July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.
This September 11, 2015 was the longest day I’ve had in many years. Literally. It started with a roughly 3 hour train ride to an airport to catch a flight departing on Friday afternoon, September 11, and it ended in a different time-zone after about 17 hours of travel time (including layovers) where it was still Friday, September 11, early evening. According to the local clock, a difference of only about 5 hours. But the journey was much longer.
It gave me time to ponder, which, of course, was the subject of another Chronicle. It was the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the horror of watching hundreds of people make a desperate final decision to leap to their deaths from 80 – 100 stories up rather than be consumed by flames, and all that followed.
But September 12 is a day for new beginnings. At least that was the message behind the below video, created by the New York City Ballet. To quote Matt Eastwood, speaking on behalf of the ballet (source: Daily News).
“Our hope is that 9/12 can now be re-branded as a day of optimism and new beginnings.”
Today, I am in Budapest, Hungary. The place where I was born. My family and I left our home and everything we knew behind when I was not yet a teenager. After waiting for almost two years in Austria for the chance to move to the United States, we finally arrived in California when I started high school. In the interim, the communist regime we left behind had fallen, along with the iron curtain we crossed from East to West. The Berlin wall was now just rubble, pieces of which would end up as decorations and curiosities; relics of a past to remind the next generation never to repeat yet another of history’s many mistakes. And our family had a new beginning on the West Coast of America.
A different story of migration is unfolding on the border of Hungary and Austria even now. Refugees from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere are making their way through Hungary toward Austria in hopes of settling in relatively wealthy Western European nations such as Germany and Sweden. The sheer numbers of refugees are threatening to overwhelm authorities and infrastructure, and are causing political divisions in Hungary and elsewhere, trying to find the best way to deal with the masses passing through the country. Fleeing persecution or hoping for better opportunities, thousands are moving by bus, train, or even on foot after having crossed the Mediterranean in rickety boats. Many others have failed, succumbing to exhaustion or the sea, with recently published images of drowned children causing an uproar and intensifying the focus on this issue. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in that line of thinking, the Independent has published a series images that spoke volumes, which I have linked here, with the following justification:
“The Independent has taken the decision to publish these images because, among the often glib words about the ‘ongoing migrant crisis,’ it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.”
This heart-wrenching dose of reality cut through the abstractions associated with immigration. My own family’s story is a far cry from the desperation faced by such immigrants, but desperation does factor significantly into all stories of migration.
On a lighter note, my own journey began with something of a pleasant surprise. I had left Korea, a place where I met a number of unique, interesting, and amazing people, and booked a ticket on an airline with which I had already had some experience, and not in a positive way. Aeroflot, the Russian airline. It had been over a decade since the last time I flew Aeroflot, but I still remembered being charged for “excess baggage weight” or some other fee that seemed completely fabricated in light of the fact that it was on the return trip with the same luggage with which I had arrived, as well as a poor impression with regard to food and customer service in general. Yet, in my desperation and under pressures of time, finances, and matters of various sorts, I booked the flight with the lowest expense and quickest route: Aeroflot, connecting in Moscow. Prior to boarding, I dreaded the imaginary horrors that lay ahead.
Much to my surprise, the food was far better than the water-and-bread I had expected, and no one attempted to force me to pay any fees for my one piece of luggage. The service was quite good, and I might even add that the flight attendants were attractive and friendly. My seat was positioned so that no seat was in front of me, offering plenty of legroom. Each passenger had his or her own video screen, with access to movies, games, etc., and even access to WiFi at some point, which I did not use. I did watch Nightcrawler and the first 15 minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road, which I had missed when I watched the movie the first time around, and I even managed to get some sleep. Especially in view of the price, which was the lowest by a good margin among the flights I had found, I cannot help but give an endorsement to Aeroflot.
In Moscow, at Sheremetyevo airport where a maze of duty-free shops try their best to leave you with no money in your pocket before departing, I took the bait on one of the offers and purchased “Kremlin” brand vodka as a present to the people who would host me in Hungary. We did eventually indulge in a drink or two, which helped with digestion after wolfing down several pounds of some of my favorite food items that sadly are not available in America (or Korea) such as Hungarian sausage. Thus ended the first night of my journey, back to where it all began, in Budapest. I awoke the next day and experienced the wonders of digestion cleansing my body with remarkable efficiency of what seemed like all waste products I may have consumed in the past week. Maybe the Hungarian fare had to push out whatever Korean cuisine was left in me. No matter the reason, after the completion of natural processes, I felt lighter and healthier, and ready to walk around the city in the newly arrived sunshine that had replaced the initial rain that greeted me at the airport the night prior. Quite the refreshing change at the start of a new day – perhaps a new beginning.
Stay tuned for the next Chronicle, of the 13th.