The queue for customs in Chicago takes two hours and my connecting flight has already left. I am crying. I leave my phone at the desk when checking my bags in for the next flight and don’t realise until I’m leaving the terminal. I cry more. A wonderful steward finds it for me and gives me a hug whilst shuffling me on to an airport shuttle that I go round twice before getting off – usually I am so good at travelling alone.
In Oklahoma, the air is so hot it’s like walking in a sauna for the first two weeks. On my second night there are 33,000 lightning strikes and a bridge collapses from the rain. The next day it is sunny again. Ask any local and their favourite weather saying is ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’. I go to Walmart and it is the size of an airport. The tap water tastes like chlorine and apparently comes from a lake you can’t even swim in. Gross. My housemates and I eat dinner together and talk about dating culture in our different countries, Belgium, South Korea and Japan. I feel worldly.
On my first day I have a three hour class. The classroom looks like it came right off a movie screen and there are these weird desks that I don’t realise how to sit behind. You have to slide the desk part out to get the chair and the first time I almost fall and the chair makes a loud scraping noise. Everyone looks at me and I smile-laugh like you do when you trip in public. We say our names but no one realises I’m British until three weeks in. What an insult. At least I have figured out the desk.
My first house party reminds me of all the things I never did at sixteen and this childhood do-over feels strange since I live in a whole other country to my Mother. It’s fun. I have to fill out a risk assessment that is so patronising I continue to question child or adult? I have a garbage disposal and air conditioning, I really live in America. An uber driver asks me if I’m from Sweden, another asks me on a date. It rains for two days and I could be in England… then my phone buzzes with a tornado watch.