February 24, 2002

Travel and Plans

Dear Family,

As some of you know, about a month ago I was working on plans to go to
Palau as a student missionary. I was going to go to a clinic there to
help with some computer software they were setting up for 6 months. I got
to the point of just needing travel dates so that I could buy my tickets,
but instead of getting dates I heard that they didn't need someone there
after all. The clinic was going through some financial trouble and staff
changes and decided that it would be best if I didn't come. In the mean
time I had given notice on my apartment, but had the option to stay on
longer if needed. Since Palau fell through I have been looking for
another overseas position to take instead. About two weeks ago I decided
that as long as I was just in a waiting mode I might as well travel
through the US and Canada on a 30 day train pass. So, with a hectic last
week or so I sold most of my big furniture and moved out of my apartment.
Ben (my room mate) was able to find a great place to move to in Loma Linda
at the last minute. We took the last load of stuff out of our old
apartment on the way to the Palm Springs Amtrak station Wednesday night
and I boarded my first train at about 1:30am Thursday morning.

My first train ride was quite interesting and fun. In Tucson an older
lady got on and was planning to ride the train, but we had to wait while
the conductor called the police who escorted her off the train. She sat
down next to me in the observation car and refused to leave when the
conductor asked her to step off the train. She seemed to be a little out
of it and they weren't comfortable with her travelling alone. She told me
that she lives in Chicago and had gotten married in Las Vegas a few days
ago before taking a Limo down to Tucson and she was on her way home to
Chicago. She also told me all about her three children and her two
grandchildren while we waited for the police to show up. She had a badly
bruised eye and said she had fallen off the bed and spent two days in the
hospital in Las Vegas. She also said that her new husband had gone back
to Chicago without her because of his work. Her appearance was like
someone who had been living on the street and she was travelling with just
a plastic grocery bag as her luggage. While she was happily talking to me
the rest of the people in the observation car kept staring and listening
to her talk. When she finally agreed to go along with the Police to talk
to them outside the train, she shook my hand, said thank you and went out
to the platform. She waved happily to the whole train as it pulled out of
the station leaving her behind.

I spent two nights on the train before getting off in Houston, TX at about
2:30 Friday afternoon. Other people I met on the train included a German
Physics doctoral student spending 15 days touring the US for the first
time, a Fabricator who makes props for movie sets in LA, an Animator
moving from San Francisco back to Ohio, a man who works as a chef on coal
ships in the great lakes and has been doing it for 30 years, a guy who
worked as a DJ at a club in DC, an Irishman travelling on a 15 day train
pass who told me where all the good pubs are, a Vietnam Veteran from
Alaska, a man who has worked in the snack car of the train for over 25
years and was an employee of Southern Pacific before Amtrak took over and
a retired man travelling form Tucson to Florida to visit his daughter.
From the train I watched the scenery slowly change from desert with
cactus, to desert with only shrubs, to forest with cactus and eventually
to forest with some swamps and wetlands before we arrived in Houston.
Near El Paso we had a good view of Mexico on the other side of the border
fence. We could see the shanty town with dirt streets from the train.

Monte Benton met me here in Houston and I have really enjoyed visiting
with him, his wife Jackie and Miranda who is almost 2 years old.
Yesterday we went to church and then had a picnic at a Bayou where we also
hiked. Miranda enjoyed seeing turtles, birds, a frog and an alligator.
From the park we drove to the bay where we saw lots of sailboats since it
was a windy day. After that we took some pictures at the Enron sign at
the base of the Enron building which is one of the major skyscrapers here
in Houston. For supper we went to a Thai restaurant before watching some
of the Olypics on TV. This morning we watched an IMAX movie about the
human body and we're just about ready to eat some lunch before I get back
on the train. My next stop is Niles where I will visit some of my friends
at Andrews University before heading down to Maryland. From Maryland I
plan to visit some friends at Atlanic Union College, then head up to
Canada and travel across Canada and down to Portland Oregon with stops in
Edmonton and Jasper.

A little over a week ago on Thursday I contacted ADRA International to see
if they had any volunteer positions where I could use my computer skills
and by the next day (Friday) I had a reply from the office in Cambodia.
They voted a call for me at the local level the following Monday and I've
been working out the details for going to Cambodia when my train trip is
done. Unless something happens to change things, I will be going for a
year to set up computer networks, setup a web page and train the staff to
use MS Office.

Anyway, now you know what's going on in my life right now. I need to get
some food and get to the train station so I'll stop and send this.

Talk to you later!

Andrew

Posted by andrew on February 24, 2002
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