Thursday, May 17, 2012

Around the World: Homecoming

May 17, 1992

I'm on my way back to Toronto.  I have stuffed my backpack to it's absolute maximum capacity, having carefully wrapped anything fragile in smelly socks and stinky shirts.  On the plane, I have a bag stuffed with  shoes and the coat I bought to keep me warm that I only wore once, and another bag of records stuffed into the overhead compartment.  Two bottles of duty free liquor are stowed under my seat.

The last flight of my journey touches down safely at Pearson.  After clunking my way through the narrow airplane aisle with my collection of carry-on baggage, I splurge on the first trolley I find.  I join the crowd of passengers waiting patiently for their luggage and watch for my backpack to appear on the luggage carousel.

Airports have become a common occurrence, and navigating them has become second nature.  After a brief stop at Immigration and a wave past Customs, this adventure of a lifetime will come to an end.

Immigration takes my passport, asks me a few questions about all the stamps and scribbles some mysterious code in red ink on the customs form I completed on the plane.   I join the line to exit the security area, expecting the usual wave to bypass customs when I notice that the people ahead of me all have cards with their mysterious code scribbled in black.  My turn comes to show the form and my homecoming is suddenly delayed.

"In here, miss," the official says, guiding me into a private room. 

My backpack is opened, and my carefully packed souvenirs are taken out one by one to be inspected, identified and explained.  For the next two hours, a pair of customs officials carefully inspect my backpack, suffering the stench of dirty socks and underwear.  Finally satisfied that the most offensive crime I have committed is being in desperate need of some soap, I am finally granted clearance.

My journey is complete.  I have come home.

• ¤ •

“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” 
~Cindy Ross

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