Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Noise

"And they returned telling Him all of their adventures and He said, come away with me to a quiet place." Mark 6:30-31

We are on our way home, the last flight of a forty-three hour journey. As V and I got comfortable in our exit row seats and once again began pulling out all of our "traveling well" paraphernalia (reading material, pillows, blankets, eye mask & snacks) I remarked about my noise reduction headphones. "I don't leave home without them." I said, as I urged her to give them a try. I would turn the switch on then off, then on then off, so she could fully appreciate their "noise" cancelling properties. Loudly she said, "I just don't get how they work, what does it do?"

Offering the best and smartest sounding non-scientist advice, I explained the principle of "white noise", a sound produced at such a decibel it cancels out the steady and annoying drone of the airplane engine. A noise that is not really a noise - something probably like a dog whistle. She laughed saying "after 25 years as an airline attendant I guess I've learned to cancel that noise out on my own."

Here I sit, not so badly folded into my airline seat, "noise reduction" headphones secured and singing soft gentle waves into my parched and weary soul. The sound of the airplane engines a distant drone in the background of my self-created environment. It is not quiet but it is calming.

I know my temporary bodily discomfort (24 flying hours, 14 layover hours - the taxi in between) will soon enough come to an end. It will be over...



My body will not be in motion with Sir Isaac Newton's law, but powered under my own volition. My episode with food poisoning is gurgling its last toxins out of my system, my travel dehydration can be slaked with clean, easy and accessible water drawn straight from the tap. The sleep deprivation of the last few days will only require one or two nights stretched out, covered up and cuddled by my down pillows and feather bed.

A dish concocted sans curry will be no problem as 5 grocery stores are within one mile of my house, not to mention the plethora of restaurants providing a variety of cuisines should I desire something other than a good old-fashioned cheeseburger and milkshake - or an enchilada or two.

The impact of the trauma - well that's another thing entirely. Since the event we have had our share of reprieves, and been able to create a facsimile of normal to get us through. Our hotel room had HBO and Star World movies which gave us topics of "have you seen this or that movie" to random discussions of various actors and their antics (V was totally unaware Paramount cancelled their contract with Tom Cruise). And we had plenty of laughter as well - to lighten the gravity of our circumstance - virtual hostages in our hotel.

We could not for the life of us figure out how "Toast-Butter-Jam" could come to our room in various states of smashed, burned, stale or crustless (like I like it). We would laugh when room service would ask for our room number because there was no doubt we were not only the only white people at the hotel, we were the only English speaking with women who were ordering room service on a consistent basis with the exact same food items for every meal: Breakfast - Toast-butter-jam and coffee - four bottles of mineral water; Lunch - Indian Bread, one tomato soup and one sweet corn soup; Dinner - the same with an added bowl of rice and fresh lime soda with salt. the staff became so familiar in the end with the simplicity and sameness of our order - they began serving it in courses; first knock four bottles of water, second knock lime soda, third knock soup, fourth knock the signing of the check and pick up of the dishes. I think they were trying to break up our obvious monotony, which blessed us with comedic relief.

We laughed, but then...

we cried.

Thankfully we took turns doing so as remembrance of what happened would wash over us like a wave, and our tears would flow with the "whys?" The room would seem silent then as one or the other of our sadness acted as the "noise cancelling" to what was going on around us.

In the streets below a constant cacophony of blaring horns, traffic sounds, tires, brakes, the occasional toot that had been transformed into a musical encore signaling "get out of my way". We could always tell what time it was in the darkness of night by how many horns, beeps and blares were still in conversation on the street running under our hotel window. If perchance you had to get up in the night and heard nothing, you knew it was too early to actually wake up, because the silence signified the dead of night (3:30 - 4:30 am) and the only hour when falling back to sleep wouldn't require ear plugs.

There was always the "noise".

There were lots of sounds that made us smile to be sure:

The children at the orphanage shouting "Auntie, Auntie, Auntie" in warm recognition of our return.

Listening to them count in their local language the number of times they were able to jump rope before missing the beat.

Their laughter when they saw a "trick" they didn't understand.

The village children's applause when I made the interpreter translate the "crying".

The worship of the locals singing "Yesu, Yesu" on a village rooftop with lightning flashing in the night sky.

Sister J's childlike giggle as we complimented her on her cooking, our her outfit, or our joining ranks with her to get Pastor P to eat his vegetables.

The transformed sound of Pastor P's quiet gentle voice and mannerisms turn into a fiery round of praise, adoration and admonition to his missionaries like a General preparing his troops for battle. Always ending "In the Name of Jesus."

The sound of A's laughter as he told jokes no one but he could understand and just enjoying something even that got lost in the translation.

The interpreted comments of thanksgiving from the 45 who attended the Pastor's seminar. "Thank you for bringing us these tools. Now I can witness to my neighbor who just asked me to pray for her sickness. You taught me about the battlefield. I used to think Satan was my only enemy, know I know I have 33 million enemies. Thank you to A for showing us Christ-like leadership qualities we should have."

The village man's invitation to his house for tea, biscuits and a blessing for his family.

The shouts of all as they waved goodbye.

On airplanes I may need noise canceling headphones to help me forget I am trapped in a flying tube for 10 or more hours, but God has given me His noise canceling mechanism for life. It is those sounds of India, and the sound of two sister saints in the field, reading back and forth prayers coming in from around the world, from people we didn't even know who had heard of the battle. Through tears and deep breaths of humility and praise -

The sound of breaking glass is becoming a faint remembrance.

His praise is still loud and proclaimed!