America: mountains to hills, streams called rivers in Colorado, rivers called streams next to the mighty Mississippi in the Midwest, and small rural towns to gi-normous cities. America is a not a country, but a continent. A continent of subtle and huge changes within one country. We speak English predominantly, and share the same money, the dollar. We travel, live, and work thousands of miles from where we were born, and yet we are still Americans traveling.
“I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, robbers, my countrymen, Gentiles (foreigners) , city, wilderness, sea, false brothers, I have been in labor and hardship through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food in cold and exposure” II Corinthians 11:26-27 NAS
The train is unpredictable. Amtrak was my source of inspiration on this journey, My first cross-country train in America. It was late. Two hours. Unusual or normal? Unusual but there is no back-up train, so we wait. People get on this train across Kansas in the middle of the night. You hope they called or went on the internet to see the “lateness”. Sleep comes in snatches as I stretch across two chairs, lay down, knees up, legs up, knees bent, turned, flat, sitting, stretching, and hanging over the chair arm into the aisle.
The train is uncomfortable. The rhythm of the rails takes time to work its magic. First, you are irritated by the movement. Then you are awakened by the rail changes on the trip. Bumps or smooth – the rhythm finally puts me to sleep intermittently for the next eight hours. The seats are big and have foot and leg rests for comfort. “Breakfast is now being served in the dining car,” is cheerfully announced at 6:00 am.” My own breakfast of hard boiled eggs, cheese, nuts, and fruit will have to suffice on this trip.
The train is clean, as I now see in the daylight. There are three different languages being spoken: English, Spanish and Chinese. Because we are not commonly on trains in the Midwest and West, it is an adventure. When you ride the train everyday in the East or overseas, no one talks. On this journey the questions are: “Where are you going? And where did you come from?” There are wishes of “Happy Thanksgiving! Have a good trip? Can I help you?” People are friendly, interesting and interested in you.
The train is cold. I know from trying to stay warm as I slept. I had a blanket, two pillows, eye mask, ear plugs, fleece vest, fleece jacket, two pairs of socks and a scarf. Long underwear, next time, will be necessary. We have so much in America, that any lack irritates us. This is one day of not having hot food. One day of being cold. One day of being uncomfortable. One day of adjusting my schedule to a group. One day of sleeplessness. I have almost become my worst fear: the ‘awful American’ I used to dismiss when I lived overseas who complained and could not adjust to another culture or anything out of their environment. I adjust and shut up about the complaints.
The train provides. Inexpensive cost relative to planes drives this decision to cross the country to a tertiary city market. It involved two car trips of 5 hours round trip for each, one train, one coach bus (to get us to our destinations when we missed the connection because of late train problems), and one local regional train. My feet and body are walking to connections lugging my 100 pounds of luggage. Why do I have this much luggage? I have no idea!
How do you respond when you have difficulties in travel? Are you adaptable or is there really “no place like home?” What about the people you meet? Are you helpful and friendly with “foreigners?”