30, but I have made it. I was trying to think how I could put this opportunity into a nice tidy summary, but I'm afraid I'm pretty wordy so I will do my best. The things that I saw and experienced will last my lifetime. The opportunities to travel, see amazing artwork and architecture have only broadened my own education as well as inspired me to make art. It has been far too long since I made art and it is a part of me that has been missing for quite awhile. I truly believe in the end this has made me a better teacher and person.
On the lighter side, I learned that walking on cobblestones kills people my age. I may have complained about all the walking (and fast walking), but I was in great shape when I got home. (Notice how I said "when". It's amazing what 2 weeks will do to you) Italians sure know how to eat well. You can exist without a ton of caffeine. Always wear sunscreen on your feet. The amount of putti in churches is unbelievable and somewhat unnerving. I'm still not a fan of cats. And most importantly, I don't believe I will be getting on any kind of mass transit vehicle in a very long time!
Thank you all for reading my lengthy blogs. I hope you enjoyed them. I know that I really enjoyed putting my thoughts down as I was in the moment. Ciao!