The wheels screeched on the runway as the plane touched down in Greece. Images of clear blue water and mountainous islands were fresh in my mind. As my classmates and I walked through the airport a feeling of separation consumed me. I had never been in a place where I was the minority, where I was the fish in the fishbowl and the world was looking in. Everywhere I looked there was someone looking back. I have never liked being in the spotlight, but in this foreign place it was as if the spotlight followed me everywhere.
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As the hours passed, the feeling of separation faded to the background and homesickness took its place. The feeling was all-consuming, like nothing I had felt in my life. The colors around me seemed to blend together as my thoughts constantly wandered to my family and my home. I missed them both unbearably. The only comfort I found was in memories of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the sound of my parents’ voices on the phone. Tears streamed down my face as I sat down to dinner on the first night. White rice, white napkins, white table cloth, white walls. No color, no familiarity, no way home. Is this what growing up feels like? These thoughts circled in my head as the sun set behind the mountains of the Saronic Gulf. One day down, eight to go.
Three days passed and the homesickness only worsened. Our daytime excursions to ancient ruins and lively town squares were my only distraction from the desperation lying just under the surface. On the fourth day the group and I boarded the tour bus after a long day of touring Delphi and started the journey to Olympia. We arrived just before sunset, put our bags in our rooms, and went to the top floor for dinner. The view from the balcony was stunning, but not in the traditional sense. Olympia is a small town with narrow streets, small cafe?s, and friendly people. It may not be the prettiest town in Greece, but it reminded me so much of home. The smiling faces of the townspeople and feeling of community felt just like the town I grew up in. The town I call home; Boone, North Carolina. The time I spent looking over the balcony at the small town of Olympia was the only peace I felt the entire trip. I sat there for almost an hour, completely immersed in feelings of relief and tranquility. In those moments my eyes were opened in so many ways.
Since I was twelve years old, my heart was set on leaving Boone and going to live in a big city. My dream was to live in an apartment, go to college, and make a name for myself. I never considered staying in Boone. I had little appreciation for my home because I had been here all my life. I felt there was nothing special about it, since I was so accustomed to life here. Sitting in Olympia on that hotel balcony, my eyes were opened. My dream of living in a big city was just that: a dream. It was never going to be my reality. My reality had been in front of my face my entire life. Olympia opened my eyes to my future, my home, my life. My heart is in Boone, North Carolina and that is never going to change.
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