Monday, May 9, 2016

Cambodia, Day 0

It was pretty wonderful how many of the students' families turned out to send us off. There were a lot of extra hands loading and unloading luggage, and we were thoroughly and lovingly prayed over. Spirits ran sky high; lots of nervous energy, lots of rapid-fire banter. It felt very much like opening night, or Christmas morning, or an Apollo launch: something long anticipated finally underway.

In the Eugene airport, Mary Jo rounded several of us up to do some simple yoga. Come to find out Calvin is made of elastic, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure yoga poses. A few people had to squeeze past us to get to the vending machines, but they were clearly amused. Midway through that, the Alaska gate rep came on the PA to announce that because a bird collision cracked the pilot's window, our plane wasn't airworthy, so we had to wait on a replacement. That was awful news for a lot of folks who had tight connections, and were therefore no longer amused. But our itinerary included a six hour layover at Sea-Tac, so we had plenty of margin of error, and it was a good wake-up call about the crushing force of unexpected turns of events.

In Seattle, we chose travel buddies. Everyone is responsible for seeing that the buddy doesn't get left behind. In particular, we're supposed to take bathroom breaks in pairs. Pastor Troy chose me for his buddy, which I suppose makes us like those paired geezers you sometimes see playing checkers in the park. But if he tries to preach at me in the bathroom, I might have to bust him in the chops.

The long flight hasn't been what I thought it would be. I'm composing this paragraph a little past the halfway point. In the first place, the plane didn't exactly roar out across fathomless blue water. Instead, it skirted Canada and Alaska, and now I'm over Japan. The flight path meant land was never awfully far away, which seems in hindsight like the obvious sensible route. In the second place, sleep is impossible, but grogginess bordering on a dream state is just barely possible if I luck on the precise contortion that's the least uncomfortable, and if I don't get knocked out of it by turbulence. I don't have much to do apart from keep trying, so I think I might have carved out enough semi-sleep to semi-function. In the third place, it's quite hot for an airliner, but I fully grasp that in just a few hours I will regard the first half of this sentence as wildly absurd.

In the fourth place, I have come to fiercely wish I hadn't asked for black beans on my Qdoba burrito in Seattle. It's not that I'm skunk-spraying my fellow passengers, or would care that much if I were, since I'm seated between two complete strangers. It's more that because I'm between them, and it's a red-eye flight where everyone wants to sleep, I have to go easy on bathroom trips, since I have to wake one or the other of my neighbors every time I want out. When I do that, and it turns out just to be more black beans spouting like humpback whales, it's aggravating that I've wasted one of my finite permissible trips for flatulence.

Just now, I have to admit, I really hope no one is reading this.

The onboard entertainment has a bunch of David Bowie songs, so I'm currently listening to "Space Oddity." The first line is "Ground control to Major Tom," but I mouthed along, as I usually do, to my favorite misheard version of it: "Clown control to Mao Zedong." There's something very nifty about singing those words while coming in for a landing at Taiwan National Airport. 

And now we're taking off from Taipei. Next stop: Cambodia!


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