There and Back Again


Christmas in Knoxville!  My last blog got posted a few hours before I snatched the 4:30 a.m. train to the airport, and here I am back after three weeks at home!  I shall try to summarize….

The trip was long, as three flights and intervening layovers are bound to be, but the flight over The Pond was grand (did I just say that?) — no particularly great urge to sleep (despite just 40 minutes of sleep the night before, due to finishing off Christmas shopping at a few Christmas markets and then blogging and packing) and time to watch six episodes of the Downton Abbey season I missed at the beginning of the year.  Mom and Dad and Hannah practically helped shut down the Knoxville airport for the evening, waiting for my delayed flight from Detroit; and we were all glad to head home and tumble into bed.

The first few days I kept feeling that everything was “the same” (as though it should have changed!)  I guess I’ve changed, or just experienced lots of “different” in the last 15 months.  One night I had a dream in which I realized, with a sense of disappointment, that I’d forgotten the deal with my roommate to speak only German.  Ha! (Side note: I started The Lord of the Rings, auf Deutsch, on the way home.  I was afraid it might seem pale somehow in a second language, but once I got into it a ways, I don’t want to put it down!)

Of course, Christmastime at home is busy — a tree waiting to be decorated, Christmas baking to do, and visits with local family and friends.  Hannah and I worked in a short trip to Greenville, South Carolina, to visit friends from college days, Joel and Jessica Koontz and their little Claire.

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At the last minute, my uncle and aunt from St. Louis decided to come for Christmas, which was a grand surprise.  Besides enjoying rounds of hand-and-foot (a great card game), we took a couple lovely walks in sunny, crisp weather; ate an inordinate amount of Christmas fare; and enjoyed Christmas afternoon with friends from church joining us for dinner and games and Christmas carol singing.

waiting for Christmas breakfastChristmas morning is, in my opinion, the best time of the year. The traditional danish coffeecake was delicious and the enjoyment unhurried.  When the dishes were washed and the turkey in the oven, we finally got around to the presents under the tree.  I was quite excited about the homemade Eierlikör (eggnog) I’d made for Mom and our visiting rellies and quite surprised by the Nook Hannah had invested in for me!

After Christmas Hannah organized a party at her place for catching up with a group of friends. Then, of course, there were the welcome one-one-one meetings with Ivy, Sarah, Jessica, old neighbors, local aunts and uncles and cousin, Nepali friends, church friends….  No wonder I didn’t get in as much piano practice as I anticipated!

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New Year’s Eve was very happily spent with Hannah and friends from Bryan College days. It’s almost a wonder we didn’t end up sore the next day from all the laughter, and it was great to get caught up on where people are these days — from nurse anesthetist student, to CDC director in Central Asia, to parents expecting their first baby.  Lots of fun, even if we were all fading by midnight.

Hannah and I managed to stay up later for a last-minute decision to see the second Hobbit installment the last night before I was to leave.  We both had heard mixed reports, but it was quite fun — and definitely out-of-character for both of us — to catch a 10:30 showing.

All good things — this side of the new heavens and new earth, that is — must come to an end.  And, some of the most meaningful things, fleeting as they are  — laughter with Hannah over a now-forgotten subject, good conversation with Mom over coffee, tossing the football with Dad — don’t really beckon for a bloggish description.

…and Back Again.

The trip back to Vienna promised to be a longish adventure. I was looking forward to a day’s layover in Amsterdam and a visit to an art museum, at least; but both long and adventuresome ended up taking on unexpected proportions. However, after hearing about friends’ taking several days to get from Knoxville to Toronto, my tale doesn’t seem to bad. Nonetheless, it was cathartic to write sitting in the cold lobby of a Chicago hotel, but feel free to skim or skip!

5:20 p.m. Sunday, January 6th: I’m supposed to fly to Detroit (Oh, great! Detroit’s plunging into the snow and frigid temperatures dominating national news coverage.)  Delayed. Canceled.  It’s nice to have another night at home – finish reading aloud the Mitford book Hannah and I are enjoying re-reading aloud, etc.  But, at the same time, I feel like I’ve already entered the airport limbo – a time zone all its own.

11:45 a.m., Monday, January 7th: I’ve been re-routed and am supposed to fly to Atlanta and then Chicago (isn’t it awfully cold there, too?) and then over The Pond to Vienna. Delayed. I say good-byes to Dad and Mom and Hannah. …Now I have entered the second level of airport limbo – when you are at home but not.

4:30 p.m.: After delays out of Atlanta and into Chicago, I’m pretty sure I’ve missed my flight scheduled for 4:10, but who knows.  The domestic terminal I finally enter is crowded, as though hoards are gathering for a sporting event but lack the enthusiasm of a team to cheer for.  I’m told to find Terminal  5 – a bus is shuttling people, as the train isn’t operational.  The international terminal is eerily quiet.  Why are most of the check-in desks unmanned, and why is the Austrian Air desk so hard to find?

Finally, a helpful agent. Hurry! Your flight has been delayed! You can still catch it by 5:30! Security. Long hallways. Hurrah, I’ve made it!

2 hours later: Thanks to Austrian Air in-cabin entertainment, I’ve been reasonably happy watching a climbing documentary and listening to classical music while reading Tolkien, but we still haven’t lifted off.  I help the older Polish lady next to me find her ear phones and the pop music station. Something’s wrong with the luggage loading, but we’re supposed to be off soon!

9:00 p.m.: Sorry. You’ve overstayed your welcome. The law states you can’t sit endlessly on the tarmac [it’s been 3 ½ hours]. Please exit the plane, and we’ll re-book you.

1:22 a.m., Tuesday, January 7th: After 4+ hours standing in virtually the same spot in line, I have a flight and hotel booked. The printer the agents are using is one of those old-timey ones where you have to tear off the perforated edges – it’s a visual commentary on the efficiency of the process.

2:40 a.m.: After finding that the promised shuttle service is ended for the night; hiring a taxi (with three others from our flight – the middle-aged lady who works on an oil-searching ship off the Bulgarian coast has enough dollars to pay for the taxi, and we other three, all Vienna residents, pay her back in the dollars or Euros we have in our pockets); braving the Chicago -10 F.; and writing emails to school and uni professor that I will miss Tuesday and Wednesday commitments, I fall into bed.  No lunch or dinner, really, but at least there’s a hotel room covered by the airline and the promise of breakfast in the morning and hopefully smooth sailing (via Frankfurt) to Vienna, arriving mid-morning Wednesday!

…Happily, the rest of my travels are uneventful.  The five of us travelers who find ourselves re-booked on the same flights keep each other company waiting in more lines and wading through airports.  Strangely enough, the girl I talk with most lives just one tram stop away from me; so, we’ll have to get together sometime.

11:45 a.m., January 8th: Getting off the train at my station, I’m surprised and delighted to see Rachel has come to meet me, help with luggage, and even serve up lunch.  A great roommate!

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6 Responses to There and Back Again

  1. Linda Lind says:

    You are an extraordinary artist! Words, photography, presentation, music. all of these! I’ve had experiences of flight delays and cancellations, but I’ve not put the stories together very artfully. I tend to just reveal my frustrations. I, too, have been assigned a hotel room near O’Hare, arriving after 1am, needing to catch the shuttle back at have the departure further delayed for several more hours. United Airlines. The worst was being held over in Dakar, Senegal for 24 hours. We were shuttled to hotels based on the cost of our tickets. Of course, we shopped for the best bargain. We did not get assigned to the Radisson or Embassy Suites ;-} Our luggage was off-loaded since the plane had mechanical problems, so we had our belongings,… except my luggage hadn’t made it onto the plane to begin with. I had always been careful to have a complete change of clothes and p.j.’s in my carryon, but for whatever crazy logicsince we were on our way home, I didn’t. No toothbrush, no clean undies. Ugh! At the fine hotel we were assigned to there was no complimentary toiletries, no little shop for sundries, no place to get local currency, I just had to be less than fresh, and accept it. I was with Nancy Pearson, returning from Mozambique. We hadn’t had a hot shower for almost 2 weeks, but she had her luggage, she could shower. I just stunk. When your mom and I were going to Egypt, our flight was cancelled due to weather in Knoxville, and rescheduled for the following day. On our return we had an Egyptian airport worker who didn’t want us to go through the security line. Your mom was unruffled, I was a bit concerned. We got in line to go through security when lots of other people were there, the worker lost track of us. I have more stories, good stories of how God provided in my travels. Flying safely to London the day of the bombing and being able to stay with the Bentons certainly is memorable. Landing in Maputo, Moz., carrying in a new Bernina sewing machine, having everyone praying that we’d be dealt with fairly in customs, then having the electricity at the airport go out, was absolutely thrilling. We walked through without having to pay a cent. (That was the front end of the trip with the delay in Dakar. It was good to remember that God was with us from the outset) I plan to return to Mozambique in April. My last 2 trips have had the complication of them holding my passport overnight due to technical issues. It was unnerving the first time, less so the second time. But, please do pray for us, that those who would cause harm, would not.

    I so wished I could have attended your recital in the chapel the last Friday you were in town. I had committed to being with Almaz, and I needed to keep that commitment. I’ve gotten rather wordy. Your blog inspired me. I do pray as you have asked, and I look forward to hearing the ways God reveals to you his will for next year. Blessings, Linda off to watch Downton Abbey

    Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2014 21:22:34 +0000 To:

  2. How did Rachel know which train you’d be on? Very nice of her to come meet you and help transport luggage!

  3. shelleykiser says:

    Eva- It’s so so good to hear how you are doing. I”m glad you had a good time in the states! 🙂


  4. Jo Schaller says:

    What a wonderful writer you are. You make your experiences come alive for me. So glad you had a wonderful holiday and are back safely. Fondly Jo

  5. uncle jerry says:

    So good to see you at Christmas. I always look forward to hearing about your “adventures”.

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