Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If you've ever seen the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" or have ever been caught up in a travel mis-adventure, you know how challenging travel can be.  It's even more so when you're in a foreign country.

After we left Uganda, we were all settled in for a long, excruciating trip home.  We arrived at the airport early to get through security, have our exit visas stamped and make sure we were on time for our flight.  After the long wait, we boarded the plane - packed completely full - and were informed by the pilot that they were trying to troubleshoot a problem with the hydraulic system.  Why they didn't do this before boarding the plane, we weren't quite sure, but sat on a completely packed plane for almost 2 1/2  hours as they tried to solve the problem.  The pilot finally came on and said their final effort was to completely shut down the plane and restart all systems.  Thankfully after rebooting, the problem was resolved and we were able to to take off and fly to Amsterdam.

We had a 3 hour layover in Amsterdam, but that had been eaten up by the delay leaving Uganda.  So, when we got to Amsterdam, we learned that we had indeed missed our flight and had to re-book.  Going to the "Transfer Station", we went to a kiosk and were booked on the same flight, just for the next day.  The kiosk was generous and gave us each a voucher for 10 Euro's (about $13) for a meal at the airport.  We kind of stood there dumbfounded, being totally exhausted, that the machine had heartlessly left us stranded at the airport for 24 hours with nothing but a meal voucher.

We decided that we needed to explore some other options so go in line for the service desk.  There was a long line and we were near the end.  It reminded me of a trip many years ago when I had a similar type of experience and the theme of that trip was "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in all things give thanks", so talked about this with the team.  When we got to talk with one of the airline agents, I started off thanking her for taking care of all of the people who were having such difficulty and acknowledged what a difficult job she had and just appreciated her.  It really caught her off-guard and she thanked me for the "refreshing attitude".  She took good care of us, and while unable to to get us on a flight that day, did get us hotel rooms for the night along with meals and transportation.  It reminded me that in ALL circumstances, even when we are tired and frustrated, we can and are commanded to be salt and light.

It's strange being in a place where the language, signs and just about everything is unfamiliar.  We were fortunate that so many people spoke English that we could ask for help and were directed to the right places.  We managed to find our way to the hotel shuttle pickup spot and waited.  In a short time, the shuttle arrived and took us to our  hotel.  We were so pleasantly surprised!  The hotel was beautiful and our rooms were so comfortable.  There was plenty of hot water and water pressure for showers.  We had a nice lunch and decided to head to downtown Amsterdam to do a little sight-seeing.  All we had to do, we were told, was to take a shuttle back to the airport, hope on a train to Central Station then we would be in downtown Amsterdam.  Easy, right?

Well, the shuttle part was easy, but it was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to find and buy train tickets.  We went to ticket kiosks and tried several times to use credit cards but were unsuccessful. So we went to a ticket counter and purchased the tickets with cash (we exchanged some dollars for Euros and a ridiculously low exchange rate - but what can you expect at the airport).  Next we found the entry to the train station and Chris figured out how to scan the tickets to gain us entry to the train.  We found somebody who could direct us to the right train and waited for a little while for the train to arrive.

It was a fairly short ride to Central Station where we got off the train and after Brandon did a little navigating with the map, we found our way to the place to buy tickets for the canal tour.  It was an amazing ride through the canals seeing a lot of Amsterdam and hearing a lot of the history.  Here are just a few of the pictures.

 We had several more adventures, but will save that for another time.  We had a nice night and got up the next morning ready to get home.  After an amazing buffet breakfast, we headed for the airport, got on the plane (naturally we were in the very last row) and had a long flight home.  Safe landing, almost the last ones off the planes, through customs, found our luggage, loaded it on carts, pushed through one final checkpoint, loaded it onto and rode the shuttle, packed the luggage to the arrival area and waited to be picked up.

I'd been in touch with Debbie and she was at the cell phone waiting area and when I called for her to come pick me up, she told me that the Jeep's battery was dead and wouldn't start.  Frustrated but determined to not let the Automobile problem ruin the end of the trip, we were able to pile into a pickup with the Chase's and they drove me to the waiting area and gave us a jump.  Finally the drive from the airport home.

Thank you God for great adventures and trials.  We are glad to be home with our loved ones, sleeping in our beds and back in our familiar surroundings.  But we still remember our great friends and time well spent in Uganda.



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