Adventures in Turkey pt. 9: Reflections on the Longest Flight Back Ever

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Well, I was right about there being tears today.

In addition to being tired and already emotional, we had quite the adventure going through customs this morning…or should I say, TRYING to go through customs this morning.

We entered the airport, ready to go through the usual process of removing our shoes and going through security. I was personally in a “Let’s go,” mode; if I HAD to leave, I wanted to just be back in the States already. We asked for where we were supposed to go, were escorted to our place, and waited patiently in the long line, only to be told when we reached the front of it that not only were we in the wrong line, we were in the wrong part of the airport. We were given directions and trooped over there to wait in yet another long line. We had snaked through half of that line when a worker came over and asked us where we were flying to. “Chicago?” he repeated incredulously. “Why are you here, then?”

“We were told–”

“No, no. You’re not even in the right part of the airport. Follow me.”

Trailing behind him like a pack of lost, sad, American puppies, we joined the end of yet another long line. My patience was thin at this point, and judging by the faces of my silent friends, they were feeling the same. We finally reached the front of that line, where a very disapproving worker informed us that we needed to trek to the other side of the airport.

Reaching that designated area, Dr. B asked a security guard before we even got in line if we were in the right place. He checked our passports and shook his head.

I reached a low point.

“Are you kidding me? Is this for real?” I demanded, turning to Natalie, in line behind me. Her lips had tightened into one thin line and frustrated tears ensued from some. If we had been in the wrong place because of our own ignorance, that would have been one thing, but we had been taken not once, not twice, but three times, to the wrong place.

Finally, we found the correct spot, and worries churned inside me as I looked at the clock while remembering the time we were supposed to fly out. Thankfully, flying out of Turkey was less of a hassle than flying out of America; we breezed through security and customs, waited at our gate for a few moments, and then boarded. Seated by Natalie, I settled into my seat and turned around to peek several rows back at Beth, Dram, and Bayleigh, who all gave me a thumbs up, seemingly just as relieved as I was to finally be on the plane. Allyson and Caleb were seated several rows ahead of us.

Once we were in the air, I was able to lean back in my seat and relax (I’m not afraid to fly anymore, but I still get nervous on take off) but I found myself becoming restless. Since we flew out of Chicago at 10pm to get here, I slept the whole flight; flying back in the middle of the afternoon was a different story. I scrolled through some pictures I had taken, tried to do some homework that’s due tomorrow when I get back, and played peek a boo with the adorable 10 month old in the seat in front of me, but time is crawling by as I sit here writing. It’s surreal to look back on the time I’ve spent here and all of the experiences I’ve been able to have. I admit that I’m still a little on edge (aka crabby) but I am excited to tell all of my stories when I get home.

(Later)

We landed in Chicago at 7pm, disoriented and COLD. (It was nice to escape the Michigan winter for Turkey’s warmer climate.) As the plane taxied onto the runway, Natalie turned wide-eyed to me and said, “Turn your phone on.” I did so, only to receive text multiple text messages saying something along the lines of, “I know you’re not flying Malaysian Airlines, but I’m still nervous…please text me when you’ve landed back in the States.” I turned back to her with eyes just as big and asked, “What happened?”

She shrugged. “My mom said that we don’t even know all of the details yet, but apparently there’s a plane that’s just disappeared. I’m thankful we flew Turkish Airlines and not Malaysia.”

(A note several months later: I still get chills sometimes when I think about what could have happened had it been our plane, or had we been flying to Malaysia.)

Happiness over being home warred with the sadness of being home as I loaded my bags onto the bus and climbed in the seat. We have a loooong drive back to school now.

(Later)

We got back to school around 2am. Mom and Dad picked me up (and went to bed shortly after we returned home) but I’m wide awake, unpacking, doing laundry, and reliving my experiences rereading through this journal. Words are insufficient to express the gratitude I possess over having this opportunity. I’m so blessed.

If you missed previous entries:

Adventures in Turkey pt. 8: Dealing with Prejudices, Mustaches, and Bargaining

Adventures in Turkey pt. 7: Eat, Pray, Love

Adventures in Turkey pt. 6: Exploring More Ancient Cities

Adventures in Turkey pt. 5: EPHESUS

Adventures in Turkey pt. 4: Confronting my Own Ignorance

Adventures in Turkey pt. 3: Some Heartfelt but Definite Jet-Lagged Rambling

Adventures in Turkey pt. 2: In Which We Hit the Ground Running

Adventures in Turkey pt. 1: Anxiety and Excitement

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Dominican Republic Adventures

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I’m spoiled.

If you aren’t constantly smiling around the children, something’s wrong.

Let your hair down (literally) and you’ll instantly have three little girls braiding it.

There’s no such thing as giving too much love.

We’ve been blessed with more than we can comprehend, and we’re still not grateful. It’s sad.

People are incredibly kind and tolerant of your Spanish mistakes.

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They will always answer when you ask for the 117th time, “Como se dice….?”

However, if it has been seven attempts and you still cannot pronounce “bracelet,” correctly, the little girl on your lap will throw her hands up in exasperation.

The joy is incredible.

The love for Jesus is incredible.

The contentment is incredible.

You’ll pick up Spanish far faster than you ever thought possible, but you’ll also soon discover the language barrier you feared is broken down with hugs, smiles, and the love of Christ.

The Caribbean Sea is gorgeous.

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The poverty is heartbreaking.

There isn’t enough nail polish in the world to spread on little girl’s fingers and toes.

People here are unbelievably generous. You leave with gifts. They give whatever they have.

It’s one thing to read Jesus say, “Sell what you have and give to the poor”; it’s another thing entirely to experience firsthand why He said it.

A small loaf of bread is $3.

Your arms are full. Another child comes running, arms outstretched so you try to set the two down so the three can sit on your lap, and they instantly panic, afraid you’re setting them down for good. And your heart will break.

There’s basically no speed limit in the Dominican Republic.

Traffic lights and one way streets are basically suggestions.

You’ll never be loved by another human being as much as you are loved by DR orphans.

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Gas is nearly $7 American a gallon.

The friendly bus driver who speaks little English will still have his fun by pointing near your foot and saying, “Ay! Tarantula!” and then laugh his head off when you jump up in a panic.

I need to pray more.

Don’t try to fix everything (American mindset.) Love them.

You can’t comprehend how huge a problem sex trafficking is until you see with your own two eyes.

The deep faith young orphan girls possess will put your own to shame.

Don’t take antibiotics for granted. You’ll realize how spoiled we are with American medicine when you suddenly spike a fever and are delirious. Thankfully, you have a healing God and amazing team who will cover you in prayer.

Also, don’t take electricity for granted. And clean water…Basically, everything we DO take for granted.

Americans are rude! (First observation back in the States).
You’ll still think in Spanish for the first few hours after you’ve landed in the States.

They need so much more support than we give (emotionally, financially, physically, AND spiritually.)

You won’t leave unchanged.

The faces of all of those babies will never leave you.

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