April 11, 2022, 11:00 AM

Day 11 -- Warm, healing sun

What a whirlwind trip it has been in so many ways! Here’s the quick rundown of the past 48 hours, and yes, the story sounded like there was more to it when I last blogged and there is!

On Sunday — Palm Sunday — Cheryl was taking the rental car to book our new accommodations, but she was pulled over by the local police. Turns out, we don’t have international driving licenses. The law requiring these is brand-new in 2022 and Cheryl was the first person charged with the infraction. We were blessed that World Central Kitchen got an interpreter out to the site where she was pulled over, that he was able to drive the car back to town and stay with her at the Police Station. I was at the Police Station when they arrived but they did not let me stay with Cheryl. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do—should I have fought back and said I was going anyhow? Should I have made a scene? I did neither—I was scared too, but letting her go with those Police Officers felt like one of the worst moments of my life and was an absolute low point of our trip.

It took a few hours to bring Cheryl home. Blessedly, in the meantime, Cheryl’s husband Steve had figured out a way to get an international drivers license online. Alistair did the same for me and then Cheryl and I were able to drive the rental car, as we needed to get back to the hotel and ultimately travel back to the airport in Warsaw on Tuesday.

We had finished our volunteer shift at WCK, and made a decision to drive the car directly back to Warsaw and to cut one day off of our trip. We packed up the car and drove the 5 hours to Warsaw. Being in a major city felt safer to us. The border area and train station were getting busier every day with new tensions in East Ukraine and we felt our time had come to a good end, and a safe end.

In the meantime, Cheryl had made another decision to reroute her trip in order to visit with family in Italy. Rather than traveling separately, we planned to fly to Bologna together, which we did, and then I plan to head back to New York on my original travel date, the 12th, tomorrow— from Bologna.

Can I tell you first that Bologna is NOT Poland? Wow! I have taken pictures of this beautiful, warm, bee-buzzy, bird-singing lush area of our world. Wineries lined the highway, and buds on fruit trees were bursting open into pink and white flowers. Luckily we had our International Drivers Licenses, so we set off from Bologna to the San Marino area, climbing with our manual shift car higher and higher into the mountains.

And so here we are, reflecting on our trip, opening all the windows and feeling as though we have arrived into a fairy tale world. I’m not sure how healthy this is because it is like emotional whiplash. It is disconcerting  and confusing to be in a place that is so different in every way. At the Kitchen, we worked so so hard and did not even have places to sit down, except for pallets on the floor and only at lunch time. We knew that’s why we were there, so I am not complaining—don’t misunderstand! We were there to serve and we did, gladly. Much like upstate NY, the weather in Poland was cold and cutting. But here in the San Marino area of Italy, next to Rimini and close to the Adriatic Sea the sun and warmth are both strange and deeply healing.

Cheryl will be staying for a while in this area and it is consoling to know that she is surrounded by people who love her so much. She met her adopted Italian family when she, Steve and Rory sponsored two foreign exchange students for an academic year. Giulia and her family adore Cheryl and healing is in the breeze, the air and the sunshine.

So tomorrow I return alone. Please pray that I can navigate the challenges ahead on my own. Yep, I’m a grown up, but Cheryl has a way of making the challenges seem like blips on the horizon. I want to be more like her in this area, and have confidence that all things will work together for good. After all, God called us to make this trip and God will see us home, right?

This is really a news report, not a reflection about our trip, but I did want to update you on our situation. Cheryl and I have a lot to process together, and we do have a specific connection with the situation in the Ukraine that will probably be the topic of conversation for long time in both of our houses. Reflections will come later when we have been able to gather thoughts. Right now it is all too close, and I want to enjoy the 24 hour respite in this stunning countryside.

I leave here, San Marino, for Bologna in the morning. Please pray for safe travels for me and for Cheryl. It will be hard to separate from her. She has been my safety person, my comic relief, my best friend and my greatest concern in the past 2 weeks. We have traveled together with perfect compatibility, and we are grateful for that.

I think I’ll close today with a verse from 1 Peter:4: 8-10:

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should give whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Be blessed and be a blessing to others —see you soon!!!