We are watching the volcano drama unfold closely. It appears our family friends Kathy and Alex made it out on one of the last planes to leave France on Thursday, just before they put the air space restrictions into place. Quelle chance! Now I am hoping for the winds of change to arrive in time for my mom's flight on Saturday night. She is calm about it and hopes the flight will still happen (although she acknowledges that it might not), so I am trying to be, too.
But it's hard -- because I *really* REALLY want her to be able to come. We have been talking about her trip here for so long, plotting, planning, dreaming, and exchanging countless emails. I have our hotels in the Loire booked (one former abbey, one former petite chateau), I know which days we will go to market, I know just which walks and restaurants and shops I want to take her to, and John has a great rental van booked well in advance. The kids are SO excited to see her, too. I know it will not be the end of the world if she is not able to come...but oh, I hope she can.
And I'm not the only one sending all of my energy to the skies, hoping for a shift of the winds. We have several friends on both sides of the Atlantic who have already been caught in the travel nightmare. One friend from Lethbridge came to Oxford to give a paper... and now is worried she won't make it home for her son's first birthday. Another friend from Burgundy took her kids to Calgary for les vacances scolaire and now won't be heading back for at least nine more days. Other Lethbridge friends flew to England for her father's birthday... and haven't been able to get through to the airline for days to even ask about when or how they might be able to reschedule. All of these people are missing school, work, family, milestones and more. And these are just the people I know... there are hundreds of thousands of others with stories like this around the world. Kind of mind-boggling, isn't it?
When I read about how this volcano has, in the past, spent more than a year spewing its ash and steam, it also made me wonder what would happen if Europe remains a no-fly zone for a longer term. How would we get home if the volcano is still active in June and the prevailing winds are still, well, prevailing? Would we try to catch a ship back to North America? Drive to Portugal and leave from there? Since our big return is still two months off, I haven't spent a *lot* of time dwelling on this (in fact, I have been madly using my internet travel agent skills to search for the friend trying to get home in time for her son's birthday -- this morning I found a train to Rome and flight to Toronto for her next week if she can wait that long)... but the thought has started to cross my mind.
I have spent a bit more time thinking about how reliant we are on air travel for more than moving tourists and business people. One article I read mentioned that injured U.S. soldiers are being sent straight to Andrews AFB in the U.S., instead of being taken to a base in Germany. That one change involves so many people and places... and there are thousands of similar changes that must be made in the midst of this natural crisis. And what about the mail? What about the fruit, the food, the clothes, the cargo that are regularly shipped from one part of the world to another?
The only silver lining in this ash cloud that I have seen is that it's a natural phenomenon, not man made. There is no one to be angry at. It just *is*. So all you can do (at least all I am trying to do) is shrug your mental shoulders on all of the uncertainty, in that French way. And all you can say is on verra (we'll see).
Well, you can also wish wildly, pray passionately, hope whole-heartedly (and when needed, check out this handy New York Times site of open and closed airports). It might not be as French of a response... but it certainly can't hurt either.