-or- "Day 3, Still No Packs"
Do ever just have 'one of those days,' friends? Well, Jessica and I definitely did today. All of this seems somehow funnier and less potentially catastrophic in hindsight, so please sit back and laugh with/at us.
The day began with Jessica and I once again trying to put small plastic cylinders onto our eyeballs. It's illogical by any standard, but many people do it every day without pain. We, however, could not. The burning sensation that ensued from using European contacts solution is a pain I don't wish on (m)any of you. So, needless to say, with my glasses still lodged somewhere in the purgatorial Heathrow holding bin, I was all set to be mostly blind for a second consecutive day.
In the morning we consoled ourselves with some of the best pastries I have yet tasted. The local baker supplied us with brief smiles and the glimmering hope that 'this' may indeed be the low point in our lost baggage saga.
...until we (finally) got into contact with the British Airways customer service. The good news is that we actually got to talk to a human being (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). The bad news was the conversation that followed. Without belaboring the details too greatly, a kindly gentleman name Ishmael informed me that our bags, because they did not make the connecting flight, went into a holding bin with other bags that were considered as possible terrorist elements.
The irony of a man named Ishmael explaining this to me is almost too much to bear.
Aside from this fascinating tidbit of info, Ishmael encouraged us to go out and spend the 1000 Euros per person allotted by the airline for just such an occasion. Now, that may seem great, but to us it was as good as saying, "You'll never see your bags again."
The first order of business thereafter was finding a local shopping center with an optometrist. Our aforementioned angel, Ruth, volunteered to once again act as chauffeur and bring us to a local Wal-marty thing (with an attached Pearle Vision) called 'Cora' so that we could snap up all the necessary supplies. The second order of business was to find an optician that spoke decent English and could give me an eye exam and get new glasses put together before the end of the day. As it turned out, one out of two wasn't so bad. Jess negotiated her way nicely through a stint as my personal French translator during the exam. And, let me tell you friends, if you haven't had a bilingual eye exam thousands of miles from home, you haven't yet lived.
So, everything was going along swimmingly. We had finished our shopping and my brand new 250 Euro designer glasses (thank you, British Airways) were ready for me to pick up. But the whole process was incredibly stressful for many reasons; not the least of which is that Ruth was only able to bring us TO Cora, and not HOME FROM Cora. It seemed like a minor detail at the time. I thought we'd just call a cab. More on that in a minute...
As soon as Jess and I finished purchasing our items, I went to pick up my glasses and she headed for the restrooms. I picked up the glasses and headed toward the restrooms to meet Jess. What I then saw was her red-faced and puffy-eyed with tears streaming down her cheeks. Turns out that the I-beam that broke the camel's emotional back was the unexpected lady in the restroom who demanded she pay .35 Euros to use the toilet. And, as she fumbled through a coin purse full of nothing but American quarters and British coins, she had finally had enough of Brussels. I assured her that, indeed THIS was the low point and we were almost home with all new things.
I can be so wrong.
I went to the place where a person calls a Taxi, only to be informed that the phone wasn't working and there was no way a taxi could be called....and no buses ran to that side of town...
...at which point I also completely lost it.
Fortunately for us ('fortune' being a flexible term for 'because our God is good and knows what we need') a friendly looking African gentleman was watching the entire situation (and his wife and daughter had been in the bathroom to witness Jessica's distress). He asked what was wrong and explained that everything was going to be OK. He said that he and his family would gladly give us a ride back to our place. I didn't know if I could trust a complete stranger at first, but we honestly had nowhere else to turn.
So, with tears streaming down our faces, we headed to his car as he explained that he had been a pastor in Brussels for the last 18 years and that it was God's will that he should run into us at this precise moment. So, he played Taxi driver for us, pulling right up to the front door of our place, at which point he prayed the most moving prayer I had ever heard (half of it in a language I didn't know), gave us both hugs and sent us on our way.
Oddly enough, at that very moment the front door of our place opened. Roger and Nancy had returned from their vacation. We spent the rest of the evening in their very capable care, including a dinner of Gyros and Leffe Beer, a drive to downtown Brussels (pictures forthcoming), and a real Belgian waffle (pictures ALSO forthcoming).
So, here we are. Day 3, still no bags, reflecting about how much our faith in God is based on our present level of comfort. And, though we will definitely sleep more peacefully tonight, that peace was learned the hard way through NEEDING to trust for God's provision and protection. Tomorrow we are moving on to Interlakken with a radiance in our countenances.