The long voyage home

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

A Memorable TripBy Heidi Nevin...

January 17, 1999

The long voyage home; A Memorable Trip

By Heidi Nevin : Special to the Sun

My annual trip home to America is about to begin. I've been living and studying in India for the past two years and am finally going to get to see my parents and sister again, take hot baths and eat fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie. I am giddy with excitement. The only trouble is the trip itself, which I know will be grueling. Traversing half the planet Earth is never easy.

I've done the trip before. I know the way, and I know the textures of all the different surfaces I will try to fall asleep on en route. The rattling old jeep that will wind down from the Himalayan foothills; the hard, upper berth of the overnight, second-class train to Calcutta; the cramped seats in endless airplanes and transit lounges; and finally the cozy back seat of my parents' car. All in all, the journey from my hotel room in the Himalayas to my own sweet bed in Maryland will take 68 1/2 hours.

I try to stay low-key. Except for a small rickshaw crash in Calcutta, things are going smoothly. Leaving the mountains for the heat and exhaust of urban India is a shock, and I can feel swollen glands in my throat. The train gets to Calcutta 7 1/2 hours late. Just endure, I tell myself. I fantasize about fresh pie in the oven.

Altogether, I am inside airplanes for 20 hours. That makes an awful lot of snacks and drinks and mealtimes. After a while, not even the in-flight movies can distract me from my aching limbs and burning eyes. From my little oval window, I can see the brown terrain of Iran 35,000 feet below. Why does 645 miles per hour seem so slow?

The four-hour layover in Detroit is eternal. I have no idea what day it is anymore. I wake up just in time for the final leg to Baltimore. There I visualize myself leaping, or rather collapsing, into the warm arms of my mother and father.

That last flight is blessedly short. But when we land, the crew announces they are going to keep us on board "for a few more minutes" while they prepare the gate for arrival. Every extra moment is excruciating. I want nothing more than to get off that plane.

Suddenly, miraculously, the plane fills with music. Am I delirious? No, it is real. A barbershop quartet sitting 10 rows behind me has burst into close-harmony song. Their beautiful voices enchant us, and the whole jam-packed crowd relaxes. People clap wildly, begging for an encore, and I find myself hoping it won't end. When the flight attendants finally open the doors, people don't want to get off! I could have stayed on that plane all night. I just want to say thank you to those four anonymous gentlemen for a truly wonderful homecoming.

Heidi Nevin once lived in White Hall and now makes annual visits there.

Gentlemanly pose in the Azores; My Best Shot

By Saundra G. Venn, Freeland

A close friend of mine was working for a military base on Terceira, one of nine islands in the Azores, 800 miles west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. A trip to the island was a must for me. The gentleman with the donkey was my friend's neighbor. When I gestured with my camera, asking him if I could take his picture, he nodded "yes," and raised a finger to indicate "in a minute." He finished adjusting the straps on his donkey, struck his pose and then nodded to let me know I could photograph him.

Just back from ... Orlando, Fla.

Mary Joan and Sidney Levin, Baltimore

"Would you believe we experienced a twister, an earthquake, the killing of King Kong and the middle of 'Terminator 2?' All in a space of four hours. We ate at Planet Hollywood, experienced Disney Quest and saw the acts at Pleasure Island. You can enjoy all this for five days for about $250 per person. What a way to go."

Italy

Sybil T. Olarsch, Randallstown

"I traveled by myself to Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Verona and many more wonderful sites. Not only was the country fantastic and beautiful, I was lucky to meet loving people from all over the U.S., Canada and New Zealand."

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