Monday, November 23, 2009

UK11: Endings

We’re ready for the Panther Taxi at 7am. On the way to the Cambridge coach station, the driver says it would have been the same cost to go directly to Heathrow (L90) as to take the roundabout way through the coach station. Now he tells us! Actually, thanks to W’s sleuthing, our return coach ticket is the price of a one-way taxi ride.

The brickwork and thatched roofs of Cambridge slip by as we drive through town. I’m leaving behind many memories. And Cambridge holds one new memory that will stay with me forever. The final email before packing away my computer is a note from my husband: the dear sister-in-law we prayed for all these years has gone Home. Her suffering and pain is ended, though her family’s loss has just begun. Many thanks to those of you who prayed for Miriam with our family over the years. Though we cannot begin to understand God’s ways, we trust that he will comfort and care for my brother Will and his children, Lem (14) and Adelina (5). We will be making travel arrangements of a different sort when we arrive in Seattle.

The debate team has done well at Cambridge. In five rounds, they placed second three times, third once, and fourth (last) only once. They learned so much from the first tournament: it is worthwhile to have two weeks back-to-back at this level. The last trip I hosted realized the same effect – difficulty in Oxford, followed by a steep learning curve and a rally at Cambridge. The guys are pleased! Tom conks out as soon as the National Express coach leaves the curb and sleeps all the way to Victoria Station. Ned, who skipped the social after the finals, enjoys the countryside and small towns along the way before succumbing to a nap.

We make an uneventful transition from the Victoria Arrivals Hall to the Departures Hall (separate buildings) and are soon on our way to Heathrow. The driver informs passengers that he will be stepping out for a ¾ hour mandated break an hour north of Heathrow: several drivers have recently left the company and there is no relief drivers. So the passengers will have to sit in the coach and wait. Instead of 3.5 hours to Bristol, it will take 4.15. Passengers groan and appeal, so he calls to the main office if he can take 15 minutes at one stop and a half hour at another. It won’t work, says the boss. The petrol stations have no spaces for the big busses (coaches) beyond the stop at ….X. We’re glad we’re getting off before that rest break.

In fact, we make the airport in good time, luggage intact, and take the moving walkways to hasten our journey between the coach station and Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

The flight to Chicago is uneventful but the US customs officer is a grouch. He flags my resident alien card because it has a slightly detached corner. We have permanent Green Cards that don’t have to be renewed, so we have hung onto them. Current cards must be renewed every ten years.

“I am warning you. I have keyed this into our system, so the next time you leave the country, you will have trouble reentering unless your citizenship or renewal is in process.” Stinker. Oops, Stickler.

We’ve left becoming Americans until absolutely necessary, unwilling at various points to renounce our Canadian citizenship and get involved in the messy political process. Apparently dual citizenship is now possible, and the Chicago agent may have given me a final kick in the shins. Just what I need: another test to study for, and significant expense. I tuck the old card back into its protective envelope with a sigh. I dread the responsibility of voting with all the research and paperwork of election cluttering the fall schedule. Participating in the prolonged, expensive, and complex process is a citizen’s responsibility. We have happily avoided political arguments with friends for many years, pleading alien residency. The Canadian system with mere weeks of campaigning, limited expenditures, and a more direct process of choosing a government makes so much more sense to us than this leviathan that strangles government resources and snarls its people in debates and endless wrangling each year.

The wait in Chicago is long (3.5 hours). We call friends and family, back in the country with cellphone service again. We are happy to be on the last flight. The guys sleep, I read and write during a bumpy flight – it is nice to touch down and collect our luggage. Ned’s fiancĂ© takes us back to the university around midnight. I get my SUV keys from the office, unlock the van, and they help me load luggage.

How pleasant to drive into our driveway, unpack, and start laundry before a hot shower to wash away stale airplane air and 26 hours of travel. There's nothing like "Home Sweet Home."

1 comment:

  1. R -- so sorry about Miriam! I will pray for your brother and his kids.

    It will be good to have you back in the US again. Back where you belong. Hugs!