What an amazing group of total strangers we have met in our transition! We set the time for our departure from Stephenville, Texas, for 1 PM on Saturday, April 2nd. And we missed! Even though the Presbyterian Men showed up that morning (their Mission Work Day) to collect our trash, as promised; even with the help of my sister, Carol, my son, Julian, and wonderful members of First Presbyterian Church who gave of their time to help sort, pack, sell, distribute, and otherwise dispose of our STUFF (see my earlier post on this); even with the hotel stay on our last two nights in Texas (P.S. The Super 8 in Stephenville is a very spacious and comfortable hotel with a great staff); even with two-week foreknowledge of our flight time – despite all of that, we missed our departure time from Stephenville by 30 minutes – throwing last-minute items into what ever bag was nearby as we walked out the door! This added to our stress, as we had to stop in Granbury to notarize a document that will allow my son to use my car until I can complete payment and transfer the title to him. All this and Saturday traffic in the Metroplex put us at the airport at exactly two hours before departure – not three, as is recommended.
Fortunately – as we drove up to Terminal D in two cars with seventeen items of baggage to be checked and five items to carry onto the plane – we met several amazing strangers:
- There was the wonderful man who offered to allow our cars to sit in the valet parking area until we could get everything inside and checked at the counter without charging us a dime for that privilege. (My car sat there from the time we arrived, through our check in, through our passage through security, through Julian returning his rental car to Hertz, until he could return to claim it.)
- There was the lone skycap working the British Airways area of DFW airport who found two large carts and a friend to help us unload all our boxes and bags from the cars and transport them safely to the British Airways counter.
- There was the gentle stranger who came with a wheelchair for Mom who patiently waited for us to finish all our business at the British Airways counter and carefully transported her all the way through security to the gate for our flight.
- There was the amazing young man at the British Airways counter who checked us in, finding and securing seats together for us on our flight (which we thought had already been done by our travel agent in the USA, but did not show up that way when we checked in), checking all of our luggage through to Bangkok, and straightening out the financial details to our advantage, while keeping a smile on his face and putting up with good-natured ribbing from his co-workers in the process. He then showed up at the gate during the pre-boarding process to insure that we got onboard and settled into our seats!
We met other amazing strangers on our journey as well:
- There was the tall, slender man who showed up with a wheelchair at Heathrow who picked up Mom and took us through Immigration and put us on a bus to a nearby hotel (so that we could shower and sleep for ten hours before catching the next flight to Bangkok). Our travel agent in the USA had told us that the hotel was within walking distance – a statement that brought bursts of laughter (very un-British) to those working at Heathrow whenever we told our story.
- There was the young man working at the Sheraton Skyline in London who met us at the bus, helped us check in, and guided us to our room, took us to the restaurant in the hotel for breakfast, and picked us up in the evening to put us back on the bus to the airport.
- There were the two young men who showed up at the airplane door in Bangkok with TWO wheelchairs (one for Mom and one for me). I allowed my luggage to ride in the second wheelchair, as they took us through Immigration and Customs to Mike Fucella, who was waiting patiently outside. Somehow, in the LONG walk from the gate to Immigration, we developed a relationship with the two young men from half-remembered Thai and bits of English. When we arrived at Baggage Claim, they asked us how many bags we had and their eyes got very large when we said “Seventeen.” I think they thought we were kidding until I had pointed out all seventeen pieces – by which time they had acquired a very large cart and three more helpers!
All of our luggage arrived safely, though some of the boxes (small, brand new Uhaul boxes) had split at the seams and the books for the seminary here were visible. They would not have made a second transfer and I have learned a valuable lesson about what can and cannot survive baggage handlers around the world. I also learned some lessons (or re-learned some lessons) in Customs, but will save that story for another post.
Mike Fucella and the driver of the CCT (Church of Christ in Thailand) van took us safely and swiftly to the Bangkok Christian Guest House and waited until we had checked in and gotten our room key. Then, they took the fifteen pieces of luggage that we will not need in our first month here to be stored somewhere until we have found an apartment and are ready to settle in. Mom was warmly greeted by the staff of the Guest House, where she and Dad served as managers at three different times in their tenure as missionaries here. My eyes were closing even as I crawled into bed at 8 PM and I did not awaken until 4 AM, which I thought was pretty good for such a radical transition of time!
Mike and Jane Fucella will be our hosts for dinner tonight, where we will learn more, I am sure. In the meantime, we are learning that we packed well for this trip and need only a few things during this transition time. We recognize that we have been wonderfully blessed with the people whom God has placed in our path on this trip. How much more difficult it could have been! Now, if I could just log into my email account… but I have been spoiled on my own computer where I have not had to enter my Yahoo password for many years and now cannot remember it! This, too, shall pass…