2007- Entry 9: Home Again– Homeland Security Confiscated My Migal Items!

Only joking-Homeland Security didn’t know what  “migal” meant, either!

Home at last,….  happily to cheaper gas prices.. unhappily in that I had anticipated higher prices, os I filled it up before I left at $3.09 per gallon. That is why I do not work on Wall Street, folks!

My final day in Bangkok was a good one. Went to the Golden Mount pagoda by canal boat and rang the bells along the path to the top in thanks for a great trip, for all the wonderful people I met this time, and for a safe journey home. Then I was off to the Marble Temple, Wat Benjamabopit. I did get the opportunity to meditate for a while in between tours of Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and English tour groups. Times do change!

In the late afternoon, I ended up at Suan Lum Night Bazarre for dinner. Some friends of mine did not make it back from their trip south in time to join me, sad to say. But I just enjoyed savoring the food and atmosphere as much as I could.

I was at the airport by 8:45 for my 12:40 flight. I couldn’t believe how quickly I got through everything. Unlike year’s past at the old airport with the long lines and waits! I was checked in and at immigration in 10 minutes.

As I was waiting at the gate for boarding, i noticed a group of about 40 people coming in our direction. They were in a straight line and they were all carrying 2-foot square white and blue bags so familiar to me in the old days of the refugee program. Indeed, it was a group of Burmese refugees on their way to the States. A Burmese Christian named Kim, who was going to the US to complete his doctorate in Theology, was accompanying them. He explained that they were a mixed group of Muslims who originally were brought to Myanmar from India by the British to be the servant class.  The others were a group of Burmese Karen who lived on the Thia-Burmese border and for years had been caught in the crossfire and crosshairs of the civil unrest in the northern Shan States. People of all ages! They were all so curious and at the same time, so fearful!

I sat next to one of them, Ali Mohammed, about 28 years old and heading to Utica with his family. He spoke so little English, but enough to make it fun. I showed him how to use the entertainment monitor which was a funny experience as he grunted a few words with a smile and a thumbs up as we found a soccer game on the selection! The meals were a different thing. As they were Muslim, and didn’t eat pork. Well, they didn’t understand the word “pork,” I drew him a picture of a pig. Finally, Ali said, “No pig!” And for every meal, there was a little ELL lesson acting out and drawing vegetables and meat/ fish choices with their names. But the most important of all was, “No pig!” That’s really all they wanted to know on deciding which meal to choose. I couldn’t help but look at the faces and wonder where they would be in a few years time.

As we flew over northern Canada, Ali and I managed to open a shade a bit to look out on the snow-capped mountains…. last year you couldn’t see a thing. It was a treat for me to see the beautiful scenery.

As it ended up Ali and his traveling companions were just what I needed. As I watched the little plane on the monitor get closer to the US, I felt more and more homesick for Thailand. In contrast, they got more and more excited as we got closer to New York. Ali had some experience with maps, but didn’t really understand where the US was in relation to Myanmar. When I showed him the border on the map, he understood and exclaimed, “USA! Canada!” When the monitor showed us leaving Canadian airspace, Ali flipped open the shade. “New York?”  he asked with a hopeful look. “Yes, New York,” I replied. As the plane glided over the approach to JFK, you couldn’t pry his face away from the window. He saw a small city north of New York and inquired again, “New York?” When he saw the actual city itself, he couldn’t believe it. With the look on his face, no words were required. We also flew out over the ocean for the final approach which was awesome!

When the plane finally touched down, we all shook hands and greeted them to America. Many smiles and relief! As we left the plane, there were people present to guide Ali and the others to make the connections to their new homes. My last view of Ali and his family was seeing them line up in order again with their blue and white bags with a big smile on his face as he turned and waved goodbye.

The small, fragrant jasmine wreathes I bought on the street in Bangkok just before I left, are still giving off their sweet smell even from my knapsack. You could close your eyes and be back standing there before that street vendor again.

It is 6:30 AM and a new day begins for Ali, is family and me… a new day in more ways than just one.

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