Excitement has been building for weeks as we prepare for two new volunteers to join us here in Thailand. Emails have been flying back and forth between the USA and Thailand as we have explained the process for getting a 90-day Non-Immigrant Visa and sharing suggestions on what to pack. Finally, all was prepared and I flew to Bangkok to receive our new volunteers. They, in turn, were packed, said their farewells to folks at home, and went to the airport with all their luggage to board their flights. Ben was the first to arrive on Saturday night. His flight was 90 minutes late arriving in Bangkok, but he walked out of Immigration and Customs in the “normal” one-hour time period after that – around 9 PM. After we found each other in the crowd outside the arrival area, he shared the news that all was not well. Sometime in the five different plane changes and flights he took to get to Bangkok, his two pieces of luggage – one of which is his treasured acoustic guitar – went missing. We spent the next two hours wandering around Suvarnabhumi Airport searching for Air China staff or someone who might be willing to help us track down his luggage. The wonderful staff at Thai Airways helped us submit a report and promised us that the luggage would be delivered to the Guest House as soon as it was received. Ben and I then took a taxi to the Guest House where Ben check in and went to his room to crash.
It was midnight when I returned to Suvarnabhumi Airport to wait for Ed Benner to come out of Immigration and Customs. When I got there, I learned that his flight had arrived 30 minutes early and he should be emerging from Customs at any minute. “Any minute” turned into 30 minutes… one hour… two hours… By this time, I had called the Bangkok Christian Guest House to find out whether we had missed each other and he had gone on ahead of me. But, no. They had not seen him. Would they please call me if he showed up? Of course. I wandered around the airport to see whether he had gone to find somewhere comfortable to sit down. No. I asked for help from the Tourist Police, but all they could tell me was that not all of the luggage for that flight had arrived. I waited one more hour and then, at 3 AM, headed back to the Guest House without him. My total for the day was not good: one volunteer late with no luggage and one volunteer unaccounted for.
But God is not dead – nor doth He sleep! Early the next morning, I received an email from Ed Benner. His flight from San Francisco had been delayed and he missed his connection in Beijing. He would be on the same flight the following evening. So, Sunday evening, I returned to my “favorite place” to spend some more time waiting. A quick check with Thai Airways resulted in my finding the very person who had received Ben’s guitar and packed bag. He hooked me up with someone who could take me back into Customs and Immigration to get the two bags, sign for them, and walk them through Customs (choosing the Green (No Declarations) Lane and hoping that I was right or that no one would stop me). No one stopped me. Ed’s flight was one hour late, but he was on it and came through Customs almost exactly one hour after his flight landed. So, the story ends happily with two new volunteers sharing orientation with me.