It wasn't a good day for United. Their system went down, the plane was ready to leave and they realized that there were 70 bags that still had not been loaded, and, upon take-off, something hit the left engine (one person said a sharp metal object, another said it was a bird), leaving us with only one engine. So we turned around, dumped fuel, and landed back at Brussels. The flight was cancelled and we were given rooms and meals at the Sheraton and the promise that we'd be rescheduled.
Susan and I went to ticketing and spent a few hours waiting for our new reservations. We were at the end of the line, so we got to talk to some of our fellow strandees. (I just made that up. Do you like it?)
We talked to Hannah (European) and her husband Trevor (American). They met studying philosophy in grad school in Brussels and now teach in Chicago. They were so compassionate, taking on the cares of the others around them. By the time they were finished with their reservations, they were scheduled to go home the long way -- through Europe and Washington DC.
I had dinner with some of my new friends and learned a bit more about them. Lula, whose parents are from Eritrea, grew up in the US. She's returning from a conference of humanitarian aid workers in NE African countries, exploring ways to work more efficiently. Her new friend Alex, whom she just met on the plane today, is a recent college graduate in marriage and family counseling. Francis, from Chicago, grew up in Cameroon and went back in 2006 to start a hospital for HIV patients. Alexis, the daughter of Kenyan Jane, adopted Francis today while standing in line! Anita, whose family is Liberian, was a refugee during her country's civil war. She's now a graduate student in Arizona and, besides finishing her MPA, is working toward starting a school back home.
Did you ever sit on a plane and wonder about the people around you? Did you ever go to the mall and wonder what everybody is doing there? Did you ever cross paths with someone from another culture and wonder how you both got to the same place at the same time, and what you might learn from one another if you just opened up your mouth, asked a question, shared an experience, really reached out to one another. It shouldn't take a cancelled flight to find out, but, I'll admit, it does help!
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P.S. I do hope to be home tomorrow. I've got over 1500 photos to sort through so you can expect some updates on the recent posts to include a few pictures, and a few more stories about this amazing trip. See you soon!