Christmas break officially started in Gaming, Austria on December 10th after my nursing final. Marissa and I came back to our room and started packing right away! I was mostly packed before I headed off to bed.
Wednesday morning we packed, cleaned, helped Shannon pack, cleaned some more and then went to Mass. We kinda cleaned in the afternoon, but we were at the point where we couldn’t do too much more without moving out, so we just hung out and then I went for a walk up behind the Kartause. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
After my walk, I went to dinner at the Pipp’s and then we came back to the Kartause to watch the end of the semester video. It was about 40 minutes and made for a lot of laughs. The RD’s were having a bonfire out in the courtyard, so Cheris and I went out and stood around and talked for a while. We wanted to go look at the stars, so we walked out front by the creek but we couldn’t see any of them because the street light was too bright. So we stood on the bridge and watched the water while we talked for a while longer. We went back to the fire and warmed up and then came back inside to go to bed. We had been outside for two hours, but it was a perfect way to end the semester.
Friday I was up early to shower and start cleaning…but my roommates had been up late so they slept for a while. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I didn’t disturb them or start cleaning until 10:30am. I spent an hour and a half cleaning the shower until Mass because there was so much calcium build up. In the afternoon we cleaned some more and then just chilled out. We had dinner and then I laid on my bed and tried to rest before our room check. Our room was first checked my Theresa the RA who told us to dust a few things. We did that and then Scott the RD came and double checked it. We had to clean under the sink a little bit and then Scott gave us the all clear to leave! We picked up our stuff and then shut the door behind us.
It was about 8:30pm and we had nowhere to go before midnight Mass, so we hung out in the lobby on second floor outside the computer lab. I braided a few peoples hair, wrote a suggestion for Mr. Pipp, tried to sleep and talked with the people walking by. I have never felt so much like a homeless person in all my life.
Around midnight, I headed over to the church. Everyone was there and Fr. Ron gave a homily giving us a little timeline of what we had done while we were in Austria. After Mass, there was a sharing/witness time and a few people got up and spoke. Some people talked about how this was the best experience of their life and how they grew in their faith or friendships. The best one was definitely Denis. He said that the most important and best thing we did all semester was what we just did…go to Mass. He said that we were so privileged to have been able to receive Jesus every day and that when we go back to the states, we can still receive Jesus’ body and blood every day. It was really awesome and kinda just put the whole thing in perspective. After the witnessing, the sisters turned the lights off and Cara came in with candles dresses as St. Lucy because it was the feast of St. Lucy.
After all of that, people went outside and started saying their goodbyes. There were so many tears and laughs and hugs all going around. I had already lost it at communion time when Daniel Pipp and smiled at me and it hit me that I’m never going to see him again. After I hugged a zillion people and cried some more, I loaded Shannon’s and my bags on the buses and then we got ready to pull out. The Kartause parents and staff stood on either side of the driveway and waved us off while the kids (who were awake at 2:45am) stood at the end of the driveway and waved as well. We were on our way back to the states.
We got to the airport around 5am and Marissa and I helped Shannon get her bags checked and her backpack on. After that, Marie, Andrew, Tess, Marissa, and I hung out at a café and then a McDonalds until our flights at 11:30am. We got the London at 1pm and because I had booked my flights differently than Marie, she was able to check her bags to Newark but I could only check them to London and then I was going to have to re-check them. I had to go out through customs, claim my bag, re-check it, go through security again, and then wait for our gate to be announced so that I could find Marie again. It wasn’t too bad.
It was actually pretty cool because when I was changing terminals, I was standing in the same spot I had been in on August 25 when I was changing terminals and missing my flight. I stood there in London and realized that I had come full circle. It was really awesome.
We boarded our flight at 3:30 and then we were on our way back to the states by 5pm! It was a really long flight…like, really long. We were on the plane for about 9 hours. We had dinner, I watched a movie, played Battleship and Sudoku, slept for about two hours, and then ate a breakfast/snack. We landed at 6:30 and realized we were back in the states. We got off the plane and went through customs/border patrol and then went to get our bags. It took forever for my bag to finally come off and while we were waiting, Marie and called her dad who said that there was a huge snowstorm on the way. My flight the next morning was most likely going to be delayed if not cancelled, so he suggested I try to find a flight out that night. It took so long though to get our baggage and then drop off our forms to declare what we had, that I opted to just go back to Marie’s house and see what happened the next morning.
Marie’s mother and had made dinner so we had salmon, broccoli, and sweet potato fries. It was really yummy and so nice to have a home cooked meal. We visited with her family and then she unpacked her souvenirs to show her family. Then they set up a mattress in Marie’s room so that I could sleep in there and we went to bed around 11:30 with plans to wake up at 5:30 to leave for the airport at 5:45. The snowstorm had been moved back so it didn’t look like it was going to hit until 10am.
At 4:18 I woke up and could not fall back to sleep. My body was telling me it was 10:18 and that I had missed breakfast. I laid in bed until 5:30 and then got up and got ready. Marie and her dad drove me to the airport at 6:15 and then Marie helped me check my bag and get to security because it was 7am and my flight left at 8am. And I had to switch terminals. I made it through and had about five minutes to wait before boarding. Once we boarded, we didn’t leave for an hour because they had to spray down the plane with de-icing chemicals. It was barely snowing when we had left Marie’s house, but the snow was really starting to come down while we were waiting on the runway. Finally, we took off and we were one of the last flights out!
We landed in Buffalo at about 10am and I got off the plane and headed out to see the family! They were all waiting and watching and waving! It was so exciting. The people in front of me were like, “I thought they were welcoming us back!” Gabby recognized me and gave me a big hug and kiss. There were hugs all around and we made our way downstairs to wait for my luggage. After we waited for a while and there were no bags to be seen and nobody else standing around, we went over to the desk to see where we were supposed to be. They checked for my bag and it turned out that it was still sitting in the Newark airport. They said they would get it out here on the next flight and then deliver it to the house.
We all went out to the car and I told stories all the way home. Everyone had made quiche, little biscuits, and ham, and then there was also placek and raspberry sweets. I shared about my experiences all morning and afternoon and just enjoyed spending time with the family. It was so great to be home and with my family after almost four months!