Saturday, December 31, 2005

So far from home. . . but not

With about 1 hour left of our flight from Amsterdam to Dubai, I sleepily looked up at the TV screen on the plane which was tracking the progress of our trip on a map. The little red line indicated where we'd flown over alread--including parts Europe and the Middle East, but what struck me was where the little white plane hovered at that very moment. Names of far-away places which we've all read about or heard about on the news became drastically more realistic as the little icon hovered over Baghdad and then Kuwait. Obviously, we did not actually pass over these chaos-ridden places, but they were the landmarks closest along the plane's path.

I also sat next to many soldiers both in the Minneapolis airport and then on the plane to Amsterdam who were on their way back to restart their service after spending holiday time at home. Two men sitting next to me on the plane discussed how their breaks had been too long--how they'd gotten bored and were ready to get back to a place that I could not imagine wanting to return to after seeing so many images of destruction and hearing so many stories of death. I still don't think I've completely digested some of these thoughts and experiences since there's so much to take in during our short time here, but the reality of what's going on in our country's activities around the world and their proximity so to where I sit this evening continue to resonate with me.

Conversely, I'm so much farther from home than I've ever been before, and I'm struck by how many American products and customs I've seen. We were at the grocery store yesterday and there in English and Arabic was a box of popcorn. JollyTime popcorn to be precise. Before moving to Clear Lake, IA I lived in Sioux City, IA and I still remember visiting the JollyTime popcorn "factory" to get popcorn in bulk for our May Day baskets, and there in Dubai was the logo and the packaging information for my former home. This is just one example of many.

Both of these "phenomena" are things that I've always known existed or happened, but it's different actually experiencing and seeing them, and I remain so thankful to have this opportunity to soak this all in, learn and grow from every aspect of this experience.


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