One of the reasons I started this blog is to recount my Mission trip to Беларусь (Belarus) with my church. This is where it begins…
July 7, 2005…The trip to Dulles
We said our good-byes at the church. As expected, leaving my wife Joanie and my daughter Katie were very hard. I didn’t want to cry, and I got the sense Joan didn’t either, but she almost did. That, of course, choked me up. It’s hard to say goodbye. I think Katie was easier with it. At seven, I don’t think she yet knows what it is to be gone from people you love for ten days…I’m not sure I do.
We passed Mt. Saint Mary’s University on the way to the airport. On the hill, behind the university, is a giant statue of Mary, with her arm extended in a blessing. I’m glad she was there—it seems a good start to the trip.
Winding down the backroads of Northern Virginia, we almost got wiped out before we started. In on of the logjams typical for the area, an oncoming truck failed to see the traffic backed up and slammed on its brakes. The trailer jackknifed right in front of us. Our driver did an amazing job of 1) avoiding the trailer and 2) staying on the road as opposed to the sizable ditch to the right of where we were traveling. Other than that, it was a rolling ride through gentle, bucolic countryside: farms, horses, cows, a barn or two…
Took My Chances on a Big Jet Plane, Never Let Them Tell You that They’re All the Same (Why not…they’re all the same)
Planes are planes are planes. They’re noisy, dry, stale boxes crammed with people and germs. A good flight is an uneventful one. It was a good flight. There were no storms, no turbulence…nothing.
All of that being said, it would have been nice to get some sleep on the flight. At the beginning of the flight, the man next to me was separated from hi wife. I gave up my aisle seat (!) so they could sit together [I wasn’t sure of the wisdom of that move then, but in rewriting this journal, I remember that more than my own discomfort, now] and sat in a middle seat…eek! Still, other people were dealing with rambunctious kids, snoring and the usual other in-flight annoyances. The people I sat with were a quiet, respectful lot.
We landed in Frankfurt at 7.45 am their time. It’s a little weird flying out in the afternoon, through the night and arriving first thing in the morning in a foreign country. Frankfurt is a little odd, but I suppose any place could be, in it’s own way. Flying in, Frankfurt looks a lot like Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Someone said it is, which is why so many Germans settled in Pennsylvania when the emigrated America—it reminded them of home. The airport was your standard steel and concrete bunker affair. Inside, weirdness abounds. You can buy a Rolex, any kind of perfume known to man or woman (no small feat, I assure you), even a RANGE ROVER duty free. I went up an escalator and there was a brand new Alveston Red Range Rover in the store in the airport—duty free. The reason I was on the escalator in the first place was because I was looking for a cup of coffee. Good luck. I was with another guy who was looking for a diet coke. After half an hour of searching, passing twenty perfume stores and half a dozen newsstands, which don’t have coffee either, we finally found a little Haagen Dazs kiosk. Coffee!!! I am reasonably convinced that coffee is proof of the existence of God, and that He is a beneficent God…and it was gooooood coffee, too. Bonus: It might be strong enough to keep me awake for the entire trip.
Another oddity: Everyone smokes here. And, there is no distinction between smoking and non-smoking areas. The entire airport and everything in it, including me, smells like a cigarette.