Something happens when life gets complicated and moves beyond our ability to control. We get to choose.
Choose whether we believe that we are part of something greater than ourselves and embrace the journey, or fight it and become bitter and worn out.
Our travel to and from Ukraine was a breeding ground for those kinds of decisions and we were fortunate to be part of a group that was up for the challenge.
The complications we encountered were beyond inconvenient and tended toward the unbelievable . Every single flight a fight, 51 hours of edge-of-your-seat excitement. One giant debacle resulting in numerous opportunities to choose growth and grace over stagnicity and struggle.
Gate A17 in Indianapolis was our hang-out for about six hours on July 5th. There were mechanical issues and delays and the result was a missed international flight. We hunkered down in Indy for the night, claiming our 876 pieces of luggage, grabbing some dinner and preparing to wake early and do the suitcase shuffle….again.
Before bed, I found out the plan. We’d been rerouted and would possibly have to split into three groups to get to Ukraine. Instead of traveling through Chicago and Munich to get to Kiev, we would now go through Chicago, Frankfurt and Istanbul.
Yes, I said Istanbul. Gage immediately downloaded the song from I-Tunes to celebrate.
Now let me stop. I absolutely positively, in no way signed up to go to Turkey. Not to change planes, or even refuel, not for one little minute, not at all. Turkey was deal-breaker for me. Turkey, where people are shot on arrival for no good reason (at least in my head).
When you hear what happened at Dulles later, my claims about Turkey might not seem so preposterous. Just wait.
I debated the options and realized….I didn’t have any. Istanbul it was, so there was no reasonable argument for thinking about it further. I would simply pretend like we were going somewhere else…..and do a lot of praying.
We flew out of Indy the next morning and dug in for a 5 hour layover in Chicago. It sounded simple enough. Grab enough seating for 15, dump combined carry-on baggage which at minimum totaled the weight of three prisoners on Guantanamo Bay, find some food and read a book.
Ha. HaHa. HaHaHa. What a simple-minded idea of leisurely travel. This was not an adventure for the faint of heart. Rerouting a group of our size on an international flight is apparently very complicated business.
Because of our initial issues in Indianapolis, extensive changes were made to our tickets, the result was reservations through Kiev, but not necessarily tickets through Kiev. Boarding passes, the holy grail of travel, were scarce on each flight. We began an extended game of How Many People Are Checked In Now. I’d like to know for sure the total of times Keith and Ken collected all of our passports.
For someone who can’t keep track of her ring finger…this was challenging. I shuffled through my bag countless times looking for the slot that had made perfect sense a half hour before.
This is the story of my life. “Where can I put the concerts tickets so I’ll know exactly where they are. Oh, yes, underneath the shelf liner below the silverware caddy, that makes perfect sense, then I won’t lose them.”
The worst passport call-out for Gage and me, was in Frankfurt. I had just been subjected to the German Inquisition at the passport counter. It turns out we had to leave the secured area to get to the Lufthansa ticket counter to straighten things out.
Leaving the secured area in Germany ranked right up there with a fly-by in Turkey. I was one of the last to get through and my peeps, including Gage, were on the other side of a solid wall.
As in out of sight. And as far as I knew, being escorted somewhere by the Gestapo.
Understand, they had a completely different international status at that moment than I did. They were in Germany, I was in International Limbo. No doubt, a seasoned traveler would have handled this better, but I was sweating like a baseball mom in all-star season.
I’d had a horrible incident when stranded at the ATL airport in 1989 after a failed foggy landing attempt and subsequent reroute to Charleston for fuel. Let’s just say that the automated voice on the under-ground rail conjured up visions of Auschwitz.
So, a real live German officer yelling that I had to go Back. In a Completely Different Direction from my team, while my crew was Completely Out of View, Segregated, if you will, from me and Ryan, the rear escort of our convoy? It wasn’t good.
After several exchanges, I slowly (first mistake) told the uniformed gentleman that I did not understand what he was saying. He threw his hands up in the air, yelled something that was clearly not Auf Wiedersehen and stamped me into Germany.
We followed Ken around the Frankfurt airport like baby ducks trailing their mama. After he stood in line at the International Counter for an hour, we followed him to the Ticket Counter where he asked for passports. Gage and I were short one.
I realize that I can be overly expressive at times but the drama on this trip was honestly outta control. We hauled massive amounts of carry-on luggage, were hungry, dehydrated and exhausted; and when I couldn’t find the passport, I remembered the movie where Sally Field screamed, “not without my daughter,” and was sure Gage and I would be stuck in Germany indefinitely.
This was distinctly different from the time I thought Gage and I would be stuck in Kiev indefinitely.
Ryan and I responded quickly with complete and utter calm and located my passport in Gage’s hand and his passport tucked securely in his bag, preventing a heart-wrenching remake that would undoubtedly have made riveting overnight drama on The Hallmark Channel.
On our way back through German security, my bag was searched and I was escorted into a room where they ruled out my pillow as a possible shell of terror. My worst fears, were being realized. And I thought Ken might have a stroke.
In an anti-climactic turn, we reached the gate in Frankfort an exhausted, dehydrated, hungry wreck of a group. Two of us had boarding passes and the rest were on stand-by. We were told that the crash in San Francisco had opened up the possibility for all of us to board the flight. A perspective shifter, for sure.
In the end, 12 of us were put on the flight to Kiev with the remaining three guys boarding a flight 12 hours later. We were on course to arrive at camp with just 16 hours before the first campers would arrive.
After all of this drama, I’m simply blown away with what happened next. On the flight to Kiev, and in the passport line, God showed up and set the tone for the rest of my experience in Ukraine.
It’s an incredible story and I’m so excited to share it with you tomorrow
Thanks for hanging in there with me. This was a long post, and I didn’t even tell you about the guy that was literally drug away by two German officials as we sat waiting at the gate to fly to Kiev.
I’ll be back tomorrow.
The introduction to this story is here.
Part I of this story is over here.
Learn more about Mission To Ukraine here.