First things first. We just heard the news of the bombing in Moscow on the day we were there. Please know that we are all okay and we were never affected by the events that day. We don’t know any details other than there was an incident, but we apologize for not getting word out to the group sooner. We are safe and sound in Slobodskoy. Connectivity is a big issue here; we likely won’t be able to log in too frequently.
So with that thought in mind, we want to use this blog as frequently as possible to accomplish the following:
(1) First and foremost, this blog will help to communicate with our family and friends about the well being of the travelers. There won’t be many (if any) calls home for the next week and for some of you, this is the only update you will get. So if nothing else, we’ll try to blog daily to let you know that we are here and healthy.
(2) We also want to use this blog as a travelogue of sorts to document our journey. Where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what we’ve seen, etc. We’ll try to spare you the gory details…but when traveling, the gory details are part of the fun. It is our hope that we can give you a little peek into our sojourn from a travel perspective.
(3) Finally, this is not a journey just for the experience. For each of us, this trip represents a calling that we have responded to with different expectations and anticipations. So part of this blog will be to document the revelations and transformations that we experience as a group.
I would love to tell you what an uneventful day of travel we had. Let’s just say that day 1 of our journey highlighted the theme that “every day will be an adventure.”
The travel day started out on a great note. The weather was beautiful at RDU. As the group gathered at the Delta terminal and checked our luggage, we were greeted by a surprise visit from Pastor Steve for a quick blessing. It was great to see him before our departure, setting a wonderful tone for our journey. (Little did we know how much we were going to need his blessing for safe travel!) Shay shared an amazing daily devotional book he had crafted for the group, written to highlight different aspects of our trip and helping us walk through Holy Week in a very personal and intimate way. If anyone would like to see Shay’s devotional book, I am sure he would welcome sharing it. What a talented and compassionate pastor he is!
It was at that point that things got a little interesting. Our plane from Raleigh was delayed by 1 hour 15 minutes due to a ground stoppage at JFK. That’s usually okay as they can make up time in the air…unless your layover for your international flight is only 1 hour and 30 minutes. You could see the nervous tensions begin to rise in the group as the delay continued. A couple of calls to Delta while on the runway indicated two things: (a) our flight to Moscow was leaving on time and (b) Delta was aware that there were 20+ of us connecting to that flight. We finally took off with no time to spare and arrived at JFK with exactly 30 minutes to go before departure. Not ideal but we thought we and our luggage could make it. Especially since we only had to go from Terminal 2 Gate 24 to Terminal 2 Gate 8. No problem.
Well, apparently Gate 8 is NOT just a simple 16 gates from Gate 24. It is a long haul, one that took every bit of 15-20 minutes for most of us. Some of us “OJ’ed” our way to the gate, letting the gate agents know that we had a large party that was coming as fast as they could. That was met with a resounding, “Whatever, just board the plane.” With only six of us at the gate, the gate agents made the final boarding call, listing off all the names of folks whose seats would be given up. Yep, that list included 15 names from our party!! One by one (or really, two by two), the group started to arrive at the gate. The last of our party made it to the gate as they were closing out the flight, literally without a minute to spare. And we were thrilled to learn that on international flights, your luggage MUST accompany you on the flight, meaning that if we were on our flight, our bags would be, too. Phew – I am not sure I have ever heard such a collective sigh of relief as the final group boarded.
We were on our way to Russia. The rest of the flight was uneventful (thankfully), thanks in part to a little help from our new friends Tylenol PM, Benadryl Plus and Ambien. A little food and a short movie and the ten hour flight was done. It was a new day – and we were on Russian soil.