Monday, February 26, 2007

An update from Richard

We made plans to stay in 16 rooms at a nearby hotel while simultaneously attempting to get on any last flight out. One group of nine was preparing to get on a shuttle to the hotel when we learned the rooms had already been sold. We had asked about giving them credit card info but "first come, first serve" had beaten out our slow-moving herd to this nearby hotel. We wound up chartering a bus to a new Holiday Inn Express 45 minutes away, stopping at a CVS to pick up meds as we went. The bus driver, Olig, was fabulous on the slushy taxi-weaving highway and it was good to be all safely together and warm. Some of us were still wearing flip-flops and tank tops from San Antonio.

The Holiday Inn Express is in Palatine, Illinois near Countryside Church, UU. Kate busied herself putting together a master list of all immediate requests: boxers, t-shirts, athletic shorts, sweatpants, toothbrushes, and toothpaste (we are without our luggage) and Nancy, a wonderful woman from the Social Action Committee at Countryside, drove Kate to Target for supplies. Meanwhile, Curt organized a cell phone-rechargizing campaign so that we could keep our communication flowing both within our group and to people back home. Conference calls to the "Desolate Nine" who had already returned to their families on the Northwest flight had a calming effect on both sides of the wires.

Bev invoked a little-known clause in our service trip contract that allowed for an extension of good behavior requirements and dubbed this "The Palatine Contract." With the myriad dizzying detail of the trip bearing down on her shoulders, Bev finally succumbed to gravity when trying to take her pants off in her room the first night and keeling over. She and roommate Kate lay on the floor laughing quite a while.

Oscar night was upon us and as we watched in various rooms, the chaperones, now referred to as "Chappies," began to congregate in Bev and Kate's room, drawn by the hope of a foot massage from Richard. It was, as Bev put it, "a little piece of heaven."

Henry left us this morning at 5:00 in an effort to not miss any more school, and phoned midway to say he was making good progress. We had endless amounts of breakfast foods - yogurts, juices, eggs, cereal - in the Gold Room, which had been given to us, free of charge, by the hotel to conduct our large-scale gatherings.

Today we are creating a number of offerings throughout the hotel, much like a conference would operate. It will be a "gym day" and those who know yoga are organizing yoga classes. Haley may do some sort of dance workshop and chaperones will talk about their work experiences in the world. We will put up an easel indicating which activities are going on in which rooms.

500 flights were cancelled at O'Hare yesterday, with 1500 people sleeping at the airport over the weekend - in nooks and crannies of the baggage claim areas and the link - which made me think again of homeless people we had spent time with in San Antonio.

I woke to the sound of geese honking across the sky. Many of us are now wistful for home.

-Richard (dictated to Dan over the phone at 12:30pm Monday)

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