We departed Minneapolis St. Paul airport this morning February 9th at 11:34AM. The trip meter says that it will take 12 hours to get to Tokyo, Japan. There will be a three hour layover and then four to five more hours to get to Manila, Philippines. I always feel a little bit jipped on time when traveling West to get to the East. It will be the evening of the next day by the time we get to our destination. My seat is in the rear of an eight row wide jet. Jerry Krosnowski the founder of RSM, is sitting forward in comfort class as he needs a little more legroom.
Before take off, I am able to move up near Jerry. I sit in the four-row section with only one other person. He is a very tall man and is dressed somewhere between a karate master and a marine. I would not want to make him upset about anything. He has long hair in a ponytail and a nicely groomed beard. He looks to be about six and half feet tall. He reminds me of a 30 year old Scott Miller. We exchange hellos and he indicates that he was planning on lying down to sleep for the flight. I tell him I’ll move back a row after the flight gets going. With nothing much to do for 12 hours, I start watching a movie. Eventually, I see the long tall Texan trying to sleep upright, so I gently tap him on the shoulder and tell him I’ll move back a row. He thanks me profusely. The lady on the other end of the next row does not seem to mind that I’m moving back. He lies down across the entire row. I’m not tired and continue watching movies and read a book about expressing my true inner self.
I think about the journey ahead. What will Jerry and I see this time? It’s a different trip than 11 months ago. Last year, it was very intense with many feeding site visits every day. This year we are going to go to more dump-sites that are even worse than we saw in Happy Land. We are also going to go to the hurricane ravage area of Northern Samar. We will travel to new areas to help feed more malnourished and starving children. I pray and ask God for guidance to capture more incredible images and stories. I think about my wife and family back home. Three weeks is along time to be away. After eight hours, the extremely tall man, finally sits upright and puts his hat on. The back of it says Killer Squad Elite. “Hmm” I think, I’m glad I gave him the whole row.
After three movies, three airline meals and three airline size bottles of Jack Daniels, I don’t feel so good. I pray to feel better. The electronic map on the screen says we are 30 minutes from Narita Airport in Japan. I decide to move back to my seat in the rear of the plane. I’ll be close to my carry on luggage when disembarking. There is a Filipino lady next to me and an Asian man and woman sitting behind me. The Filipino woman and I begin looking out the window. “Hooray,” we can see the coastline of Japan coming into view. It is 3:00PM the next day. This tortuous leg of the journey will soon be a memory. I hear the Asian man make a fairy loud burp from the seat directly behind me. The flight isn’t that rough, so I think to myself, “It must be the airline meals, he’s just digesting.” I hear coughing and more telltale sounds and think, “NO”! But, nature cannot be stopped. For the next 10 minutes we listen to the man using his “comfort bag” as we are descending into Tokyo. The Filipino and I try to ignore it as we look out the window and comment on the landscape of Japan. Then I notice the Filipino woman casually search for her own comfort bag in the seat pocket. I think, “She must be getting the poor fellow behind us an extra one.” But, she pulls it up and keeps it slightly hanging out for easy access. She says she’s okay, but talks about how she hates the descent when flying. The man behind us continues. I am surprised at how long it is lasting. Luckily, I cannot smell anything. Then, I feel a small twinge in my own stomach. I think ,“Oh God, please no!” I casually search in my seat pocket for my own “comfort bag.” I pull it up slighlty, not to alarm anyone, but to give me easy access. Just knowing it’s handy gives me “comfort.” The wheels of the airplane smoothly touch the ground as I grip my seat and we begin to taxi to the gate. I make the sign of the cross and thank God for another safe landing. The Filipino woman next to me and I would be spared from sharing our own “discomfort”. Once the plane stops and the chime rings we begin to access our carryon luggage. We face forward looking at the herd of humans leaving the plane in front of us. I hear coughing sounds behind me again. O Dear Lord, the poor man. How full can a person fill one of those bags? I turn and look…it’s not the Asian man, but the poor Asian woman that was sitting next to him. Lord have mercy.