Wednesday, July 21, 2010

International Travel

I have had the pleasure of going overseas three times in my life (because Canada doesn't count). And every time, there has been a hang-up of some kind in the travel arrangements.

When I was in eighth grade, I went to Honduras for 10 days. Our mission was to build a church in the tiny village of Savanetta. My mission was to avoid a serious allergic reaction brought about by the concrete dust at the site. Regardless of my inability to do just about anything, we had a fantastic time. I learned about the people and culture, and the God I serve, and even more about myself.

Another lesson I learned was about the wisdom of traveling internationally 6 months after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The hassle involved in every airport, with every customs agent, at every border crossing- it was almost funny. Except for a 13 year old girl, it really isn't very comical when the Honduran customs agent holding a big gun pulls all of personal items...out of your luggage and holds them in the air for everyone else in the group to see. Regardless, a pretty tame entry into the world of international travel. If only I could have known what was to come.

My next venture abroad was in May 2009, when I traveled to Romania and Hungary as part of a program called Tri-S (study, share, serve), and we were mostly on a cultural trip. I discussed part of our journey in my last post (which is really about babies), but left out our rather conspicuous arrival to Eastern Europe. Our flight left from Chicago mid-afternoon on May 11, and we arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany the next morning for a few hour layover. After a quick and grimy nap on the pilled carpet, I sat in anticipation of the next flight that would take us to Budapest, and the van ride that would bring us to Romania. We boarded the flight without thought as to the possible ramifications of such an action. This is the part of the story where the music goes "dun Dun DUN..."

About 30 minutes from our scheduled arrival time in Budapest, I felt my feet getting warm. Okay- just deal with it, right? Really warm. Whatever. Kind of hot. What was wrong with my body? Is this jet lag? What is happening? Oh look- everyone appears to be warm. And suddenly, things get kind of hazy. A quick glance at D~ sitting across the aisle and J~ in the seat next to me confirms that I am NOT suffering from some kind of hallucinational daze- that really IS smoke in the cabin. And so as D~ and I laugh and J~ begins to frantically worry and we all look uncertainly at our team members dispersed throughout the plane, the German-speaking flight attendent runs to the back of the cabin.

Upon hearing a struggle, I turn around just in time to see her smack herself in the nose with the FIRE EXTINGUISHER (!!!) and blood starts pouring out. She runs back to the front, our plane begins to descend quite rapidly, and we hear these English words: "Emergency, 4 minutes." And yes, those ARE flames coming from the engine out my window.

Without any sort of other emotion to express, I continue to laugh. (This might be the plague of my spirit- laughter at weddings, funerals, imminent death.) D~ continues to laugh. The German-speaking gentleman behind us looks quite nervous (having heard all of the details). J~ asks what she should do, and I realize in hindsight it was quite cruel to tell her to get into crash landing position. (Sidenote: is that REALLY supposed to help? Really? I mean, if my airplane crashes, I'm going to be more concerned about, say, my spine getting crunched into the seat in front of me, or developing my own bloody nose when it hits my knees, or... death???) Yes, I stayed sitting up.

Regardless, we arrived in Budapest smoldering and flaming, amidst a few fire engines and a bus ready to lug us to safety. Miraculously, we survived along with all of our luggage. I emerged with a really awesome story to tell, and now I almost always win the game "Two Truths and a Lie." Because freakin NO ONE believes that you have been in a plane crash.

So. I have been overseas three times, right? The first travel experience quite harmless. The second a little more chaotic. The third, my friends- that tale needs it's own post. And it is coming soon.

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