Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day 6: Blessings in disguise

We arose early on Day 6 to board the tube train back to London Heathrow. It was mostly uneventful. We had made all the tube connections Stephanie had printed for us, and even arrived early. At Heathrow, we picked up our bags from Left luggage and proceeded to line up at the Lufthansa check-in desk. We waited in line with dozens of other travellers. Thirty-five minutes later, we were in front of the Lufthansa agent. We presented our itinerary to her when things started to go wrong.

She asked us rather agitatedly, "Are you sure you are on this flight?".

I replied, "of course we are on this flight - it says right there on our itinerary!" (In actual fact, we had even checked our flight the day before at the Lufthansa ticket office.)

We were then told in no uncertain terms that our flight had been canceled due to fog and that indeed we were in the wrong line-up. Yes, I did say wrong. It was further implied to us that we should have heard the announcement broadcast over the PA system an hour ago, and that we were otherwise wasting her time. Apart from the fact that we weren't there an hour ago, attempting to hear an announcement in a crowded airport like Heathrow is a bit like trying to hear the take-out window clerk at a drive through intercom.

In short, we needed to stand in another 45 minute line-up and rebook our flight at the Lufthansa Ticket counter at the other side of the terminal. This presented a further logistics problem as my father-in-law who was still mid-flight from Vancouver to Düsseldorf had no means to know how to meet us now.

This was shaping up to be quite a travel nightmare, but instead of throwing up our hands in frustration, for some strange reason we began to see a number of blessings in disguise.

Blessing #1: Thank God for Sam!

One of the youth we had connected with back in 2003 was a fellow named Sam Leung. He is quite an interesting guy from Taunton. Because we did not know that he was now studying in London, we had not made plans to see him. He, however, upon hearing that we had arrived in London suggested that he could meet us for breakfast at Heathrow. We thought - what a great idea and consented. Our original plan was to pick up our luggage, check in, then have a nice sit-down breakfast with Sam before going through security.

However, when our plans took a turn, Sam happily blessed us. He helped us to remain calm through the ordeal. He looked after Erich for us. He helped us carry our numerous pieces of luggage as we snaked from one queue to another. Thanks to Karen, we even got to have breakfast after all, albeit take-away breakfast standing in a queue. All the while, we were still able to chat about how his life was going now.

In the end, Lufthansa decided to rebook us on an already full and very late flight to Cologne, Germany (we were due to arrive at Düsseldorf). It was so late in fact that after we had received our tickets we were told we were supposed to have checked our bags in 10 minutes ago! But Sam again went to the rescue taking our bags for us and standing in the check-in queue so as to expedite our check-in.

Both Karen and I remember thinking how God, in His infinite wisdom and timing had sent Sam to help us remember that God was in control.

Blessing #2: The two English gentlemen on the plane

After we rushed our bags through check-in, and rushed through security (we felt like we were on the Amazing Race), we finally breathed a sigh of relief as we walked onto the airplane and took our seats. An inspection of our assigned seats however indicated that we weren't seated together. Not wanting to subject too many of our fellow passengers to the restlessness of Erich, we decided we would ask if one of our seat mates would be willing to switch seats with us. Our immediate seat mate rudely told us no. However, the other seat mate decided he would bless us and kindly rearranged himself AND his colleague so that we could all sit together as a family. Now THAT is courteous!

Blessing in disguise #3: We lost our car seat

We arrived in Cologne as planned, and a shuttle bus took us into a secured building where we entered through German customs and immigration and collected our luggage. It seemed however that our car seat did not make it with us on the plane. We were dismayed at first, but then we realized this was yet another blessing in disguise. Not only would we not have to carry this on all the trains (we didn't really need it for the Germany leg of our trip), we would get it hand delivered to our destination in Bochum, Germany. As if this wasn't enough of a relief, losing the luggage also meant we got to visit Luthansa's lost baggage desk where the very nice lady filed our claim and allowed us to use her phone to contact my father in law. Had we not have 'lost' the car seat, we would have had to find our own way to the train station, and scrounge up enough cash to make a very expensive pay phone call.

Blessing #4: The two German girls at the train station

Our final blessing was in the form of good Samaritans who helped us in our train journey to Bochum. Because Hans, my father in law, was not there to greet us, we were forced to find our own way to Essen, a nearby city of Bochum. We used our very limited knowledge of the German language to try to find our way around. I got very used to saying: "Guten Tag, meine Deutches ist nicht gute. Ich mochte nach Essen gehen." or "Guten Tag, sprechen sie Englische?"

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The latter question was mostly met with either rehearsed and heavily accented answers or very polite "Nein". That is, until we met a pair of traveling German girls who just said "follow us!". I must admit that had these two girls been two menacing looking men, I might have had second thoughts about just blindly following them, but they seemed innocent enough and willing to help. They directed us to the nearest Hbf (main station) where we were able to find our way.

All in all, the lesson I learned this day was that all is not always as it seems when we choose to look for the blessings rather than the bad circumstances.

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