It’s 4:30 AM. I’m wide awake—courtesy of jet lag—so I figure I may as well do something productive for a while. Maybe, in a half hour or so, sleep will take over again. I can only hope. In the meantime, I’ll record some highlights of our trip that began on Monday, July 2.
First stop—London’s Heathrow airport. We face a 7.5 hour layover so we buy tickets for the underground train and take a one-hour ride into the city center. We zip on foot past touristy highlights—Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben and the parliament buildings, the Thames River, the Eye of London, Trafalgar Square, and finally Piccadilly Square. The city bustles with preparations for the summer Olympics scheduled to begin in less than three weeks. People, people everywhere. I hear numerous languages spoken in passing.
I know I’m not in Canada when using a public restroom costs 50 pence. Not sure how much that translates into Canadian dollars, but one doesn’t have time to do math when nature calls. To safeguard from people abusing this system, the coins must be deposited into a machine before a turnstile will open to allow patrons into the toilet area. A North American woman wrangles verbally with the man stationed there to catch those daring to defy the turnstile by crawling underneath it. “But my daughter had to go,” she says. “It was an emergency.” The man does not look impressed but he recognizes a mother bear and backs off.
We return to the airport, grab a bite to eat, and then head to security to catch our next flight. The security guard checks our boarding passes. “I believe you’re in the wrong terminal,” he says. “Go to a check-in counter and ask whether you should be in Terminal 5 or 3.”
We’ve done this trip several times and always used Terminal 5, but someone changed things since last summer. And so the race to Terminal 3 begins. Escalators, lifts (aka elevators), an underground express train, moving sidewalks, a dash through the biggest (and most strategically placed) duty-free section I’ve ever seen, and a panicked glimpse at a sign that says our flight is now boarding…and we finally arrive at our gate. In the training sessions we teach before our missions trips, we stress flexibility and the art of lingering. Now it’s time to put those skills into practice. Apparently the person who posts a flight’s status (ie: “now boarding”) was a wee bit hasty. At least we have time to catch our breath.
We arrive in Budapest, Hungary at 12:30 AM local time. By now I’ve been awake for more than 30 hours and my body cries for rest. That time will come soon enough, but first we need to claim our bags. “Thank You, God, for answering our prayer for all our luggage to arrive with us.” We wait outside the airport a mere five minutes before our hotel shuttle arrives. Within an hour, we’ve checked into our rooms, adjusted the air conditioning to cool things down, and collapsed into bed. And so ends a very long day filled with great memories.
The next morning we meet our six American teammates who arrived in Budapest the day prior. Four are alumni from last summer’s team, and we’re excited to work with them again. Following a breakfast of omelettes, tomato and cucumber slices, and yogurt mixed with preserved cherries, we find shelter under a gazebo to escape the already-hot sunshine. There we pray and sing worship songs—a strong foundation for the work ahead of us.
No sooner have we finished our meeting when a car and a van towing a tarped trailer arrive for us. The drivers are International Messengers staff with whom we’ve partnered for this ministry trip. Introductions and greetings exchanged, we load our luggage—all 19+ pieces—and pile in for our six-hour drive through Hungary to Timisoara, Romania. “God, please give us safety and an easy border crossing.” He answers that prayer.
Next stop: Timisoara (pronounced “timmy-shwore-ah”). This is a city marked with history. Communism began its tumble here in December, 1989. The city square, once jammed with 100,000 protestors upon whom the military opened fire, is one block from our hotel. Tonight men, women, and children stroll the square. Some (ourselves included) lick ice-cream cones (we pay a whopping 65 cents for four soft ice-cream cones). Others sit in patio restaurants sipping cold drinks while standing electrical fans spray cool mist on them. One sign tells us it’s 114 degrees F. Bedtime comes, and we wander back to our hotel, thankful for air conditioning and a clean, comfortable bed. G’night.
I’ll post again as I’m able!