Home to a wind chill of 4 degrees– Jan. 19

All went well getting through customs and passport control in Cuba, but the flight arriving from Miami was 2 hours late, which meant that our departure was two hours late. We landed at 4:30 p.m. and my flight to Charlotte was at 5:20. Our gate was also a long way from customs and immigration. I practically ran off the plane, but then had to take the skytrain to customs. So the running did me no good. I sailed through customs thanks to Global Entry. I had my electronic boarding pass and TSA precheck, but I got held up in security because of a bottle of liquid I bought in duty free. It had to be checked and the person was very slow in doing so. I finally told him to keep it and give me my bag. I had to race to concourse E from D. By now I’m am sweating. I finally get to my gate at 5:14 p.m. and they had closed the doors at 5:10. All that effort wasted! I could have waited at security and kept the bottle of Havana Club after all.

The nice ticket agent put me on stand-by to Philadelphia and I have no checked bags, but another long walk to the other gate. My shirt was soaked, but thankfully I had a clean one in my bag. And a flannel shirt to wear over it. I panicked after changing when I couldn’t find my credit card and quite a bit of cash and called my wife to ask her to report the card stolen, which she was kind enough to do. When I later pulled out my jacket, I found it in a pocket, but I can’t remember putting it there. Whew. The plane to Philly was full, but I was first on the waitlist and then second because of a priority passenger. If I couldn’t get on I would have to spend the night in Miami, but finally they called my name. A wave of relief rushed over me, and I texted Julie with the bad news that she would have to drive to Philadelphia to pick me up at 10 p.m. and the good news that I would be coming home.

I felt so bad for her because she is sick with a cold and had been taking care of two other sick people all weekend. And the weather in Pennsylvania is cold. The wind chill when she came to get me was four degrees (temp 16). She was kind enough to bring along a coat and hat for me, but I had to wait for her outside with just my flannel shirt and a sports coat on. Freezing and very hungry. It was so good to see her after ten days. A quick drive through a Wendy’s for a burger and root beer convinced me that I was truly back in the USA. And then home to the children! It is so good to be home. It is so good to have a family that is willing to let me run off for an adventure like this.

And now it’s time to get back to the daily problems of life: car repairs, mortgages, balancing the check book, cat litter, laundry, and all the tasks of modern living. It was wonderful to take a hot shower this morning even if I did have to go out in the freezing cold to take my daughter to school. Even that is a blessing.

It was so nice to spend a short time at least in country where there are still horse drawn taxis, no billboards, and where I did not even have TV. I met some very memorable characters on this trip and many helpful people along the way. I feel like I was privileged to see a unique country on the cusp of radical transformation. Some of the change will be good, but some beautiful things will be lost in the process.

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