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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Part II – Are You Sure You Want to Fly Aeroflot?

Posted by admin in June 21st, 2009
Published in faith

Monday morning I woke bright and early relieved that the bunk bed had not collapsed crushing the small child beneath me. That my friend was a great way to start the day. Marianne and Aimo were in the kitchen having coffee and breakfast before Aimo headed in to the Foreign Affairs Office where he worked. Marianne was Austrian. Aimo was Finnish. They had met working for their countries’ embassies in North Korea. That’s right! The old Hermit Kingdom. They had met, fallen in love and married. Now they were settled in domestic bliss in Helsinki with five-year-old Pia and her six-month-old baby sister. Marianne was a stay-at-home mom. A godly woman with a real passion for Christ and reading the Bible. Her English was impeccable and it was the language of their home as their mother tongues differed.

Aimo greeted me warmly. The leeriness of the preceding day had worn off and he had obviously decided I was harmless. “Hey, why don’t you get dressed and come into town with me this morning. I drive to work and can drop you off at the city center. This way you can work on getting tickets home…or to wherever you want to go next.”

“Aimo!” Marianne said kinda scolding him. “You sound as if you want her to leave!”

“No!” Aimo said sincerely. “I just thought with the strike she’ll be stuck here if she doesn’t make reservations early. We have no idea when this thing’ll be over. Right now you can’t even call your parents and tell them you’re safe. It’s terrible here and word on the street is that the truckers will strike within the week. That means no food, no petrol. It’s gonna get tough around here.”

I completely understood. I did need to make a plan. I assured Marianne that Aimo was just thinking of my best interests and I gulped down a delicious cup of Marianne’s coffee and rushed off to get ready.

Aimo was a great guy. He had been a follower of Christ most of his life. He was gentle. He was practical. He loved God, but he also knew the importance of planning. After all, he was a government man! Aimo dropped me at a travel agency so I could make arrangements to go back home. What was there for me to do? What else could I do? My Dad had always told me that if I got stranded (i.e. no money) I could call home and he’d wire me just enough cash for a ticket home. That was always my safety net—a way out for me.

I walked into the small travel office which was crammed full with desks and computers. There was no lobby, you just opened the door and BOOM you were in the office. Three young blond-haired, blue-eyed female agents (the travel kind, not 007 kind) were in that morning and all looked up and greeted me in Finnish.

“Does anyone speak English?” I asked.

They laughed, “We all do. How may we help you?”

Suddenly, without planning on it, I started telling the three blond very kind travel agents my life story. How I had come to Helsinki thinking God was leading me to Russia. How I wanted to take the train across Russia to pray for it and to BE on Soviet soil. I told them how I wanted to go through Helsinki because of the ease of the visa and everything and then the strike and oh well, and the Hotel Intercontinental and Aimo and Marianne and you can imagine how detailed I must have been. Let’s just say they could clearly see my situation. (I’m very needy).

“Why don’t you fly?” one of the Finnish agents asked.

“What?” I responded. I’m so sharp and catch on so quickly.

“Fly,” she responded. “Why don’t you fly? You can fly to Moscow; we can still get you your Russian visa and make all your arrangements. It is not much more expensive that the train and it takes a fraction of the time.”

I needed a moment. I plopped down in the nearest chair and thought about it. The Lord hadn’t said specifically to take the train; in fact I felt more like taking the train from East to West, like the rising of the sun than from West to East. Without money, I couldn’t really stay in Russia, so maybe a quick flyover would be good and then I could go on to Beijing and work for the summer. As I started thinking about it, why not fly to China? I could go to my old school, teach a few months, wait for the weather to get better, save some money. I could use Chinese money to buy a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Beijing back to Helsinki. Pray over Russia via train. Wow. This could really be the solution.

“How much is it to fly from Helsinki, to Moscow and then on from Moscow to Beijing?” I asked, as if I had money in my pocket, which I didn’t.

“Would you fly Finnair or Aeroflot?” she responded.

“Whichever is cheapest?” I asked.

I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I could fly one-way from Helsinki, layover in Moscow, fly out of Moscow on to Beijing on Aeroflot for $250 USD. Once I was in China I could work and earn my keep.

“I’ll take it” I smiled. And the three Finnish travel agents made my reservations and poured me a cup of tea. I had one week to pay for the ticket or I’d lose my reservation.

Monday evening over dinner I told my plans to Aimo and Marianne. Both were excited, but Aimo was a little confused.

“Why are you confused?” I asked him.

“Because I thought of flying for you as well and checked with the airlines this morning and they said there were no seats available.”

“Well, Aimo, I’m flying Aeroflot from Helsinki, I have a layover in Moscow and then on to Beijing.” Very proud of myself.

“YOU’RE WHAT?!?” Aimo’s face had gone completely white. He wasn’t speechless, but I could tell he was trying to choose his words carefully. He really couldn’t believe the idiot he was dealing with here. He breathed in deeply and tried to calm himself. And then he spoke. The way an adult speaks to a child. One that desperately needs to learn a life lesson.

“You see Teri, Aeroflot is the worst airlines in the world. IN THE WORLD! They have the worst record of any airlines. Worse than China, or Cuba or even some of those in Africa. You don’t want to fly Aeroflot from Helsinki across an entire continent. It just wouldn’t be safe.”

“But it’s only $250,” I said as if that was the perfect argument.

“You don’t have $250,” he said.

“I know, but they are holding my ticket for me until I do.” I smiled.

“Okay, let’s say you get $250 and you buy your ticket. What are you going to do in China?” he asked.

“Work. I can teach there.” I said.

“Do you have a visa for China?” he asked.

Maaaan! I hadn’t even thought of that! Touché Aimo.

“No. But I can get one,” I answered—more assured of myself than I ought to be.

“Get your ticket first and then we’ll see about getting you a visa for China.” He was sure I was going back to the U.S. and quite frankly I had my doubts about going to China via Moscow as well.

The next day I went to meet a man by the name of Jyrki Laukkannen. Jyrki Laukkannen was one of Finland’s top test pilots. He was the Top Gun of the Finnish Air Force. I had never met him before but I did meet a friend of his in Arlington, Texas. A lovely woman by the name of Mary Houston whose husband was a big time glider pilot. He and Jyrki had met in Colorado years ago and became good friends through their love for gliders and all things “pilotty”. I spoke at a women’s church luncheon one Saturday and met this Mary Houston who was very concerned that I would go off to Finland without knowing anyone and without any contacts. (Imagine that!) She gave me the Laukkenen’s telephone number and said she would call Jyrki before I arrived just to give him a “heads up” that a young American woman might be in need of help in his country of Finland.

Mary had done what she had promised so my call to Jyrki wasn’t totally out of the blue. He wanted to be a good friend to the Houstons more that he wanted to help me, but hey I’ll take it!

I met Jyrki (and quit calling him jerky–the “j” is pronounced like a “y”!) over coffee in downtown Helsinki. He invited me to spend the weekend with him and his family in an air force town outside of Helsinki called Halli. I agreed.

Jyrki didn’t know any of my plight. I thought it best not to tell him as he gave me the impression he felt I was foolish enough as it was. Who comes to a country where they know no one in the off season when the weather is horrid? Who does that?

Jyrki wasn’t what I’d call a born-again believer. He did believe in God and seemed to like Jesus well enough. But he was kind of a sceptic and I didn’t want to give him any fuel for his fire. He had a topic he liked to discuss with me called “All things foolish about religion.” Hmmmm. I really could have proven his case for him by telling him my lamo story.

The Lempinens stored my stuff for me and I headed out Friday afternoon with Jyrki to meet his wife Marja and two daughters in the small quaint air force town of Halli. From the moment I walked into their home Marja and I knew we were sisters. She was a new believer that had just gone through an incredible experience with the Lord. Three top pilots in their small community had died and through the grieving process, one of the pilot’s wives, who was a very strong Christian, had won many in her community to Christ through her husband’s death. Tough story. But real fruit was there. Marja had so many questions about Christianity and the Bible and China and everything. We talked non-stop. Jyrki, who was quite a bit older than Marja and me, said he had no idea his wife could speak “so good English.” He teased us, but pretty much left us alone for our constant talking and late night praying and crying. It was like meeting someone I had known all my life for the very first time. (Wow Teri. That’s really deep).

I had a great weekend with the Laukkanens. The girls were hilariously funny and so sweet. Jyrki took me up in a glider plane and the quietness and beauty of seeing everything from up there was, well, indescribable.

Finally it was time to leave. Jyrki was driving me back into the city and dropping me off at Aimo’s and Marianne’s. I kissed the little ones. Hugged Marja real big. Cried a bit. And off we went. But before I got into the car Marja gave me an envelope. Plain, white. And with my name written on the outside. She had also written, “Please don’t open until you arrive in Helsinki.” I took the envelope eager to read its contents and cried a little bit more. (Jyrki didn’t like it when women cried).

We arrived in Helsinki. Jyrki wished me luck. Asked me to stay in touch. And kindly saw me to the front door of Aimo’s and Marianne’s apartment building. We shook hands goodbye. He was relieved to have quiet once again in his life.

Marianne was in the kitchen. Pia and the baby were already asleep. Aimo was at a church meeting that was running late. As I told her about my weekend, I remembered the envelope Marja had given me and I jumped up to get it.

“Hey! Marja gave me an envelope. Should I open it and see what’s inside?”

“Sure,” Marianne was distracted with kitchen duties.

I opened the envelope and there with a small note wrapped around it was a stack of dollar bills totaling $250. I know you’re saying, “She must have told Marja what she needed!”

No. No I didn’t! I didn’t tell Marja or Jyrki anything about my travel plans. I mentioned that with the strike I was thinking about heading to China and waiting out the summer there until I could get back into the USSR. I NEVER, EVER told them about the flight costs, the Intercontentinal wipeout, because I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of flake and I didn’t want them to think I was looking for a handout. No. I didn’t tell them.

But there it was. $250. I went the next day and purchased the airline ticket to Beijing. All I had to do next was get my visa for China. No big deal. Or so I thought…

Part III tomorrow I’ll tell about Aimo and the Chinese Embassy. Peace.

1 user Responded In This Post

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138. big sister said,
June 22nd, 2009 at 10:09 am

Reading these words is like re-living the experiences you shared years ago…thank you.

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