I figured out today that in the last three years, I have spent about 14 days travelling back and forth from Costa Rica to Chicago. No joke. So in my two weeks of living in the Chicago, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark, and Denver airports, I have come to enjoy days of people-watching during the layovers and cloud-viewing from the airplanes (not to mention capturing photos of lightning and volcanoes from the plan window!). I have the airport security system down to a T as I remember to pack my liquids in a plastic bag (quart size!), keep my computer easily accessible, and not wear metal jewelry. I have also mastered the art of hiding large amounts of cash under my clothes… but that’s a story for another blog … or maybe a personal conversation!
Today, I have encountered four airports: San José, Houston, Denver, Chicago: in that order. I started out in San José absolutely, completely, utterly wiped out emotionally from all the good-byes I had to say in Costa Rica. Like I was so emotionally exhausted that even when I saw someone I knew and probably could have struck up a conversation with if I wanted to, I literally ran and hid. (Mom’s thinking, ‘’Is that my daughter!?’’ Yes, Mom, I had a moment when I actually avoided social interaction.) Turns out this acquaintance was on the same flight as I was, but except for a brief wave and nod of the head, I avoided any other contact. Not to mention it was at an ungodly early morning hour, and I don´t know anyone who in their right mind would actually be cheerful at that hour after sleeping for 3 hours (like I did). Ugh.
First ray of light: a tico man working at a little sandwich shop in the airport. I sat down nearby to wait for boarding and I could hear him singing a Spanish worship song I recognized from church. When I say singing, I mean belting it out. No fear. No embarrassment. Singing in his sandwich shop at the top of his lungs. What a great reminder that God was with me, even in an airport.
God has His ways of getting my focus off of myself, and so during the flight from San José to Houston, I was neatly tucked between a 7-year-old boy and an 80-year-old man. The man was very polite but seemed scared of flying, so much so, that I thought I might actually have to hold his barf bag for him at one point. (Thank goodness he never threw up!) While I wondered if the older man would hyperventilate, I was also pondering this kid’s red hair, pale skin, and freckles. I asked him a question in English and he looked at me weird and turned away. I thought maybe he was just socially awkward. Then when the flight attendant came to ask what we wanted to drink, he said, ‘’Yo quiero agua.’’ Then I understood. This red-head spoke Spanish!! I tried my same question from before, but this time in Spanish. Lol, that may have been a mistake because then this kid would not be quiet. He was asking me every 2 minutes how much more time we had and did I know where his dad was (turns out the airline had separated father and son in the seating arrangement). He wanted to know why the plane was in turbulence, what made clouds, what ocean he was looking at out the window, and (again) what time would we get there. By the end of the flight, we were like old friends. He even made a video on his dad´s cell phone introducing me to his family, lol. ‘’This is my new friend, Kate,’’ he said, ‘’and she speaks English and Spanish.’’ Nothing like a kid in your life to change your perspective.
In the Houston airport, it was all the usual customs and immigration lines. Thankfully this time I remembered to throw away the apple before I got to the customs line (unlike the last two times, lol). Then back through security, with African-Americans barking orders in their mixed accent of ibonics and Texan.
On the flight to Denver, I experienced another God appointment while sitting with a 15-year-old girl and a 60-year-old woman. This time, God surprised me at how He can put three people together who are obviously very different but have a lot in common all at the same time. The teen pulled out her Bible to read, and the woman commented that her Bible was just as worn as the one this girl had. I pulled mine out too and was like, ‘’Like this too?’’ Our conversation was very encouraging, and we concluded by exchanging email addresses (not something I do often on airport days!).
The layover at Denver was uneventful as I found my gate an hour early. I then promptly became lost in the world of free airport internet (less airports offer free internet now, but I sure love it when they do!! ), and then glanced up at the gate announcements and the board said ‘’Los Angeles.’’ Uh-oh. I thought I was in the area for Chicago. Turns out they had changed where the gate was, so I was off running through the airport again, praying that I didn´t have a re-run of last summer´s missed flight in the Newark airport. Thankfully, I made my flight just in time for a twenty minute flight delay, lol.
So here I am, on the Denver to Chicago flight. I am tired from lack of sleep and navigating four airports, but I am also encouraged by God’s faithfulness, even when I have said what seems like a thousand good-byes and packed up my belongings in a mere 2 suitcases, a backpack, and an oversize purse. The truth is, I like these airport days. While I don´t know when the next one will be (the plan is to stick around Chicago for a while), I will definitely need to have another soon .