11

It Was In This Moment…I Missed Home

The cashier at the restaurant handed me the credit card terminal. I slid my card into the terminal, as I’d done many times before.

As the reciept printed, I removed the card from the terminal—also, as I’d done many times before.

It was then she yelled at me.

She was speaking a language I couldn’t understand. Slavic. But, her tone was unmistakable. She was pissed. Then she changed to English:

“Why you remove the card!! It wasn’t done. Now it is all bad.”

She called the younger, male employee over. I assumed it was to fix whatever issue I’d caused with the credit card machine. As she finished talking to him in their native tongue, he turned on me in the same angry tone.

“You CANNOT remove the card!!! Why did you do that?!?! It wasn’t done, you shouldn’t have done that.”

Finally, I snapped.

“I KNOW. I understand it wasn’t ready. It printed, I thought it was done. You can stop YELLING now.”

Everybody behind me in line looked up, slightly bewildered. I’d had it. I was a paying customer, and while I understand it was my fault—I wasn’t going to sit there and be yelled at. I merely matched their tones.

As I left the restaurant, I pulled out my phone and logged onto Citi’s mobile app.

There were two identical charges from the restaurant. The first one had gone through just fine, as I had suspected.

It was in this moment…I missed home.

I woke up for the fifth day in a row with a splitting headache, and a bit of light-headedness.

I got out of bed, and poured my morning cup of coffee in the hopes that it would solve the problem. For the fifth day in a row, it didn’t. What I initially had assumed was nasty jetlag was showing symptoms of a nasty sinus infection of sorts.

I emailed multiple “general practitioneers” offices that day, asking when they had an open appointment, and how much it would cost a foreigner to get a basic checkup for a likely sinus infection.

A week later I’d heard nothing.

The symptoms continued. I was always tired. I wasn’t getting my work done. I was cranky and irritable.

My girlfriend tried calling around. The one clinic she could get a hold of told her they could see me…in 3 weeks.

I started researching natural cures for sinus infections, thinking I’d just be a damn doctor myself if no doctor in this country wanted to take my money and write me a prescription.

For the next three days, I downed raw garlic with whatever nasty conconction I’d thought of, and hoped it would go away.

For two days, I felt like a genius. Then the symptoms returned.

Finally, on a Friday afternoon I went to Google again and found a doctor right down the street. I walked into her Soviet-style office. Her entire “office” was one room, with two desks and one patient “table”.

I asked if I could make an appointment. She told me she could see me right then and there. She performed an examination on me while I sat on a plastic chair next to her desk. She wrote me a prescription, and I paid a reasonable $25 for her 5 minute service.

She only took cash, and had to send her assistant to the ATM to get me change for my larger bill ($40).

A week later, the symptoms persisted.

It was in this moment…I missed home.

I was waiting for an expensive package to be delivered by DHL.

I’d arranged to be around the whole day. My apartment has four locked doors before you can even ring my doorbell, so I had to be.

All morning, I heard nothing. At 11:41am, I refreshed my tracking page and was met with disaray.

“11:32am: Address invalid, please contact DHL to confirm contact.”

I called right away and got a nice girl who barely spoke English. Just as I’d given her my tracking number, we got disconnected.

I tried again, and eventually got through. Apparently the number the driver had was wrong and so I obviously didn’t pick up.

ME: “Did the driver think to contact the alternate number on the order?”

DHL: “No.”

“Okay…can you have him drop it off at the local DHL?” (One just five minutes away from me)

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because he cannot. You can pick up the package tonight, at the DHL warehouse. Anytime after 6pm, I think.” (This warehouse being a 1-hour 1-way trip for me)

“Are you SURE it’ll be there at 6pm?”

“No. Maybe 7pm. It depends when the driver gets back.”

“Okay….thanks.”

I ventured out to the warehouse. After taking two separate metros, I boarded my bus. I was promptly told my all-inclusive transit pass didn’t include this bus.

He wanted his payment, he explained in the same Slavic tongue the lady in the restaurant used—the girl who boarded before me was kind enough to translate.

I dug through my bag for a measly 10 cents so I could get to DHL. If I hadn’t had that, all I had was one of those aforementioned $40 bills that the doctor couldn’t break without sending her assistant to the ATM.

I finally made it to DHL and retrieved my package.

As I stood in a grassy, desolate field in the middle-of-nowhere while waiting for the return bus—while holding $1,000+ worth of electronics—I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life.

It was in this moment…I missed home.

It was these moments that maybe people are right when they think I’m crazy for having moved abroad. It was these moments that make me wonder if I can really live abroad for the rest of my life.

It is these moments that make me very unsure of myself, and where I belong in the world.

These moments spawn these words that you’re now reading.

And these words make me realize that maybe there is no place, or places, that I belong.

I realize the only thing that matters is what I make of them.

An updated version of this post appeared here.

PS: Want to build a business while traveling (despite this article, ha). If so, go here.

  • August 28, 2017
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