Sitting on a flight to LA, I can’t help but notice that the man sitting next to me doesn’t appear to speak any English. He talks on his phone, I assume he’s saying a last few goodbyes and I’m on the plane nows, but I don’t really know. I wasn’t listening.
He stows his phone long after they’ve warned for the 5th time to “turn off all electronic devices.” I get nervous. What happens if we don’t? Does it make the plane crash? Does it interfere with the radio signals? Does it mess up the engine controls? I don’t know…but it must do something because they always make us turn them off. He finally puts his phone away, but I’m not sure that it was powered down. Ok Lord…please, don’t let this trip all the way to Bangladesh end just 5 minutes into the air above Charlotte.
I’m sitting in the window seat. Next to me is the man who doesn’t seem to want to engage because we dont’ share a language. Beside him is the guy with Michael Bolton hair circa 1991 and camo pants. Doesn’t look like conversation for my 5 hour flight is going help pass the time.
So I sit and begin to run through my mind all of the things I can do to pass this first, my shortest flight, of this great adventure I’m on.
I reach into my bag and take out some celery. Celery, because I’m so clever that it has extra water in it…surely this will aid in staving off fat swollen feet over the next 24 hours of upright travel. Probably not though since they’re already swelling from the pizza I ate last night for dinner.
The plane begins to shake. The kind of shaking that reminds you that mother nature is capable of snapping like a twig this man-made metal flying box that I’m in. My stomach drops. Tears form in my eyes. I hate turbulence. The plane lurches and jerks seemingly out of control. It tilts farther to my side than I’m used to seeing, and I’m looking down below. “Come on pilots…get control of this!” It’s probably that damn phone.
I contemplate grabbing the hand of the non-friend beside of me in a moment of desperation. And just before I’m forced to make a decision, the air smooths and I’m no longer tossing about like a ducky on the Nantahala River.
I sigh….audibly. Relief.
The man next to me looks and smiles. One of those smiles that says, “it’s going to be ok.” But he doesn’t have words for me because he didn’t know the right ones to say in the right language.
“Las nubes asi me da miedo,” I say to him. I’m afraid of clouds like that.
His eyes light up and he immediately launches into a million questions about where I’m going and where I live. It’s a good thing I really do speak Spanish.
I learn that Jorge owns 15 clothing stores in Vera Cruz, Mexico. He shows me pictures of colorful shops displaying fashionable clothing…his eyes happy to have a friend. Mine must have said the same.
We talk about our homes and what they’re like. We discuss the cultural differences of life in the US…fast paced and career centric versus the slower paced family oriented Mexican culture. Sometimes I envy that. I tell him as much.
Jorge wants to know if I’m stopping in LA. But I’m not, so I tell him that next I’m flying to Istanbul, and from there to Dhaka, Bangladesh. I translate the organization, Food for the Hungry, into “Comida para los que tiene hambre.” There has to be a better way to say that. It’s ok…he gets my drift.
So we talk about Bangladesh and about this land mass that’s smaller than a state. I don’t tell him that it’s not as big as Wisconsin because he doesn’t know where Wisconsin is. He lives in Mexico. I say that I read in one magazine that it’s statistically impossible to be alone in Bangladesh because the surging population to shrinking land area makes it so. There are so many people, that if it weren’t for modern technology and construction, building up is the only way to attempt to escape the masses. I tell him how I read that one man moved his house 30 times in a year because of the monsoons and flooding there. They make their houses in some places to be able to disassemble them quickly when the rains come. Jorge says that he’s never heard of that…and his eyes begin to well with tears.
He asks me about my family. I show him pictures of the 3-year-old Captain America who sleeps just down the hall from me, and the clever 6-year-old who looks like my clone but as a boy. He smiles and says he can see that they are full of personality.
“Are you getting paid to do this?” he asks.
“Wow. What a sacrifice you are making.”
“I think it’s an adventure.”
“You will earn your reward some day for this.” he says with a smile.
* * *
We talk for 3 more hours and then I fall asleep.
And when I wake, I have this thought, “What is the difference between a sacrifice to some, and an adventure to others?”
Is it that we think that what we’re leaving behind is so much more valuable that what we’re moving towards? Because I can assure you that what I left behind is the most valuable thing to me in the world.
I pulled away from my house under the cover of a dark early morning, with my husband and children standing on the front door step waving and yelling “We love you Mommy.” Before I’d reached the stop sign at the end of my yard, hot tears ran down my face. I’ve paid so much for them…for those treasures on my front stoop. How can I leave them for this adventure?
Or is the adventure just something that we look at and have some assurance that whatever the costs are, we know they’ll make the forward-going in life that much greater in the end? That this trip, this marriage, that new baby, the foreign adoption, the new business to follow a dream, might just yield higher dividends than what we’re putting up in the beginning?
I’m betting on it….