Monday, November 24, 2008


I have debated whether to publish this journal, the history of our second trip to Mongolia. It took place in July/August of 2005, and was as exciting and wondrous to me as the first trip, the year before. So, if anyone is still reading, here goes:

I have finally just about shaken the cold I caught from a "gentleman" on the return flight last week, and am feeling well enough to begin this little epic. More about him much, much later.

July 23, 2005 -- It's 4:00 a.m., and my clock is singing its annoying, repetitious little song to me, trying almost in vain to awaken me. Hush, stupid clock! I have only been asleep for about three hours, and it's just not enough! My suitcase is packed and ready, however, so my late-hour efforts were worthwhile.

My little dog, Sugarplum, is tired of the alarm and is now adding her efforts to those of the clock, walking across my chest and nudging my face, and I have no choice but to get up. Once I'm on my feet, excitement and anticipation drive away fatigue, and I dress quickly. Poor little Sugarplum is just as excited as I am. She does not know yet that she's not going, and has been bringing me her toys for two days, wanting me to pack them as I always do when she travels with me. My friend Deanna will be staying with her while I'm gone, but Sugarplum doesn't know that, and is fairly dancing with excitement. She loves to travel.

It's now 5:10 a.m. and Eloise and Jerry will be here soon. I make a final visual sweep of the house, retrieve my insulin from the refrigerator and put it in my carry-on bag. No forgetting it this time, like I did last year! I pull the big old "handpainted periwinkles" suitcase through the house to the kitchen door, and Sugarplum's level of excitement ratchets up another notch. Poor baby. I'm putting off telling her the awful truth.

At 5:15 sharp, Jerry and Eloise arrive, and Jerry loads my luggage into the car. I return to the house and pick up the excited, trembling little dog. I say simply, "You're not going, baby. You have to stay home." She goes limp in my arms, and doesn't move as I carry her to the bedroom. I wonder if she remembers when I left her last year. Placing her on the bed, I cup her little face in my hands and try to reassure her. She just gazes at me with liquid brown eyes, trusting me because she loves me, accepting because she must, but not pleased with the turn of events.

I stroke her soft, silky little body once more, then step away. She remains motionless, exactly where I put her, and looks at me. One more spoken goodby, and I close the door on her disappointed little self, knowing I will be forgiven the moment I walk into the house in two weeks. Two weeks! Will I really be gone that long?

We arrive at the airport before 6:00, and have no problem finding our group. Almost everyone is already here, and the others come in very soon. We're all here now - about half are newcomers, and the rest of us were part of last year's journey.

Omar is here, and his new pastor is with him. We were all so shocked and dismayed when Omar announced a few weeks ago that he was leaving our church to follow God's call to a church in Kingsland. Since this trip was already planned, however, he is with us, leading us as before.

As I said, we were all dismayed and not a little sad at losing him, and therefore just a bit hesitant about this new pastor of his. However, once we meet Pastor Alex, and note his open, friendly demeanor, we all thaw a bit. Then I see that his foot and leg are in a sturdy brace, as he broke his foot only a few days ago. Still, he is here! His stock rises considerably in my eyes. Maybe he's not a villain after all, even if he did take Omar away from us. Maybe God knew what He was doing!

We board our flight, and wonder of wonders, Eloise and I are the only passengers seated in a 3-seat row. Eloise has her preferred aisle seat, I have my window, and there's an empty seat between us. Unfortunately, Eloise soon finds that there are drawbacks to an aisle seat, as another passenger loses her balance while trying to stow her carry-on bag, and the heavy bag falls, striking Eloise on the head and shoulder. After a few stunned moments, Eloise decides she's not injured, but I think she'll probably have a significant headache!

As the plane backs away from the gate and no one else has been seated, we realize that we really and truly do have that empty seat between us. We are able to raise the armrests and "spread out" just a bit. This is a luxury we will probably never enjoy again. Once we're airborne, and the restrictions are lifted, we make use of that empty seat, putting our snack stuff, books, pens and other small items there. The unexpected freedom and space are welcome, and we have a very pleasant flight. We're seated over a wing, so the view isn't very exciting, but by craning my neck and mashing my nose on the glass, I do get glimpses of spectacular mountains, some with snowy peaks.

In what seems like a very short time, we land in San Francisco, and as the plane rolls toward the gate, we marvel at the mountains which we can see through the windows on both sides. We deplane without incident and regroup in a waiting area. Omar leads us through the terminal to another waiting area near our gate, and we make camp, as our layover is to be a long one, several hours.

We use the time to visit, renew old traveling acquaintances, and get to know some of the newcomers. We find a place to get some lunch and spend a little time there, Eloise and I and two others sharing a table. I remember that I need to buy batteries for the cameras, as I was out of them at home this morning. I go over to a newsstand and spend almost $30 for 16 AA batteries and a roll of mints! I will be grumpy for the next ten minutes or so. $30, indeed!

Finally, it's time to board the huge bird that will take us to Beijing, and we gather up our belongings, waiting for our section to be called.