This trip was made possible by my dad (and beyond him all those who sacrifice to keep us teaching Bible in Taiwan) who surprised me with a ticket to the States to go back and see my relatives whom I hadn't seen in 8 years.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
I had been packing all month and all week just so I could get to bed early on these last few days, but I had only had 3 hours of sleep when I got up at 4:20 AM.
I remember being so afraid I was going to miss my entire TWD$44,000 flight, that I only gave a cursory last check of my packing list and forgot the charcoal for upset stomach, and the book on ancient Chinese characters showing evidence of the early Bible stories (Tower of Babel and before), but nothing serious like my ID or plane ticket.
My brother and I were out the door only a little after 5 AM. I like being able to scratch his head and talk with him in the car, but for the first time I was nervous at his ability to get me places fast on the now rain-slick roads. As it turned out I waited half an hour in the departure lounge anyway.
I was flying from Kaohsiung to Taoyuan to Tokyo to Chicago to Atlanta - four sets of take-offs and landings, the most dangerous part of flying. Usually I pray so hard I fell asleep during the landing on my last trip, but I was not nearly so scared this time, having been "scolded" by Sister Baby in Singapore, and having experienced the Wang family's dismissive attitude toward it as just going home early. So I had my brain set as considering that I was definitely going home one way or another - either back to America to see my relatives, or back to heaven to see God, which really wasn't so bad when I stopped to think of it.
I have this thing about fireballs. Don't like them. But I found if I viewed them as fantasy fiction like Meg Ryan jumping off the bridge in Kate & Leopold, or in this case God saying, "I need to speak to you a minute. Step right this way, through this fireball here" and I have to go through something to materialize on the other side -- then the flight was a lot more enjoyable. Christians are so lucky to have real-life fantasy.
(Please, I'm talking about overcoming a fear of flying here. Don't put me on a no-fly list.)
My imagination can be inconvenient, as when it gives me the willies to swim alone in a swimming pool because all my brain wants to think about is a white shark in there with me, but I generally prefer to tell my brain what to feel, and trust God for the rest. For instance, we often have earthquakes in Taiwan, so what I prayed every night was more or less: "God please give me this one night peaceful to enjoy my bed. Tomorrow I might be covered in rubble, but I'm going to enjoy tonight. Because if it comes tomorrow it still doesn't mean it should have spoiled all the other 364 nights when I was wondering if it would come but it didn't. And if we do have one, after a reasonable 10 minutes outside waiting for aftershocks, please help me get right back to sleep and not wait around re-living what it just felt like." And I sleep wonderfully all the time, thank God.
Anyway back to the trip, on the flight to Tokyo there was a teenage girl in the window seat all dressed up in a flouncy Bo Peep outfit with at least 2 stuffed animals attached to her outfit and carrying a third tucked under her arm. I assumed she was Japanese because they tend to dress with more flair.
I had purposely reserved an aisle seat for the 11 hour flight from Tokyo to Chicago so that I could get up all I wanted to use the restroom and exercise without bothering anyone.
I had a bottle of water that I kept refilling at the back of the plane so I wouldn't have to bother the flight attendants for countless cups. I added a gram of C each time to combat the radiation at that altitude.
And I finally got up the nerve to exercise in the empty gallery at the back of the plane, doing Tai-Chi kicks and stretches, with yoga splits and back-bends and bend-overs, till I was warm and loose.
That was the best I've felt on a plane trip. Even though I eventually got so tired by the time I was on the flight from Chicago to Atlanta that the hand holding my very exciting Terry Brooks book would suddenly drop to my lap every page or so, still, in the following days it was the first time in my life I have had zero jetlag after flying half way around the world.
2 months ago I was going to bed at 8 and getting up at 3 in the morning. When I found out I was going to the States and started cramming Spanish, I was going to bed between 10 and 12 and getting up at 6. Then the last week, I was staying up till two in the morning (and taking COQ10 every night which did wonders for my oxygen levels and fatigue) to make sure everything would be packed in time for me to get some real sleep, which never happened, but when I finally got to bed again in the States even though I only got 3 hours again, mis-setting my alarm clock and having to get up in time anyway for Uncle George to pick me up in the morning, still that 3 hours was luxury compared to the famine of sleep on the airplane and since it was all in sleep cycle segments I felt normal and as aware as if I was still back in Taiwan. I also had no breakup of self-identity or exaggerated foot-in-mouth disease while traveling, for the first time in my life I was as put together and enjoying the flow as if I was entertaining people in my own home. Maybe it had to do, not only with having eased into traveling by having gone to Singapore 2 months before and then the camp retreat and Tracy coming to help out a few weekends and learning to deal with getting things done by keeping a fluid list on my desktop, and the self-awareness and exercise on the the plane, but also with meeting up with Joyce the next morning in Atlanta, her familiar face grounding me? Ironically, it was also the first time in years that I didn't take any melatonin or pills for jetlag during a trip.
Anyhow back to the trip. On the 11 hour flight from Tokyo to Chicago I sat next to another teenager with a stuffed animal. She had a little bear which she kept on her lap, smoothing it's ears and face with her fingers and sitting it in her lap, putting her glasses on it, and later using it as a pillow on her shoulder.
They showed the new Karate Kid with an adorable Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.
The next movie looked boring, about some city girl in France and we were eating anyway, but when I put the headphones back on I was fascinated by the heroine's conversation, every expression and sentence out of her mouth was so perfectly natural that I was mentally repeating every line and intonation after her as if I was trying to learn a new language, and I made a mental note to find the movie later so I could do it all over again. Found out weeks later it was Letters to Juliet.
When I got off the plane in Chicago the carpeted hallways smelled like potpourri.
The Forest Park Church of Christ in Atlanta kindly let me stay in one of their guesthouses so I could crash for the night before my Uncle George picked me up the next morning to go get Joyce from the airport. Brother Eddy Bettis and his son picked me up from the airport to take me to the guesthouse.
Brother Eddy Bettis and his son
I slept really well because I just do, and also because any time I had needed sleep on the airplane (taking care to micro-catnap so I wouldn't get loopy) I would just imagine how it had felt deliciously stretching out on my own bed in Taiwan. For some reason it had been super comfortable that last night and I kept the memory of it stored like a bubble in my brain as if I could climb in there and go to sleep.
Other posts in this series:
You are here: Day 1
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I am presently in the States. If you would like me to share with a ladies' class or a girls' class, pictures of what we do in Taiwan, and show how some of the Chinese characters are related to the ancient Bible stories, attesting to the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and showing that the God of the ancient Chinese was the God of the Bible ... call 1-912-388-1952
If you would like to help me make future trips back to the States for reporting and visiting my relatives, you may send a check made out to CHINA MISSION FUND (and earmarked "For Natasha's Travel & Working Fund").
CHINA MISSION FUND
Church of Christ
P.O. Box 7341
Paducah, KY 42002-7341
Or if you would like to contribute to my father's work, which is far more important because it keeps us all teaching Bible in Taiwan, just omit the earmarking.
I do not get a salary. I live with my parents and teach Bible to 15 people a week. Sharing the Bible is my life. I would be doing this regardless of whether I was a missionary or not and I expect that I'll be startling some Bible students by popping off in the middle of a Bible discussion at the age of 90. But I have been very blessed to have my father, mother, brothers, and sister with me in Taiwan all these years. So contributing to my father's work ultimately helps me teach Bible as well.
Brother Jim Phillips is the preacher at the church that maintains the China Mission Fund for us. If you would like to call him, you may do so at 1-270-527-7580.
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