Day one: March 14, 2015: More than flexible
"Not just flexible," the Corner of Love handbook says, "but FLUID."
The first day initiated the travelers--all 24 of us--to the concept of fluidity. Fluid, for some of us, meant waking at 4 am to arrive at Akron Canton airport by 9 am for a 11am flight. For others, it meant heading back to the counter to print out boarding passes when the ones printed at home weren't scanning properly. For some of us, it was a first-time experience to juggle bags of liquids, take off our shoes, and heave heavy carry-on bags onto the conveyor. Or maybe finding out what happens when you accidentally toss your boarding pass in the trash with your water bottle (not much--they can print another one again fairly easily). Saying goodbye to loved ones. Leaving behind the known and familiar. Heading for the curious and mysterious "somewhere else" of San Ramon, Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
For my daughter Jaynie and me, the fluidity also included boarding a plane for the first time, settling in together with lots of friends (all wearing our tan Corner of Love shirts) and strangers within a svelte hunk of metal, awaiting the moment when the pilot would dart down the runway, picking up speed faster than my husband in our Honda along the back roads of Holmes County. The plane, not unlike the Honda, Barreling, rattling, lurching, and then--voila!-- (quite unlike the Honda) aloft, hanging in the sky, sailing gently, clouds blocking out the ground on which we had solidly stood just an hour before. And then the whole thing in reverse order--aloft, lurching, rattling, barreling, and, this time, braking.
Fluidity, too, meant a long layover in Atlanta and fumbling through the trash for Jaynie's boarding pass before discovering it could be printed again. A train to our concourse. A meal in the food court. Sushi at a little in-airport spot called One Flew South where the first question the server would ask each diner was, "How long do you have?" Art above each waiting area and encased along the walls. Ceramics and sculptures and installation pieces of giant animals or bugs formed from bronze and hanging from the ceiling. Our team members mingled with one another, began bonding. We talked about aeronautics and canards on airplanes, about previous flights and mission trips. Some scrolled through Facebook news feeds and others read books and others knitted the hours away. And then the flight was delayed. And again. But, fluidity, remember. Preparation for our time in Nicaragua. Where did we need to hurry to? Andy, our team leader, was waiting patiently in the temperate 80 degree Managua and would be there when we arrived.
In the air again. A group of young people shared our flight--a crew donning green shirts and headed for a town about 2.5 hours north of Managua with a primary focus on providing clean water. We talked to a young man aboard who has been to that town about 15 times in his life. I joked that he must have started when he was four, and I wasn't far off--it was 10. His enthusiasm for providing such a basic human need was inspiring.
The flight attendants served sandwiches to us, and peanuts in little pouches, and small squares of chocolate chip blondes. I got to know Nadine, who had been brave enough to sandwich herself between Jaynie and me. While Jaynie watched the world pass below us from her window seat, Nadine and I talked about her family, her career (calling, really) as a nurse, her sister Betty's career (calling, too) as a Navy nurse (they were both along for this adventure), and what this trip would mean to us. I think we both got a little bit emotional talking about how humbled we felt to be able to strike out on such an adventure, thanks to the support of generous and unbelievably supportive people.
And when we did arrive, fluidity meant ignoring full bladders and heavy backpacks to stop in the hallway and fill out the new customs forms Nicaragua had just created, then waiting some more to be photographed, have our passports stamped, pay our $10 visa, and slip into this new country. Some of us took the "slipping" business a little too far.
A carousel of luggage circled round and round in the center of the Managua airport. Each of us had checked two 50-pound suitcases or duffles crammed full of supplies--pain relievers and stuffed animals and ziplock bags and Sharpies--and now it was time to claim those bags. For me, fluidity meant falling on my behind as a result of racing across slick tile in an effort to save my pack (containing my laptop) from being smashed beneath the wheels of a luggage cart piled with hundreds of pounds of medical supplies. I was all right, and so was the pack, and though I was splayed on the floor very indelicately, my dignity was saved as arms reached out--familiar American arms and unfamiliar Nicaraguan arms--and hoisted me to my feet. All of those cell phones tucked in pockets and no one caught my performance.
Fluidity meant meeting our leader and waiting for the co-director, Nelson, who had been suddenly taken ill, but, nonetheless, arrived to receive us and stood on the back of the white pickup truck to load up our bags. Then, the two-hour bus drive in the dark to the compound. Hills and speed bumps and steep roads. Unloading damp luggage from the top of the van and the back of the truck. Letting those at home know we'd arrived with a quick text and an "I-love-you-so." And now, the compound--quiet but for the hum of the fan and the tapping of these keys. My roommates Anita and Lori and Chris are fast asleep. 1:19 here. At home, 3:19. For some here, the first 24 hours has passed since their adventure began at 4 o'clock this morning.
A fluid day, indeed.