I don’t know why my grandma used to say this or where it came from, but whenever we would return home after being out and about (usually visiting someone or doing something fun), she’d cheerfully proclaim, “Home again, home again Finnegan!” It gave me the impression that home was a great place to be.
This year of travels has been for us, a year of longing for “home.” It’s such an odd place to be – forced to see interesting parts of the world and meet lovely people when you just want to be home. I find myself always doing a dance with “be thankful for every opportunity” on one side and “longing for regular life rhythms at home” on the other. The two step on each other’s toes pretty regularly.
Each additional year of reading the Bible has helped me realize that longing for “home” is how we were all made. It was God’s original intention: That we be home with him, being fruitful in our work, enjoying His good gifts and good creation, all in relationship with him. That’s why I/we feel the rub and the longing for that place.
We had a really interesting journey home the last five days. We took off from the Bishkek airport at 12:20pm, as scheduled. Boy were we ready to get home! We noticed after ten minutes or so that we were staying really low in the sky and started circling around and around. The pilot’s voice came on and he said something quickly in Russian (we don’t know Russian) and the flight attendants came around doing their seatbelt checks and telling everyone to put their tables up and all that. They looked very solemn and one of them even looked a bit freaked out. That’s unsettling. I looked around at other passengers and the ones around us looked a little confused but not too worried and I asked some people if they understood what the pilot said. The man behind me told me there was a technical problem with the plane, “but they always say that so I don’t know what’s actually the problem.” Rees and I were a little concerned and I had some of those weird thoughts like, “Well, at least Annabel and Emmett are asleep, so if we are going down they may not even notice.” I recognized a gift of grace here. I overall felt peace – that’s coming from someone who lost her biological father in a plane crash. I am a bit morbid – maybe from losing my dad at a young age and having that be part of my story or from working as an oncology nurse for seven years. I am daily aware of the brevity of life. I am not the person who, after having something tragic happen, says, “I just never imagined that could happen to me.” I really don’t take good health or reaching somewhere safely for granted. For me to experience peace while in a plane that’s having trouble – it’s a gift. A grace. Something that I didn’t muster up, but was given to me. I felt really sure that there were a lot of angels surrounding our plane.
Eventually we landed back in Bishkek. Poor Annabel and Emmett woke up thinking that we’d landed in Tajikistan. We just wanted to get home. What ensued from there was about nine hours of waiting in the airport (if you’ve ever been to the Bishkek airport, we are not talking about a big international transit lounge area). Every two hours some airport person would come and tell our group that we would know something in two more hours. Now most airlines vouch passengers for food and hotel and the like, but not this airline. We’ve grown so accustomed to this kind of thing, however, that it didn’t even cross our minds until other passengers were irate about it all. At 8pm another Tajik Air plane arrived and everyone started cheering, sure that it either brought with it the parts our plane needed or that it was going to take us home. Some general chaos happened at this point while they tried to call out names and give us back our boarding passes. No order to things, just a bunch of people crowding around, shouting names. At one point, the crowd parted in front of me and people were motioning me to come forward. I was confused, as I hadn’t heard our names being called but then I clued in to them calling, “Jane! Jane!” They just assumed I was Jane because it wasn’t Russian-sounding. I said, “My name’s not Jane” and those around me laughed saying, “You look like Jane.” After passing out all the boarding passes they told us all to sit back down again and informed everyone that we wouldn’t be leaving til 3am. You can imagine how much fun it is to be stuck in a little airport with three active kids who are tired of traveling. You wish you were there, right? To their credit, they maintained great attitudes, even though they just wanted to go home. I’ll do another post someday about traveling with active, sensory-seeking kids. When I’m not too tired and grumpy, it’s actually pretty funny, even though it’s nerve-wracking. There was another precious gift that we were given in this waiting time too. A lovely Pakistani doctor who works with an organization, opening hospitals in remote areas of Central Asia hung tolerated hanging out with us for half the time and we learned so much from her and she was so patient and gracious about our kids stepping on her toes, running into her bag and leaving crumbs everywhere they went.
Everyone thronged around the desk, trying to get their boarding passes, not yet aware that we weren’t actually going to leave.
We were trying to decide what to do, becoming quite skeptical that the plane would leave even at 3am when we saw a large group making an exodus. They called to us and said, “We’re leaving. You know this plane isn’t going to fly at 3am. You don’t want to get stuck here.” They were right. We quickly joined them. We called some new friends we met in Bishkek (I.T. people from our company who have 15 grandkids) and asked if they could look up hotels for us while we got through passport control and re-claimed our bags. Once we were through, they told us, “You just come to our house and sleep here. We have beds all ready for you.” Isn’t that nice? Then we ran into our next issue – there were no taxis. Rees went to put some money on our Kyrgyz SIM card and asked the girl working at the kiosk how we can get a taxi and she said, “You can’t right now but I get off work in 30 minutes and I’ll take you into the city.” We were 40 minutes outside Bishkek. Isn’t that nice too? She even let us charge our phones in her little kiosk area. This is the interesting thing about being in need. You don’t get to experience being provided for in wondrous and generous ways if you don’t have needs. I’ve never been good at being in need, but that’s another grace-gift in becoming a parent and living overseas and having visa problems. We have had more needs and subsequently have had many occasions now to see God provide, in such caring ways, for all of them. So there we were, needing a place to sleep and a ride to that place and people who hardly knew us filled those needs and were so kind to us in the process.
Are you wondering how we got home? We weren’t sure how that was going to work since our original flight finally left the next day after lunch and they didn’t call us to let us know. Also, the next flights even from Almaty (three hours away) were full. Rees went to the embassy the next day and got us 45 day tourist visas (grace again – they were so efficient!) and we decided to fly down to Osh the next day and drive home from there. So this is how it went: Friday we flew to Osh and stayed at a home-stay there (you always meet such interesting international travelers at these places!) the next morning, Saturday, we drove in one taxi from Osh to the border, got out and walked through the border crossing (after a bunch of chit-chat and Rees having to spell out our names very slowly) and we took another taxi to Khujand, Tajikistan. That was about seven hours total. We stayed in an Air BnB and the next day, Sunday, took another taxi down to Dushanbe and then another taxi to our town, Kurganteppa (about six and a half hours and a few loooooooong tunnels, 4 or 5 km tunnels). We were giddy to be home and I couldn’t help but think, “home again, home again Finnegan!”
Top row: Hannah and Emmett on our flight to Osh, Annabel at the guesthouse in Osh
Second row: border crossing from Kyrgyzstan into Tajikistan, thankfully there was a stream for the kids to throw things into while we waited
Third row: top left – outside of Khujand, bottom left – an hour outside of Dushanbe, Fan mountains, right – the day after we arrived was a big holiday, Idi Korbon. The kids get dressed up and first thing in the morning they go around wishing everyone a happy holiday and in return, receive gum, balloons, hard-boiled eggs, walnuts, money, lollipops and the like
Fourth row: the kids heading out to get their goods (notice our paved street! it used to be dirt but was paved while we were away this year. It didn’t rain, the ladies just hosed it off), right: Annabel holding the newest baby born out in our village, Subhinoz. Her grandparents are Rees’ and my age. She was born the day we left on our journey so that was the first place we visited on the Id.
Last: finally a family pic! From the Id. This is in front of our gate, on our way to visit some people.