Wednesday, November 4, 2009

End of the Road - Last Entry for Roam Mania

Remarkable factoid:  In the past 8 weeks, I have flown a lot both internationally and within Romania.  Every flight was on time leaving and arriving and my luggage arrived with me.

While I was sitting in the Chicago airport, one guy was walking the concourse shouting at the top of his voice: "Don't take United Airlines.  They rip you off.  They cancel flights.  They leave you stranded.  They're never on time."   Shortly after that, my flight was announced but the guy began: "In spite of what some people think, Flight 7350 to Rochester is on time and will not be cancelled.  All passengers are now invited to board through Gate 2D"  We actually left five minutes early and got into Rochester 20 minutes early.

Six folks from church met my plane and were very considerate of the many hours I had been flying.  Deb and Martha dropped me at my hotel and Terry and Terry drove to Hamlin and Rev. Lu drove to Albion.  Tony headed out to Gates.  I was very touched that these good friends would stay up so late to make sure I knew I had been missed and was welcomed home.

I stayed up about half an hour and then went to sleep after about 24 hours awake.  I got up at 7, talked to some friends in Poland and Romania, caught up on a day's worth of email and went down to have breakfast.  Although I hadn't missed any American foods while I was travelling, when I found biscuits and sausage gravy in the breakfast buffet, I found a typically American dish.  It was good.

Paul picked me up at 10 and brought me home.  He didn't stay because he was just starting to recover from the H1N1 and didn't want to risk sharing it with me.  I doubled up on my Vitamin D for the day, just in case.  I spent a low key day, grateful that Naida had left some soups in my fridge.  Although I was worried that I wouldn't remember how to drive, my body seemed to remember when I drove downtown to get milk and bread.

Once again I want to recommend No-Jet-Lag because, at least for me, it works.  Bart went on a minor tirade by Skype from Poland, insisting that homeopathy equals placebo.

Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.  You don't know this but your presence to me while I was away smoothed over rough spots of loneliness and homesickness.  The ramifications of my trip will continue to unfold in the days and weeks ahead. This is the end for now but I hope you will consider coming along for my next journey, whereever that will take me.  I still haven't gotten to Bulgaria, Ukraine, or Montenegro and I promised Marianna that the next time I come to Moldova, I will visit her parents' homestead.  She said her mother makes the best sheep cheese in the world and her dad the best wine.  Jenny has told me I have to come to Hong Kong and I'd love to get back to the Middle East.  Who knew that only working one full-time job instead of two would afford me these possibilities.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Homecoming: Hurry Up and Wait. Phase Three

I've just spent 10 hours on a Lufthansa jet that came the polar route across Greenland and down over northern Canada.  It left on time and arrived on time.  Lufthansa must take hydration seriously.  At least once an hour, they came around with water and juice.  They served a nice dinner with wine and offered brandy after it.  I had beef goulash with spicy red cabbage.  I declined the brandy but accepted a glass of red wine.  There is a little screen at each seat and there were 12 movies to chose from.  I watched Julie and Julia, a Hindi film and The Proposal, which I had seen before but enjoyed anyway.  I dozed for a little while.  About two hours out of Chicago, they served either vegetarian pizza or Bavarian sausage roll.  I had the roll and really good coffee.

I had to go through customs in Chicago which was a breeze.  Then I had to reload my baggage and take a train to a different terminal.  My flight to Rochester is scheduled to  leave in just under two hours and is, at this time, listed as "on time."   I have been awake for almost a full day.  By the time I arrive in Rochester, I'll be dragging.  A small group from church will meet my plane and take me to the hotel.

So I'm back on cellphone and it's been ringing off the hook. (if it had a hook.)

Homecoming: Hurry Up and Wait. Phase Two

OK, now I'm in Munich.  I am sitting alone at my gate with two and a half hours till flight time.  My body feels like it's 1pm German time but in NY, it's just before 7a.m. Monday and I will be travelling until midnight NY time - if I don't get hung up in Chicago, which I have done every single time I ever passed through there.

I changed my computer clock to NY time since it's my only way to begin the process of readjusting to home time.  I have no watch and my cell phone doesn't work in Europe so it doesn't know what time it is.  All I know is that I have another 17 hours before I'm due to land in Rochester.

I arrived in Munich via Air Malta uneventfully.  The plane was full.  There was a British choir and a Finnish Youth Football (Soccer) team on board.  Breakfast was the breakfast I got used to in Bucharest:  a sandwich of cheese, salami and ham.  In Bucharest I used to have it on toasted wheat bread.  I had to change gate area from G to H.  It felt like a one mile walk, through endless high end shops.  I looked at a watch that was retailing for over 1000€ which is almost $1500.  It didn't even seem to be that fancy a watch.  I kept walking and walking and the gates got less and less populated.  I finally arrived at the very end of the wing and was relieved to find that my plane is here so it will most likely be on time.  Lufthansa, a proper German airline, prides itself on exactitude.  On the way to Malta, one of our flight attendants could easily have played a Valkyrie. 

So here I sit, computer and book in hand, supplied with water and Coke Zero.  My challenge is to drink both the Coke and the water before I leave so I can get my 50 cent refund for the bottle deposits.  More later.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Homecoming: Hurry up and wait. Phase One

Phase One:  Malta Luqo Airport

Check in and coming through security was no problem.  I've got this down to a science.  I got here 2 hours ahead of flight time, as recommended and headed for someplace to eat.  There was a cafeteria in the general waiting area but further along, past some shops, there was another, quieter one.  I got a sausage roll (the "sausage" tasted suspiciously like hotdog, a danish pastry and a cappuccino to start the day.  I board in about an hour for the first leg of the long trip home - Munich, a flight of about 2 hours.  I'll wait there a few hours more before the second leg - a 10 hour flight to Chicago.  I will miss being surrounded by a dozen languages at any given time.  I will miss cappuccino that is strong and flavorful, not burnt like S***bu**s.

Homecoming: pre-dawn Monday - even if the blog date says Sunday

Well, it's ten to five a.m. in Malta and I'm up to get ready for the cab to the airport.  I will have a very very long day flying with long layovers in both Munich and Chicago.  I get into Rochester at just before midnight (if I get out of Chicago!) and will take a taxi to a hotel for the night.  Tuesday morning, Paul will pick me up around 10 and get me home. (I live an hour from the airport so it's too much to go home tonight).

I have had an experience of a lifetime which would not have been possible if my fabulous church had not stepped up.  My board (Pete, Terry, Martha, John) and my sabbatical team (Deb, Lu, Renee and Pete) made it possible for me to be away without ever worrying that something would come up that they couldn't handle.  Our church has really grown up in the last seven years.

At home, Naida has cared for my indoor and outdoor cats with a dependability greater than my own.  Deb and Martha have kept my rambunctious Golden Retriever, Bentley.  Paul has cared for the house inside and outside.

I am also extraordinarily grateful to my friend, Florin, without whom the European end of my time away wouldn't have been possible.

I've mentioned new friends along the way, and have to especially name Bart and Andreea, even though there are so many others.  I am coming home so much richer than when I left.

So, Air Malta, Lufthansa and United Airlines will all own me for today.  I will have to work at speaking proper English after speaking for other citizens of the world.

Sunday afternoon in Malta

All my friends have flown home and I have the rest of the day and evening to prepare for my trip home tomorrow.  I will go to the desk shortly to arrange for a taxi for 7:15a.m.

I just had a first-in-my-life experience.  I didn't have lunch so decided to have Afternoon Tea - in the British style.   Tea, finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a fruit tart, warm scones with whipped cream, fruit cake.  It was lovely and definitely a meal.

I'm in my room sorting through experiences and thinking of packing.  I'll poke around later (probably around 8 or 9) to see if anyone wants to have a light dinner.  I also have to prepare myself mentally for two long layovers tomorrow and a very late arrival home.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A peaceful Halloween

I'm sitting in the lobby of our hotel in the chair I always sit in since I have to come to the lobby to get internet access. There is a large wedding party for Maria and Anthony.  Down another corridor is an 18th birthday party for Deo.  Across from me, an older British couple is playing cards. There is a piano player and a singer with a lovely voice singing lounge tunes in English.  There is a little coffee bar in the lobby that serves good coffee in the morning and beer at night, or coffee I'm sure.   My bar tender brought me a beer without my ordering it.  He said, "I saw you sitting in your spot and prepared you your usual."  this after only 3 days - am I predictable?

After workshop sessions, Florin and I took a public bus around 4 to try to go to the city of Mdina.  Well, we got lost and ended up in the middle of the capital city, Valletta.  We walked around and I took pictures.  It seems I always get to take pictures at dusk!  thank God for software touchups.  We took a bus back and got off about halfway here to go to a little pub for dinner.  I had fish and chips, a local beer and a half pint of Strongbow cider.  Florin had a piece of rabbit and a braciole.

When we got on a bus to the hotel, our friends from Moldova (Marianna) and Odessa, Ukraine (Oleg) were on the bus.  Marianna went as an exchange student to the States when she was 16.  She went to New Mexico through a program with FFA (Future Farmers of America).  Now, back in Moldova, she is a translator and a human rights activist.  We laughed so much on the bus.  For some reason everything seemed funny.

We got back to the hotel in time for the group bus which was off for some place or other and a late night Halloween party under the full moon.  I decided not to go because I want to tour the island on Sunday and didn't want to be exhausted..  Here are some pics I took in Valletta.  Of course, once again, I got around to taking pics at dusk.