Well… If you hadn’t yet gathered, WE’RE HERE! Below you’ll see some of the highlights of the journey:
Portland (4am Friday, July 6 [GMT-8])
The team met at the Portland airport at 4am on Friday, July 6. Somehow, we everyone managed to make it on time– along with all of their luggage and documents! Due to how early this was for all of us, that is a miracle in and of itself (I know I wanted to stay in bed for “just another five minutes” — but we all know how that goes). One of the most amazing parts of our 4am meeting at PDX was the huge group of family members, friends, and other supporters that came to see us off. Of the five years I’ve traveled with the team, this was by far the biggest sendoff group I’ve seen. On behalf of the entire Serving Slovakia 2012 team, I want to be sure to say a resounding “THANK YOU!!!” It was truly did lift our spirits, as we all understand just how determined you must have been in order to come to the airport to say goodbye. After we all got checked into our flight, we were off through security and onto our plane to Chicago.
Chicago (12pm Friday, July 6 [GMT-6])
The flight to Chicago was rather uneventful, though we all got a surprise as we landed. As we were taxiing to the gate, the stewardess made her customary announcements about staying in your seats, connections information, etc. What caught us off guard was that in addition to the list of connections, she also made an announcement about the presence of a group of around 30 people on board who were headed overseas to teach English for a couple weeks. Granted she thought we were going to Slovenia, but considering most people don’t even believe Slovakia is a real country she did pretty good! As she finished the announcements, she wished us good luck and safe travels. Though this kind of attention caught us off guard, it sparked several conversations between team members and those seated around us. We had a 3.5 hour layover in Chicago, where we ate lunch, stretched out, and prepared for an 8.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
Frankfurt, Germany (6:45am Saturday, July 7 [GMT+1])
We landed after a loooooong flight with several super sketch “movies”. This was, thankfully, another uneventful flight and everyone remained in pretty good moods — I believe it was the excitement of landing in Europe (even though we still had approximately 11 hours of travel left until we reached Martin). The short hour and a half layover was completed pretty quickly and we were shortly on our flight to Vienna.
Vienna, Austria (10am Saturday, July 7 [GMT+1])
We are officially in Vienna! Which means we’re done with planes for two weeks! As we deboarded the plane, the first words out of my mouth were “are we in the right Vienna?” This place has been completely rebuilt since the last time we were here (2010). Like…not just remodeled, but legitimately rebuilt. New terminal and all. We had no clue which way to go, so we searched for the exits. It turns out the most roundabout path was actually the most direct path to baggage claim: Up an escalator a floor, follow a narrow hallway, down an escalator two floors, BAGGAGE claim! Still looking COMPLETELY different from the Vienna we knew. To say this place is “modern” is an understatement. Black floors, frosted glass signage. Everything is a neutral black and white, except for any shops — which all add nice splashes of vivid color. Though we are all thoroughly exhausted, the prospect of waiting two hours here for our bus isn’t bad, as there’s quite a bit of exploring to do in the “new” Vienna airport.
On another note, as we were all getting our bearings we managed to find Lisa Mitchell! She left for Germany a week or so before our team did and had planned on meeting us somewhere along the way. It was good to be reconnected with her, as some of the teammates had started joking about who would teach the Advanced classroom should we not manage to find her. Needless to say, Chester (the voluntold replacement) was relieved.
One of the most entertaining parts of the entire travel experience ( to this point) was the flight from Frankfurt to Vienna. Before I go further, I feel I should qualify this with a quote I enjoy: “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.” Follow that with the 20 hours of travel time on top of nearly no sleep the night before departure and we have QUITE the potential for entertainment. On this flight, we were served a simple breakfast of granola cereal. The part that drew quite a few oohs and aahs was the spoon that came with it. This isn’t any ordinary spoon. It’s a FOLDING spoon. Yeah, it’s plastic. Yeah, it came from the airplane. But it’s SWEET! After several members of the team regained their composure (myself included) at this amazing tool, we quickly decided we would be keeping our spoons as souvenirs.
Again, please be aware that at this point in the trip, we have all been awake and travelling for nearly 24 hours. And that’s assuming people actually got sleep the night before– which was limited to only a few, at best.
Martin, Slovakia (5pm Saturday, July 7th [GMT+1])
Well, after a four hour bus ride WE MADE IT! The rest of the day was spent settling in, adapting to the heat, and exploring the town. Tomorrow morning, we will worship with the congregation here which is ALWAYS an extraordinary experience. Following that, there is an outdoor festival for the congregation, vacation bible school students and their families, and the visitors from America. It should be a great time and everyone is looking forward to a good night’s sleep (in a bed) and everything that is to come in the next two weeks!
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading our blog! I promise this will be the longest of my posts. Please keep checking back as the team members will be posting on a regular basis about their personal experiences in Martin as well. As always, continued prayers are appreciated for our team members, the students we’ll interact with, and the staff of the Center for Christian Education.