Student Blog

Access on The NUSEA Citizenship Tour, Day 1



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Johnny H. – Access Youth Academy Team 5 Student

Day 1 by Johnny

Wednesday – July 15, 2015

When Chrissy mentioned that we would have to write blog posts every night after a day full of citizenship-tour-y things, I figured that I would get the jump on it and write a bit on the flight over. I’ve already learned a few things, and the day hasn’t even begun (it is currently 8:30 AM PST, normally, I’d still be dead to the world.)

My Grandmother is a seasoned traveler who prefers Southwest Airlines. We can trust them to be organized and on time, which is almost always the case. In light of this, when we found out I’d be flying American, she made it her mission to get me to the airport with two hours to spare. This practice proved to be incredibly effective. Upon arrival, I realized that American’s curbside check in wasn’t in service yet, and the line for regular baggage check stretched out the door.

I made my way to one of the two lines, found out it was the wrong one from some frazzled worker, and made my way to the other. I was behind a woman who had gone through a similar event, and proceeded to make small talk with me.

Luckily, Access had trained me for polite small talk, and I answered her questions earnestly, fighting the drowsiness of a sleepless night. I found out she was in her early thirties, and had gotten a degree in electrical engineering. Dissatisfied, she was going back to school to get a degree in medicine. She related to me that she was worried about starting over at such a late age, but I assured her that it’s never too late to start over.

There’s actually a medical term that labels the feeling you get when you realize that all these strangers around you have lives as complex as yours with experiences equally as rich. This was one of those times.

Anyway, the poor woman had three gigantic bags, so I helped her move in the line. Eventually we were split up to check in separately, but not before she warned me about the dangers of pursuing a career in programming. Eye strain, to be specific, which is actually avoidable with corrective glasses (not that I told her this). We then parted for our own destinations. I can’t help but hope that med school turns out to give her what she’s looking for. Lessons learned: Strangers have lives, and change is okay whenever you initiate it.

The woman overseeing the five self check-in kiosks told me to use a charge card. Although I’d prefer to use cash over my emergency debit, I was too nervous to bother another clearly frazzled worker, so I did as I was told (sorry Grandma).

A quick trip through security, where I encountered the first worker who performed calmly under the stress of a busy airport, and I was spat out onto the three-way junction that leads to all of the terminals. My flight was at Gate 29, a straight shot, while Starbucks, which is always a stop for me at the airport, was far off near Gate 37. I had promised my travel partner Kevin Le a drink in return for him grabbing my squash gear, and I always make good. Carrying a sleeping bag and a heavy laptop bag, I made my way there. The trip over took what felt like seven minutes, and I paid for the overpriced food and drinks with plenty of time to spare before I had to be at my gate. A tall mocha for Le, a tall white-chocolate Mocha and a sandwich for me, all for the grand total of 13 dollars with change. Add a two-dollar tip to it, (they were swamped; I always tip a dollar but I felt bad that such a large swarm had only awarded the baristas with maybe 3 dollars in tips,) and 15 dollars had suddenly dissipated from my wallet.

The walk back was impossibly difficult. I had to drink down a bit of both drinks before I could really move, and my hands still walked away burnt. I have a habit of talking to myself whenever I’m: A. in public, and B. alone, and I’m certain the majority of what I said was, “Kevin Le better be thankful. I look like a juggler/waiter and I’m certain this lady is staring at me for talking to myself.” Cue the under-the-eyelash-shy-hello-I-swear-I’m-not-crazy look.

I finally arrived at my terminal, put on my headphones to listen to the Heathers soundtrack, (not over it yet, nope), and counted the number of stickers on the guitar case that belonged to the guy sitting across from me. Time ticked by, until my group was called to board.

Kevin Le hadn’t arrived yet. I texted him frantically, and relayed the same message to Chrissy. I was in full on panic mode, an explosive cocktail one part caffeine, three parts my friend isn’t here yet, and lingered a bit, hoping to buy some time. He eventually told me he missed his flight, which of course made me mad and sad. Le graduated this year, and I was already missing him. A five-hour flight stuck next to him would’ve been great to catch up. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. I sent a few more texts and boarded, and was lucky enough to avoid the middle seat that makes typing near impossible. Lessons Learned: My grandma is always right, and sometimes things don’t work out but that’s okay.

Currently, I’m seated next to a nice family of five, two beside me, and the last three behind. I scored on an aisle seat (I prefer window, but I don’t mind), next to the father of the family (I hope he’s not reading this as I type it, but I’ll put this here in case he is.) He has an English accent of some sort. I can’t place the region, but it’s sort of like buttermilk and soft, no harsh syllables. His kid is nice as well, a bit excitable, but energetic, which is a very good thing. I’m settled with a Dr. Pepper (yay, caffeine!) and ready for 4 more hours of trying to entertain myself.

I’ll continue the blog post later tonight, after we all retire to our rooms. This somehow ended up being three pages long even though the day had only began. My apologies in advanced. Lessons Learned: Accents will always be cool, and I need to get better at summaries.

I learned on the taxi ride from JFK that we would actually be spending the night with a host family in Harlem. The middle brother of the family, Nick Little, would be accompanying us on the trip as well.

He was in the taxi with myself, and the ride was awkward in every way it could’ve been. I didn’t sense any hostility, so I blamed it on shared nerves. He opened up more with a few question about living in New York and his schooling. He’s an incoming college freshman who has a talent and passion for engineering and programming.

His house was shocking to me. My Grandma is strict about things being in order, but the Littles permitted a bit of a mess. It wasn’t, dirty, but warm in a way. The clutter I expected actually granted a sense of established security. Lesson Learned: Different can be just as good.

Nick’s mom, a lovely woman who hailed from an island in the Caribbean, treated us to some homemade pizza. It was every bit as delicious as you expected a homemade New York pizza to be. Afterwards, we just played video games, hung out in his room, and waited for Kevin Le to arrive.

Unfortunately for all of us, Kevin didn’t make it to his house until about 1:30 in the morning. His flight in Chicago was delayed for two hours because the Captain didn’t show up, which seemed ridiculous to all of us. Delirious on sleep deprivation, we hit the sack at about 2:00 am.

I can remember the excitement building for the next day. The tour was almost upon us, and I was in New York City, the place I knew my future would take me. Dazzling lights, busy life, and Broadway. Big dreams, but closer than ever in that moment.