When it came time to pack, I’d decided to leave various items (sleeping bags, etc.) behind for the Brothers to use as they saw fit and stuffed the rest of my things into the luggage I’d brought. Thank God for expandable suitcases.
The group met at the picnic table at 10:30 AM where we had morning prayer together followed by some reflections from
At the airport we let the guys know what Pete had told Rich and myself earlier today – our scheduled flight had been delayed by a couple of hours. This may impact some of the connecting flights for people but we’ll make the best of it. We stood in line to check our luggage in and get our seat assignments, each of us trying to get at least an aisle seat in this fully booked 747. One in our party tried to persuade the Qantas agent that he needed a seat with lots of leg room because of his recent orthoscopic knee surgery – a bogus story, of course, but the person involved would no doubt simply call it a "dialogue." It didn’t quite work, although he did end up with a bulkhead seat. What people won’t do for a good seat on an airplane.
We had a couple of hours to kill and they wouldn’t let us into the gate area until an hour or so before the flight. So groups found places to eat or simply to sit. Rob and Eric had brought along a copy of the Staten Island Advance – their local paper – in order to take a couple of pictures showing them and the paper at the airport. Apparently, these photos will then be published by the paper in their travel section. We took pictures overlooking the airport, in front of a
There were two international terminals, with a bus ride in between them, and most of our little sub-groups found their way over to both. I went to the other terminal with Rob and Eric to see if we could use the Red Carpet Club, the United Airlines club that I belong to this year. It was an Air New Zealand lounge that had contracted with the Red Carpet Club to provide Red Carpet Club service at the
On the way over via the bus, we passed a Singapore Airlines A380, the brand-new double-decker plane. It was being towed to the main runway for its flight. What a monster that one is! We didn’t see it take off but it almost seems too large to do so.
Back at our terminal it was simply a waiting game. When we finally were able to board, my aisle seat (66D) was towards the end of the plane while the rest of the group was seated around row 52, except for the bulk-head kid and
The flight was long, long, and long. Qantas did a fine job of trying to make us comfortable, with regular food services, snacks, and liquids. But I found it almost impossible to sleep in a seat that reclines back only 20 degrees or so. Thankfully, Qantas has a whole variety of entertainment programs available on individual screens. I watched “The Bucket List” and several documentaries, followed by listening to various classical CD’s while I tried to read. The noise-canceling headphones helped as well, but I developed a pretty serious head-cold kind of thing (toothache-like face pain, strange drainage, loss of hearing on the one side, etc.) that is only now gradually disappearing. After fitful sleeping, some walking around the plane, and a bit of prayer, we finally landed at SFO around 2:20 PM, a couple of hours before we left (crossed the international dateline).
After processing through immigration, those who were scheduled for a Continental flight at 3:15 PM to NYC sprinted for the luggage terminal hoping that their luggage would be among the first off the plane. That way they might still make their connection. Qantas had already made accommodation for missed connection flights because of the later departure and those from NYC found out that they’d be on the 10:10 PM flight on Continental. Meanwhile, I’d taken care of Roberto’s Southwest flight online in
After reaching him by phone, Br. Chris Patino met us at the Continental airline desk, where the others checked in their luggage. Then we made our way to the Burlingame Hyatt where Br. Pete got a room and Rob and Eric got one. Chris and I met them in a sports bar in the hotel and we proceeded to relax a bit. By around 5:30 PM Chris and I had to leave because Chris was giving a talk at Saint Mary’s College as part of the workshop for young Lasallian leaders. We said our goodbyes and drove to SMC. I wanted to stick around for the talk, but it was all I could do to concentrate on driving. I knew I would never last through any talk, no matter how good it might be. ,So I dropped Chris off and drove back to
As a last reflection on this whole experience, let me say that it was a wonderful, intense experience of both “church” and “community” - one that was in many ways transformative. During our two weeks together, it was a privilege to form community with young people who were serious about their faith life and appreciated their Lasallian formation. They sort of reminded me of myself during the later years of high school. Being able to seriously pursue your faith life within a community of like-minded individuals is a real grace, and I think that despite the little problems and challenges along the way, we grew to appreciate one another to a degree that wouldn’t have been possible if this had been simply a camping trip or a “tour” or even a class. This was a pilgrimage and we were blessed by being pilgrims together. As time goes on, I’m certain that each of us will recall different things. But all will recall the quality of our time together and the multiple ways that God’s grace came to be discovered along the way. Those seeds will grow more deeply with time and will bear fruit in ways yet undiscovered. It was an experience of the theme for WYD 2008: 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.' Acts 1:8
Pictures, as always are at http://picasaweb.google.com/gvangrie