In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Journey.”
My first trip abroad was visiting my aunt’s family in the USA during my summer vacation in college. It was my first flight and I needed to transfer at the second largest airport in the world then. I had been learning English for 7 years already but all my experience was only in the classroom. All the people who I had spoken English with were teachers and classmates. The trip was quite an adventure for me. I who had never flown and never spoken English outside classroom, went abroad alone and needed to transfer by myself in a large airport.
However, fools rush where angels dare to tread. I was young. Somehow I was confident in my ability. I can do it. Why not?
In the airplane, I was comfortable because most of the passengers were compatriots and looked familiar to me. The cabin crews treated me nicely and the person who sit next to me was really kind to me.
After the plane arrived at O’Hare International Airport, I was thoroughly alone. All the passengers were busy going toward their destinations and all staff at the airport were busy with their work. Although I needed to go to the domestic departure area and find the gate for my next flight, I wasn’t sure what the map on the wall told and couldn’t find anyone to ask. Then, I tried go to the gate by myself while I wasn’t sure how. As a result of it, I was completely lost.
As the time for the departure was coming, finally the full-of-confidence I was getting nervous. I really needed to find someone to ask. I made up my mind to ask a woman who was working busily in a counter of my next flight airline company. I showed her my ticket board, pointed out the printed gate number, and said “I want to go to this place.” Then she gestured me to wait and talked to her co-worker if she knows how to explain the way to the gate. The co-worker looked wondering why she asked such easy thing. Then the first female clerk whispered to her, and I could heard it very clearly, “She can’t speak English.”
What? Didn’t I speak English? I said “I want to go to this place,” didn’t I?
Perhaps, my voice was too small and it sounded just a mumbling.
Kindly, the second clerk drew the airport map for me and explained the way easily. I said thank you to her and left there. Thinking “they don’t understand my English at all?!” Honestly, I was about to cry. On the way to the gate, everyone, including the airport staff and passengers, all looked like English teachers for me. While I was walking, someone called “Hey! Miss!” behind me but I couldn’t stop to check if the person called me or not.
Thanks to the easy map, I arrived at the gate quite before the departure time. I felt relieved. I thought I had enough time to call my aunt to say my trip was quite well so far. I found public phones near the gate. I stood in front of one of the phones and put my luggage between my legs. My travel agency told me many times not to leave my luggage even in a second.
I inserted as many coins as possible to the phone because I was not sure how much it cost. I dialed my aunt’s phone number and waited a second looking forward to my aunt’s surprising voice: “Wisskko! Are you already in America? And you are calling me from the airport! How wonderful!” Then, I heard someone’s voice who I don’t know and she kept speaking English. Who is this?! Did I dial a wrong number?! What is she talking about?!
I couldn’t understand what she was saying but she kept asking me something. I didn’t know what to do. I just hanged up. Later, I learned that when you make a long distance call, an operator asks you to check if you have enough coins for the call before she connects the line at that time in the USA. Of course, I didn’t know that.
You can imagine how happy I was when I saw my aunt’s family were waving at me at their local airport, can’t you?