Tuesday, 7/1/14

It’s an overnight flight, and you know how overnight flights go, so I won’t bore you with the details. There’s a beautiful sunrise somewhere north of Albania, and we land in Zurich, with its view of the Alps, a little early. It’s a beautiful day.

During the dry season in Tanzania, it’s always a beautiful day, of course, if you mean a sunny day. But there, you’d really prefer that it rain and feed the rainwater collection system. Here, it’s just a beautiful day.

On landing we learn that our flight to Newark has been delayed by an hour. For all but one of us, that’s no problem at all; we have 3 hours (now 2 hours) to get through immigration and customs, and that should be no problem. But Sarah B has a tight connection in Newark, so we go to the Swissport service desk—remember that nice lady who rebooked us as we came in 5 weeks ago? She’s not working this morning, but the man who is, is equally efficient and helpful. He tells us that we can’t reschedule that flight here, but the folks in Newark will know, based on precisely how late our flight is, how best to reschedule her final leg home. So we’ll take care of it in Newark.

So we have more than 3 hours to just roam around the Zurich airport. There’s plenty to see; it’s a bit like Atlanta, but with just 2 terminals instead of 5. Some of us take the subway and explore, trying to decide which chocolate to buy. One of the guys wants to buy a Swiss Army knife, but surprise, surprise, they won’t sell them in the secure area of the airport.

A few team members go to the gate where our flight is scheduled to depart, and an airport employee asks them to report to a security check nearby. Pretty soon word gets around that all of us need to speak with security and have our boarding passes reissued. Everything’s hearsay, but it seems that there was some sort of a security incident yesterday at the Zurich airport, perhaps a bomb threat, and they’re being extra careful. So we all go through another security interview with the usual questions and get an extra sticker on the outside of our passports. Apparently it’s not related to the delay in our flight, which they insist to the end happened because our plane was late arriving.

But eventually everything comes together, and we all board for Newark, taking off just before noon, nearly 2 hours late. The pilot says he’s going to try to make most of that up. He’ll have to do better than that if Sarah B is going to make that quick turnaround for her last leg home.

The transatlantic flight is on a 767, and we find to our delight that we’re seated in something called “Economy Plus,” which seems to have a few little extras. The seats seem a little wider—it’s a 2-3-2 configuration—and there’s definitely more leg room. There’s a video screen, a USB charging port, and, even better, 110V AC power at every seat.

I make a practice, when flying across time zones, to set my watch to the destination time as soon as we take off, so I’m at least psychologically adjusted as soon as possible. This is a 6-hour pickup, and as a result our first meal, lunch, is served at 7 am Newark time. But since we’ve been running around in the daylight for hours, we manage to deal with it.

We don’t make up all the time we lost, but we do land in Newark less than half an hour late. Sarah B wants to try to make her Charlotte connection, even though I tell her it’s impossible, so I stick with her and leave the rest of the team to take care of themselves. If Sarah misses her flight, as I’m sure she will, I’ll need to be sure she’s set for a later flight today and doesn’t have to fend for herself for a night in Newark.

Through Passport Control and Customs quickly; because the train between terminals is down, we have to take the shuttle bus, which also means we’ll have to go through security again. We do all that, and to my surprise, Sarah misses her flight by just 5 to 10 minutes. She’s booked on a later flight, at a gate right near the one for our Atlanta flight, so she can hang out with us until we leave. We wait at the ATL gate, and the rest of the team dribbles in, more or less. They tell me that Lydia met her parents, so I can quit worrying about her. And Sarah M has headed off to her connection in another terminal, as has Hannah. So there were no formal good-byes—that’s often the case when the team hits the States and heads for different destinations—but we’re all accounted for, and now, for my counting purposes, We Are Eight.

We wait about an hour for our final flight to begin boarding. Oddly, there’s a pigeon walking around the gate area, and occasionally flying over the crowd, which largely ignores him. Soon we board a small jet, an Embraer RJ145; we’re scattered, but 5 of us are in the very back. Most of us sleep most of the way to ATL.

The baggage claim in ATL is no problem, Asher peels off to take MARTA to his sister’s house in Atlanta, and The Seven are ready for the drive home. There’s a little confusion on contacting Paul McCreedy, who’s our driver, but eventually we make the connection and head north. The kids had talked about stopping at IHOP, but since we’re going to be after 11 pm getting in, and our heads are 7 hours later than that, they opt for fast food. For some reason, they’re pretty convinced it should be a Wendy’s. We’ve all been wanting cheeseburgers, and I suppose the prospect of Frosties made Wendy’s the choice. We find one 5 miles up the road. I’m thinking the Baconator might have been a little too intense for my reintroduction to American cuisine, but it is flavorful.

Then back into the van, where we’re all (but Paul) comatose for the rest of the trip. We pull on campus about 11:45, where Kaleigh, Josalyn, Matt, and Nathanael are met by family; we drop Sarah S and Caitlin off at Gaston to get a night’s sleep before they drive home together tomorrow; and then Paul drops me off at my house on the way to drop the van off at Transportation.

It’s a quiet way to end a long, eventful, tiring, and rewarding trip.

Soli deo gloria.

And good night.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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