Thursday, January 27, 2011

When life gives you a volcano…

In the middle of Sarah’s viewing of The Kids Are All Right and Steve’s 17th viewing of Avatar, the pilot came over the airwaves to interrupt our entertainment service.  My (Sarah) thoughts immediately turned to the endless promotion of the duty free goods that bombard you at the Hong Kong airport, but his news was different.  A volcano has erupted near Denpasar, the airport in Bali to which we were meant to fly, but the sky is too filled with smoke and debris for us to land.  Also, they are uncertain of the volcano’s eruption rate, so we’re headed back to Hong Kong.  The mood on the flight right now is not that of panic, but rather many puzzled heads coming together to figure out just what to do when we return.  People are milling about and talking in big clumps, but generally with grins and looks of exasperation rather than looks of panic.

My (Sarah) heart did skip a beat when the man in charge told us he had “bad news” to tell us.  I was reminded of working in Hoboken when the New York black out happened and we all feared it was another attack.  And “bad news” from a pilot is not the most comforting thing to hear, but we’re sitting calmly now, having realized we can do nothing until we hear more from the airline and/or land. So until then, we play the waiting game. For now, we’ve decided that the three things we will do when we land are:\

1.)    Call our families immediately to let them know we’re fine and our plans are now TBD.
2.)    Call our travel agent extraordinaire to let her know the buzz and get her on board in case we need to do some fancy flight juggling.
3.)    Eat some dim sum and wait.
Several questions remain dangling in the air:  Do we hang out and sleep at the airport again like we did (surprisingly well) last night?  Will Cathay Pacific put us up in a hotel in Hong Kong, thus crossing Bali off our list and staying in the city for the week before heading to India?  Will we blow our budget if we stay in Hong Kong?  Should we fly somewhere else?  Can we still make it to Bali later this week, and cut into our India trip? 

Most important in this situation however, are our thoughts that keep turning to the people in Bali near the volcano.  Yes, we are both relieved that we didn’t land and get stranded there, but that thought is threaded with the usual western feeling of assumed safety.  We are the ones who roam the cities of reinforced earthquake buildings, we have evacuation plans, and savings accounts, and travel insurance, and families who could help us out in a heartbeat.  What about the Balinese?  What assurances do they have?  This trip has already been coloured by one natural disaster that didn’t touch us, but the floods in Queensland occurring at the same time that we were in Oz were very scary.  Sure, we’re happy we were safe – but we know how devastating these natural disasters can be for the locals especially in countries like Bali without the resources the States or Canada can muster when these things happen. We haven’t heard anything yet about how the Balinese have been affected, but we hope for the best and will be checking the news as soon as we get in.
We’ll let you know, dear readers, what the new plan is as soon as we have one.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll be frantically downloading the Lonely Planet guide on Hong Kong and seeing how we can do the city on the cheap.  Or maybe we’ll get to Bali tomorrow or ten years from now.  Flexibility is crucial in life to breathe, to be compassionate, and to be available when needed.  And when life gives you a volcano, it’s all the more important to maintain that flexibility.

Stay tuned.  And please send your thoughts to the Balinese.  They may need us all now.


  1. I hope everything works out, for both you & Steve and the Balinese. Meanwhile back in the Big Apple we were hearing from Mother Nature as well. While far less of an immediate threat it still gave a clear message that we have been very poor tenants.
    19 inches of THUNDERSNOW fell in Central Park last night:

  2. hey guys.

    sorry that happened!
    If you end up staying in Hong Kong, we rented an apartment in Sheung Wan for $350 per week that was awesome. SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much cheaper than eny hotel or gross hostel in HK.

    If you wanna leave, we are in Siem Reap now and visited Angkor Wat today and its amazing. i recommend!

  3. what an unexpected turn of events! hope you get your travel arrangements sorted out soon and continue with your amazing journey.
    My thoughts and prayers for the Balinese.