Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Journey Continues…

Well, this has certainly been one of the more interesting of our journeys.   Our four days in Bangkok were filled with wonderful fruit, good friends (we unexpectedly ran into some Tansen friends at the Bangkok guest house—what a pleasant surprise!), new cultural experiences for Ana, and simple play.  We resumed our journey toward Spokane at 11:30pm, on a night flight to Korea.  This allowed for four or five hours of sleep.  We arrived early in the morning in Seoul and since we had twelve hours to kill, we decided to take a city tour on a bus.  Dave had investigated the possibility on-line, weeks before our arrival.   It looked so simple: just purchase a ticket at the airport, for a city bus going to the tour bus starting point, get on the tour bus (which would take us around the city for two hours, if we didn’t get off), and then return to the airport on that same city bus.  The website said that all of the tickets could be purchased at one place in the airport.  Do you ever find that website claims do not always follow actual experience?
Well, this isn’t the first time that we have benefitted from Dave’s persistence, but after an hour of seeking answers, we found ourselves on a city bus, experiencing the heart of Seoul.  We tried so hard to stay awake, but the tour bus starting point was 90 minutes away, and I don’t think any of us made the entire trip without dozing off (and some of us saw less of Seoul than we had intended).  Anyway, we did successfully make the transfer to the tour bus, and then selected our first stopping point: the national museum.  The unfortunate detail of our one day in Seoul was the unusual downpour of rain.  The walk from the bus to the museum entrance was between 5 and 10 minutes, which was plenty of time for our clothes and our carry-on bags to become drenched.  We hoped that a few hours in the museum would give us adequate drying time.  The anthropology and history lovers among us really enjoyed the walk through history at this lovely Korean museum.  We were mostly dried (but our bags were not) as we braved the continued downpour several hours later when we had to return to our bus.  Our exhausted Joshua managed to do a “face plant” on the slick pavement before we made it to the bus stop (and he wasn’t the only one to slip in the rain today).  However, not a group to be easily daunted, we re-boarded the tour bus and continued another hour and a half, viewing Seoul, and hoping to get back to the part of the city where we had seen restaurants.  Now we were battling hypoglycemia; the last meal was coffee/hot chocolate and donuts/bagels at 7am; it was now nearing 3pm.  Ana’s instant protein shake (only needs to be mixed in water) was shared and helped stave off hunger pangs a little longer.  Thanks, Ana!
Just as we were nearing what we thought was the eating district, we discovered that it was also the political district.  Looking out our windows, we were seeing hundreds of police donning riot gear.  We asked the tour guide what was going on, and she non-chalantly replied that this is the season of political campaigns and the police were simply present to keep everyone safe.  So we disembarked the bus through a crowd of young police and soon found ourselves witnesses of one of the largest political demonstrations in many years.  The protest was against several things, including the trade agreement with the U.S. and university tuition increases.  The riot police had completely surrounded the crowd that was marching down the street and police barricades blocked one segment of the busy downtown streets.   Hunger was really setting in, and we greatly desired to quickly get away from the unhappy crowd of demonstrators.  After a long, circuitous route (Did I mention that it was still raining?  Thankfully, it was only a drizzle at this point.), we managed to purchase a couple of buckets of KFC chicken.  We didn’t have enough Korean wan to let everybody choose their own meal, but the chicken was consumed with gusto and thankfulness.  (We were surprised to find that the Korean wan is considerably devalued; 1050 wan to the dollar.  We were also surprised to discover how high the prices were in Seoul.) 
Now, our biggest concern was how to get back to the airport when traffic was considerably backed up by the demonstrators.  We weren’t even sure how to find the correct location for the airport bus pick-up, in all of the confusion at that particular place in the city.  We were so blessed by an English-speaking Korean man, who clearly identified our confusion and offered help.  LORD, please bless the man who walked us to the correct bus stop! 
We did make it back to the airport, one hour before our boarding time…but alas, with delays for unclear reasons, it turned out to be three hours before our boarding time.  And again, we were blessed: by free food vouchers for 10,000 wan each, in compensation for the extra wait.  We have certainly re-entered the developed world, and our bodies were thankful for the extra food and the warmth of the airport.  Now we are in the air, over the Pacific Ocean, re-living Wednesday June 29th.  So far, it doesn’t seem as eventful the second time around.  See you soon (for those who follow from Spokane)!
Reporter, on assignment with the Beine Bunch
P.S.  We’re still in Seattle.  Our flight schedule has been revised four times now.  We hope to make it home before dark tonight.  In Seattle, where we thought all connections would go smoothly, we have found our cell phones aren’t working (for unknown reason), our Skype connection keeps cutting out (thank you to the three lovely strangers who have let us borrow their phones as our plans have changed), we got charged $150 to change our domestic flight because our international flight was late, they requested payment for each checked bag (Thank you, LORD, for the nice lady who waived that fee!), and we’ve abandoned our plan for burgers and hot dogs upon arrival in Spokane.  Still, clam chowder at the airport is a welcome treat.  Even with all of the unexpected changes, we have found nice people all along the way to help us maneuver the situations.  We continue to hope to sleep soundly in our own beds tonight…and I hope we can find kindness for each other in our extreme exhaustion.   Thanks for praying!

Friday, June 24, 2011

In the Hands of Unseen Angels

Thank you for praying for our journey home.  We are in the air between Delhi, India and Bangkok, Thailand, and it has already been quite an adventure.  It started with our taxi driver arriving 20 minutes later than we had requested.  Okay, we’re talking Nepal; that isn’t really late.  We are so thankful that we actually follow the “three hours early” international flight rules; it gives time for the unexpected.  Just 50 yards into the journey, we hit our first “unexpected.”  The taxi got stuck in the mud at a corner and could not make the turn.  (This is monsoon season, even though the rains haven’t been that heavy yet.)  The side door of the taxi (van) was pressed up against the vegetation and rocks and could not be opened.  We all chose to exit the taxi by the front passenger door.  The four strongest among us (Dave, DW, Nick and the driver’s assistant) got in front of the taxi and started working to rock it out of the mud.  The rest of us stood up on a ledge above the taxi “just in case anything happens” (as moms can be known to say).  They successfully got the van out of the mud and turned onto the steeply inclined downhill path, but what happened next was completely unexpected and I’m not even entirely sure exactly how and why it happened.  I know that the van began to careen down the path and the men on the edges of the front quickly jumped out of its way.  However DW was right in the middle of the front of the van and I saw the van push him backward.  I remember screaming out loud, “LORD JESUS, PLEASE SAVE DW!”  And then I saw the 12-foot skid of the tires on the pathway.  With great relief, I also saw DW in the bushes on the side of the path, about eight feet down from where the van first began to push him down.  It took at least five minutes for everybody to get over the shock (Joshua burst into tears, out of concern for his “uncle DW”), particularly the driver, who apologized more than once.

When we got to the Kathmandu airport, we were told that the flight between Delhi (our next destination) and Bangkok had been oversold, so they weren’t sure that they could get us to Bangkok.  They asked us to sit down near the check-in counter and wait for 1 ½ hours at which time they would be able to re-book us directly to Bangkok, on another airline.  That sounded great to us.  We easily passed the time, waiting and hoping to get up to the next level where we could get something to eat.  After that 1 ½ hours, as the flight to Delhi was boarding, they called us up to check our bags to Delhi, because somehow the flight was no longer overbooked.  We rushed onto the aircraft, missing our opportunity to eat.  The strangest part of this was when they put us on a bus at the airport doorway, to drive us about 100 yards, so that we could board the plane that was about 50 yards from the doorway we had just exited.  Some things defy understanding in a different culture.

So, we made it to Delhi, where they rushed us to the front of the security line, because our flight to Bangkok was already boarding, and for some strange reason, we got stopped because of something in Jake’s bag that looked like a “file or a knife.”  They sent different items of his bag through the scanner at least a half dozen times and finally narrowed it down to his toiletries bag.  It wasn’t anything in the bag but something about the bag.  Just when I was convinced that they were going to slice the seams of the bag to see if something was stitched inside the fabric, they decided there was nothing there and let us go.  Then we had to get through another inspection of our passports.  Again Jake was stopped because his passport expires 12 days shy of 6 months from today, and we were told that he had to have at least six months left until his passport expiry date in order to stay in Thailand.  What?  In the end, the problem was resolved when we learned that this applies only to Indian citizens, not American citizens.  No time to try and understand that one; we went on a mad dash across the airport (I didn’t know Ana could move so quickly; we could barely keep up with her).
We got on the plane in time, and the only excitement so far is the puddle of urine in the lavatory that results from so many passengers unfamiliar with a western toilet.  Ah, the adventures one can have in this world.  I’ll write more before I post this, as the journey continues.  We really are thankful for those who lift us up before the throne of God.  There is a battle going on in the spiritual realm.  And yet I am absolutely convinced that nothing will come our way that isn’t filtered through our Father’s hand.  We are trusting in Him wholeheartedly.  If we were seeking safety and comfort, we would certainly have never left the salt-shaker.  But then again, what good is salt that stays in the shaker?  DW’s final words when we left him this morning were, “God is good.”  Amen!  And Nick cast a pearl my way when this flight started:  “You know we had some potential disasters/problems this morning, but in the end, nothing bad really happened.”  I praise the LORD for the maturity of our oldest son.  By the way, Spokane dwellers, Nick has just surpassed my height; I guess he is growing in all sorts of ways.
Until later…
The only other adventure we had was when the plane was just over the runway, about to touch down, and then it began to rise again into the air and circle the airport.  The pilot said this was due to “too much traffic on the runway.”  Unfortunately, all of that circling brought on Nathan’s motion sickness that he had managed to avert up until that point in the flight.  We are so blessed that he has the grit to face challenges with a “can-do” attitude.  We are all happily settled now in our favorite guest house in Bangkok.  We feasted on roasted chicken, sticky rice, real milk and ice cream for dinner.  We’ll have four days here and then finish our trip back to our other home.  We expect to be in Spokane on Wednesday evening.
Thank you for taking the adventure with us,
Kimberly, for the Beine Bunch

P.S.  The views of “mountains sitting on clouds,” as we left the Kathmandu valley, were incredible!