Boarded a train on Sunday morning that arrived in Budapest on Monday morning. Normally I enjoy this trip because of the extended down time with Jim. Time to talk. Time to read together. This particular trip was made a bit more eventful because others were traveling with us…so we watched a movie together, talked about our various ministries and shared our food. What a feast!
The big excitement comes around 3:00 a.m. when it’s time to cross the border. The wheels on the train need to be changed to accommodate a different size rail. And the border patrol, passport control, and anyone else feeling official wakes you up to check your documents.
Unfortunately, I had overstayed my allotted time in Ukraine by about two weeks. And, of course, that fact didn’t go unnoticed. The next thing I knew a woman was telling me to get dressed and follow her to the office. I was VERY thankful that another American was in the same boat — he had overstayed by three months! — and so we were escorted from the train together.
In the dark. No flashlight. Moving alongside the tracks but not on a real path. No sidewalk. The young guard was telling us to hurry up or we might miss the train when it was leaving. Yikes!
We finally arrived at the station and went into a large room with a huge oval table in the middle. We were told to sit down and our young friend began the tedious paperwork. I chuckled as I noticed the planner on the table in front of me: 2004. Time warp? I noticed the time on the computer screen said 3:34.
By 4:34 we were still sitting there while the paperwork was meticulously hand-written. Even the duplicates had to be hand-written. Good grief. And they kept saying that we had to pay the fine at the bank. What bank? Where? What bank would be open at 4:30 a.m.?
We received the answer…a large male guard would lead us to the bank. We thought. Actually he led us from the train grounds and we got into his car. I told Jason (my cohort in crime) that I would have been slightly freaked out if I had been by myself at this point. We drove for 10 minutes or so and parked the car at the border. We were told to leave the vehicle. I knew I would have been second-guessing everything by myself, but Jason and I just kept moving along.
We were escorted on foot across the border into Hungary. Then to a building up a short hill, through a couple sets of doors and finally to a door marked bank. Really. It was now closer to 5:00 and we were finally paying the fine. Thankfully Jason had lots of cash with him because I would have had to combine Euros, dollars and griven to come up with the $65 fine. The cashier had to let us know that he could have us deported. Jeesh.
We quickly walked back across the border, climbed in the car and returned to the station. We had a few more documents to initial (our poor gal was STILL hand-writing the protocol!!) and then we were escorted back to the train. I was thankful that the wheels had already been changed and they had pulled the train up to the station. I really hadn’t wanted to make that trek trackside again in the dark.
I entered our room, noticed Jim’s one eye was peeking out from under the covers and tried to tell him everything that had occurred. He, of course, like the other people on board, was trying to sleep. I eventually decided that SOME sleep was better than NO sleep so I also dozed off.
Thankful for kind border workers.
Arrived in Budapest with plenty of time to find the conference site, leave our luggage, and grab a spicy Hungarian lunch treat.
Must admit that I couldn’t stay awake through all the speakers at the conference today. And if I don’t hit the sack SOON, I’m going to catnap tomorrow as well. Such great speakers — I really don’t want to miss anything!