Read every word, and no one gets hurt.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

One Kind of Flattery

Today at Perkins, I had just taken an order and had turned to bring it to the kitchen when a man from the adjacent section approached me.

"Hello," he said. He looked just like toy store owner on Toy Story 2, with a pony tail. "I just wanted you to know that I specifically asked for the young girl's section when I saw you, but instead I got stuck in some guy's section. I really wanted you. And I just wanted you to know."

"Oh... ok." I turned with wide eyes and continued my journey to the computers to punch in the order I still had in my hand. By the time I reached the computer, I had cracked a smile, and after successfully ringing in two eggs benedict and a turkey club, I laughed loud and long.

What was he trying to do? Flatter me? Because all the feeling he managed to excite in me was that creepy, get-me-away-from-this-guy-right-now feeling. Honestly. The young girl's section? If that's not spooky, I don't know what is.

I understand what could have happened. It's very possible he's sat in my section before, and enjoyed himself. So when he walked into the lobby today and saw I was working, he simply asked for my section by pointing to the right and referring to me as the "young girl", to distinguish me from the older woman working in the next room. At that point one of two things happened. Possibly Nack (a Thai girl with limited English skills) was there to seat him, and all she understood was the pointing finger, so she took him in the general direction, and he ended up at one of Chris's tables. Otherwise, it was Josh seating, and his creep radar sounded an alarm just as loudly as mine did, so he did what he could to protect me from the weird guy.

But perhaps the man should have thought before opening his mouth. All it sounded like to me was that he walked in, looked around, found a girl who suited his fancy, and asked for her section. Lucky me.

I choose to believe the first scenario, mostly to keep myself from being too creeped out. But whatever the case, I think that guy needs to work on his word choice. (And the pony tail needs to go, too.)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Chapter One - The Longest Day Ever

There are some things that can't be understood until they're experienced. One of those things is traveling west across the International Date Line. (Well, either direction, really. Both are strange.) I can never decide if I've lived the longest day of my life, or two of the shortest days back to back. Those of you have made a similar trip are nodding your heads with that I know exactly what you mean look on your faces. The rest of you are confused. Let me explain.

I left my house for the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport as the sun was rising on Monday morning. I arrived in the Tokyo/Narita airport as it was setting on Tuesday night.... with no nightfall in between. I'm not sure this was so good for my mental health or general well being. Daylight is, of course, delightful. But twenty-some consecutive hours of daylight, seen only through airport glass and those tiny plane windows, can be a fearsome thing. I guess we did have sort of a man-made night about midway through the Portland-Tokyo flight (the flight attendants closed all the windows and turned off the lights for three hours), but that just made the experience even eerier.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. At the very beginning of The Day That Wouldn't End, I was just a Minnesota girl at home with 120 lbs. of luggage waiting by the front door. After stuffing it into my mom's trunk, we stopped to pick up my friend and fellow Vietnam-bound traveler (who had more like 150 lbs. of luggage, plus carry-on) and were ready to meet the team and check in before 7 AM. When bags were weighed, checked, and taken away from us, I turned to say good-bye to my mom. In some ways I consider myself a "seasoned traveler," having been on 7 overseas adventures. So the sudden tremor of nervous energy that surged through me as took my leave was surprising. I remember thinking, I feel like I'm leaving for the other side of the world. It momentarily occurred to me with some unwarranted shock that that's exactly what I was doing. I hugged her and smiled, but my mouth felt all trembly and funny, and I knew if I stayed one more second I would burst into tears. "Bye!" I said cheerfully, and I picked up my backpack and went.

The nervous excitement that took up residence in my little tummy was short-lived. Long or multiple flights have a way of stripping me of just about every normal human feeling. And this day's flights were both multiple and long. So the anticipation and anxiety that rattled around inside had settled to a barely-registering low by the time we landed in Portland. After a four-hour layover there, it was at zero. By the time the nine-hour-flight to Tokyo, the excitement level had plunged into the sub-zeros and I actually think I had some sort of negative tally. We had another three hours there, and all I could do was breathe. Not eat, not talk, not laugh, not enjoy a book or a CD... just breathe. And walk, I guess. I had the vague notion that if I didn't move, I might cease to exist, that's how non-human I felt. So I walked with a friend (the same friend of the heavy-luggage reputation.)

But as those few hours drew to an end, I felt a surge of... something. Not really energy, but at least happiness in some measure. Tokyo to Bangkok was our last flight of The Day, and we were about to board. Now, I'm not sure where we got this idea, but our entire team was under the impression that this final flight was going to be the shortest. I mean, heck, we're already in Asia. What can the airtime be between two Asian cities? An hour or two at most, right? Then the news was broken - this was a 6-7 hour flight, depending on tail winds. My heart sunk and that excitement level plunged even deeper in the hole. I'm not sure what I would have done if I hadn't noticed a mother of four children struggling to wake her little ones so they could board.

Instinctively, I approached and asked if I could help. She spoke fairly good English, and accepted my offer thankfully. Her youngest, a little girl of two at the most, was sleeping on a blanket, and would not wake up, not even to the hearty shaking from her older brother. I scooped her up gently and led the troops to the front of the line, where we were allowed to board first. As we walked down the walkway toward the plane, the little girl suddenly picked her head up and looked at me with wide eyes. After solemnly surveying my face for a few seconds, she carefully put her head back on my shoulder and went back to sleep. It was precious. As the mother thanked me, I felt gratitude fill my own heart. For just a few moments, I was lifted out of my emotionless, sub-human state and given something to do. It was a lifesaver.

We landed in Bangkok, Thailand and arrived at our hotel just before midnight and just after we all decided it might be better to just lay down and die. After 3 or 4 shuttle trips, all our luggage was accounted for and we headed up to our rooms. Stifling heat greeted us, but the AC cooled things down pretty quickly. As my head rested on a pillow, and my body was stretched out all the way (both of these are luxuries, as you realize after that much traveling), I felt as though I had not only left my home years ago, but also become someone else entirely in the process. No longer did I care about the Bread, the camp, or the upcoming training in Vietnam - all I wanted was sleep. And I got it.

Besides, I knew everything would look differently in the morning!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Sorry, folks, but it occurred to me that it might not be that wise to write about my trip online, where just about anyone would have access to it. I'm running the idea past someone who would know better than I would, and I'll let you know as soon as I find out if Chapter 1 is actually on it's way or not. Sorry for the delay.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

My Idea

Last June, I went to Vietnam. I'm trying to find words that aren't cliche to describe what that trip was like. I want to say "words cannot describe..." but that's so overused. I want to talk about how it "changed my life," even though just about everyone who goes on a missions trip says that when they return, and really, for how many is it actually true? I want to tell you all about how it "opened my eyes" to so many things I'd never seen before, but again, so many people say that.

I returned from Vietnam on July 3rd. The very next day I celebrated American freedom with a patriotic service and our traditional family outing to Excelsior to hear the the Minnesota Orchestra and watch the fireworks. And the day after that... life took off again. Every night as I fell asleep, I promised myself I would start writing about the trip... tomorrow. Days became weeks, and weeks months. And here I am a solid 5 months later, with not one word written about this incredible experience. (Well, I take that back. I think I did write one journal entry about the elephant I saw in Thailand, but that doesn't count.)

So my idea is this: to write about Vietnam in a series of posts on this blog. My reasons are these: first, typing is faster than pen-and-journal; second, if some of you get interested in my stories, and I quit, you might complain, and that would help me to continue writing. And I really want to get these stories out. I've said them several times, but not for several months, so it may take several attempts to get them all out accurately. So please bear with me.

I promise it will be worth it, at least to me, but probably to you, as well. Because (I might as well come right out and say it) words really can't describe how amazing this trip was, and it really did change my life. It honestly opened my eyes to a world I had never before encountered. And I never want to forget why.

So stay tuned. Vietnam Chapter 1 is on its way.