Near-Death Experiences and Thoughts from Terminal 4

Near-Death Experiences and Thoughts from Terminal 4

Over the past two years, John, Lydian, and I left a place we called Home and we named a new place Home. We camped inside this cement structure like squatters and learned, through this physical and existential discomfort to regard this Home-Base in a new way. Two months after the building was completed, Lydian, John, and I left on our annual winter trip abroad. Southeast Asia was the chosen destination; a place we’d chosen two years prior just before moving to Mexico.

We hired house-sitters to watch the building.

In Myanmar, Lydian saw a boy and he saw her. And that was it. They were in love. So she left John and me for Myanmar while John and I were still in Thailand and now she’s still in Southeast Asia, working with Naing Naing, our future son-in-law to negotiate the difficult politics of falling in love across borders.

John and I returned without Lydian to this new place we’d dubbed Home (Mexico) from Southeast Asia. And since arriving back at our Mexican house, we’ve speculated with each other about our True Mental Location as we’ve worked with Lydian and Naing Naing to bring them to the Western Hemisphere. On frantic outings to obtain documents like “Single Status Certificates” and housing titles bearing names and dates palatable to various international governments, we decided that if a GPS was available to scout out where our minds and hearts are located, it would be clear that they’ve detached from our physical bodies and gone elsewhere. John’s and my days and our nights have blended together in an eternal swirl of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. A Mexican night is day and a Mexican day is night. The Southeast Asian sun rises as our Mexican sun sets. The meaning of the sun and the moon, the darkness, the daylight, and the stars has been forever altered by this experience of having my daughter and this new, but precious member of our family on the opposite side of the planet.

John and I are not here, but we aren’t there either. Despite all our travels, we’ve never been so far away from ourselves or from our surroundings in all our lives. In spirit, John is waiting for Lydian and Naing Naing in Doha, Qatar. My spirit is pacing the corridors of Terminal 4 and 4S in Madrid awaiting their arrival there. Mentally, John and I rehearse their safe passage through the international air space over and over throughout the day.

I have a whole library of books about Near Death Experiences and over the years, I’ve learned to see a metaphor of mortality in the experience of traveling by plane from here to there. When I leave Home, I die. When I arrive in a new location, I am reborn. What I was once before, in the place I called Home is never entirely lost, but rather re-invented usually through tribulation in the new place. Airports are purgatorial. They are places where hunger, fear, exhaustion, or general discomfort makes me more pliable to change.

Three days ago, John and I landed in Ecuador.

I hardly remember the trip here. It was not like traveling somewhere in that I haven’t mentally arrived here yet. On the way, I read books about Burma, George Orwell, post-colonialism, and international migration. And I looked out the window of our flights into so much pollution, I could hardly believe it. When did things become so polluted? (And then I recalled at least four conversations I had with four different people over the past month about the pollution.) The pollution concerns me because of the things I’ve learned over the past month, studying international politics, Flag Theory, and off-shore banking. Times are a’changing. I can see that through the haze, but I don’t care if the world as we know it might be ending. That problem will have to wait until later.

I’m sitting in a small town called Puembo right now, not yet waiting for Lydian and Naing Naing to arrive. Their first try at flying from Bangkok to Quito was a fail three days ago. Lydian believed that the process of traveling and taking global flights with Naing Naing would resemble all of her other, previous experiences traveling with John and me. But the rules of the game are different now that she and Naing Naing are traveling together. We’re all learning phrases like “weak passport” and “Transit Without Visa” (TWOV). As American citizens, transit visas by themselves are almost entirely new. Lydi, John, and I have suddenly realized how privileged our status has been in the world and how this new paradigm requires a new strategy in terms of international travel.

Naing Naing was never naive about these problems, though. He feels relieved every time he passes through immigration without being interrogated by some small-minded robo-human. Lydian tries to take care of him, but she’s powerless to protect him from the politics. So she spirals into the details, a rabbit hole where she then gets lost and becomes small and ineffective. Naing Naing, on the other hand, has a calm presence-of-mind that’s uncanny for a young man his age. Every time they go through another country and another airport, they work through their different approaches.

Lydian came down with a cold yesterday and last night, she was feverish and snappy. Naing Naing will be handling all airport negotiations over the next 45 hours or so.

John and I counsel them over the phone. We say, “Do this,” or “Do that.” But we really don’t know the rules of the game either.

Meanwhile, here I am in Quito with John waiting to receive these two from a 30 to 50 hour journey across the globe. Will they get on the plane this time or will someone tell them they can’t board again?

All my feverish studies on international migration has yielded very little in terms of truly helpful, practical information. So I return to the books on Love and the afterlife. I return to metaphors and I page back through my journals to re-read barely legible prophetic dreams I wrote down in the dark of night after two hours of fitful sleep back in Mexico.

And what I arrive at is the insight at that, “Improbable is not impossible.”

Today (or rather tomorrow depending on where you’re located in the world), Lydian and Naing Naing will go to Bangkok airport and walk up to a check-in counter. At the counter, someone will tell them whether they’re allowed to move from Point A to Point B. And while I know that there are rules governing this transit and that they could be prevented from getting on their plane, I also believe that the mediating factor–the thing that will make their trip possible–has almost nothing to do with politics or the rules of the airline. I believe in Love and I believe in Serendipity.

I know they can make this trip. I know they can arrive here in Ecuador.

But imagine being very young and very much in love and imagine if only two countries (Ecuador and Armenia) in the whole world would allow you to live within their borders as a couple together for longer than 30 days at a time. And then, imagine if all the other nations of the world in between these two countries inhibited or required strict adherence to complex rules in order for you to transit through their borders:

Would you feel scared?

Would you feel oppressed?

Would you feel hopeless?

Would you give up?

Would you freak out and lose it?

As the four of us (Lydi, Naing Naing, John, and me) manage these problems, I continually return to my books about death…and life. Nevermind all the rules and regulations about borders and transits through international air space. Nevermind international politics or postcolonialism. This puzzle is about Love. It’s about how unconditional Love surpasses logic. Love vs. Logic is like the game Rock, Paper, Scissors, where Paper defeats Rock just because.

I believe it, therefore it’s true (I hope).

There have been times in my life when I’ve loved my home, my comfy chair, my huggy pillow. But these things can’t love me back. And I have to admit that it has only been as a result of having been separated from what I truly love (my family) that I’ve realized how little I care about Where Home Is.

I could be almost anywhere in the world right now. My mind is not in a location. It is unconditionally with these two people I love. And these people are not in a location. They’re hoping for safe passage through the stateless ‘tween spaces between borders.

For me and for John, Home will be where they are…

Home is no longer a location. It could be anywhere or everywhere.

Will it be in Ecuador?

Will it be in Armenia?


My brother went to Chicago O’Hare on Lydian and Naing Naing’s behalf yesterday to try to solve an airline problem that we encountered with Lydi and Naing Naing’s previous flight from Bangkok to Doha, Qatar and after his efforts amounted to nothing, I told him, “We may end up living in Armenia.”

“Armenia?!?” He said. “…Why?”

A good question, but one that’s hard to explain logically without talking at length about international politics, airline and visa restrictions, and other unsavory topics that are usually irrelevant to Americans. And anyway, the real answer isn’t logical anyway.

The answer is Love.

I forgot to mention the part where I cut the pad of my left middle finger off about a week ago.

Or how I fell down half a flight of stairs in a fury of packing.

Or how Lydian smacked face-first into the glass door of government building in her haste to get one document or another signed at some embassy in a Southeast Asian country (was it Singapore, Indonesia…now I can’t remember). She reeled backward and ended up with both a bruised ego and a bruised thigh.

And John’s injured knee that happened when he took a seat at picnic table in the wee hours of the morning here in Quito two days ago, as the Qatar Airways personnel were denying Lydi and Naing Naing access to their flight…yes, I forgot to mention those things.

Our physical bodies have stopped being a part of the narrative. Our minds doggy-paddle in a sea of arbitrary rules and regulations, laws and arbitrary interpretations of laws. One country says this. Another country says that. Much of what countries and nations say is based on religious or ethnic rhetoric.

International law reminds me of the rules that governed the cafeteria and noon recess in junior high.

I’ve read at least three books and a lot of online information about immigration law and all I’ve gotten out of this is the idea that citizens of rich countries like to blame immigrants from poor countries whatever goes wrong in the rich country. Like the kid on the playground who looks a little different than the other kids, immigrants stand out and so they make good scape goats. It’s that simple. There’s no research to back any of the claims that are made about how immigrants steal jobs or ruin the lives of rich, privileged citizens in certain, developed nations in the world. But that doesn’t change the rhetoric, does it?

Credible research doesn’t change people’s minds. Propaganda does.

Recently, on a flight from somewhere to somewhere else, I read about something called the Tricontinental. I earmarked it for later as something that I must learn more about. It has to do with Cuba and Egypt and why these and certain other countries exist on the fringes of world politics. I’ve wondered for years why the U.S. press is always bashing Egypt. The press has literally destroyed Egypt’s tourism industry and why? Until now, I had no idea, but this Tricontinental bit is at the head of a trail I intend to follow as soon as we finish swimming with all the mucky politics that have made Lydian and Naing Naing’s couple-dom so challenging over the past 6 weeks. The politics surrounding Burma is like the waste-water that’s dumped into clean rivers from hospitals and factories. The politics around Egypt and Cube comes from a different stream altogether…like the old bath and laundry water that runs down gutters all over Africa, Latin America, and Arabia. It all ends up in the same place–the river. And the river flows into the ocean. We’re all affected by it.

But one person can’t clean up the ocean.

Which brings me to pollution in general.

When we arrived back from Southeast Asia after having suffered a fairly major and memorable bout of malaria, I had a cough. I tried to categorize the cough. Did I have a cold? Was this some weird, leftover malarial remnant? Had I contracted tuberculosis or perhaps the flu?

I coughed and I coughed. Sometimes, I would have to stop walking, lean over, cough, and then sit for a moment so as not to pass out.

I nebulized myself with baking soda water.

I gave myself medications that normally work expeditiously.

The cough slowly, in increments, loosened it’s grip. One night, I woke up and did NOT cough. I noted the event with hope. But even today, upon waking, I had my morning cough as I nibbled at a banana. But I know what it is now.

It’s pollution.

Some months ago, with trepidation, I read a book called The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin about the history of international banking. It was a book I’d avoided for some time. G. Edward Griffin wrote a life-changing book called World Without Cancer that confirmed with credible research and clarity everything I’d ever observed with my own eyes and through my own experiences about the American healthcare system. When I read The Creature from Jekyll Island, I already knew that banking and healthcare were related beasts, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to know how they were related (specifically) or how international banking is calibrated to hurt everyone except a select few.

I mean, everyone (all the little people) knows the odds are stacked against them, but I regard chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a Holocaust. And I’ve found it exceedingly hard to accept that this Holocaust is going on, but that I can’t do anything about it except tell one person at a time and only if they ask me about it. If a person does not ask, they don’t want to know about cancer, chemo, or radiation or any of the other diseases that are curable with simple medicines that are readily accessible to almost anyone.

During our first 5 weeks in Southeast Asia, I worked hard on this problem of feeling angry all the time about how people are being seriously harmed all the time by a system that claims to be helping them. And, believe it or not, I did achieve some level of acceptance.

And I finally felt like I was ready to read about banking.

As it turns out, one of the most important bits of information that I came away with from this book was about environmentalism. Apparently, some time ago, studies were performed on the global public to determine what kinds of events would make people compliant. There are several powerful families–members of an Illuminati group, of course–who realized that war makes people obedient as a result of fear. But another World War isn’t really feasible. Most wars today are fought quietly, under cover. So war no longer works to make people compliant. So what would scare people into compliance with the same intensity as World War?

And as it turns out, environmental issues scare people into compliance.

This fact has meshed terrifyingly well with observations John and I have been making over the past 7 years as we jet back and forth across the planet. And we’re not the only travelers who’ve noticed it: the pollution levels have increased precipitously over the past 5 years. In many cities, like Beijing, Bangkok, Bogota, and Mexico City, people wear face masks nearly every day and the sun rarely shines. The pollutions spreads out across even unpopulated areas of the globe.

This is a fairly recent development.

Do you feel terrified yet?

Oh yes, back to my cough.

I was talking with one of our housesitters who told me that she and her significant other had to leave Colombia due to pollution. After years of remission, his asthma came back and after three days in Bogota, they had to ask themselves if it was really a vacation if they had to wear gas masks in order to breathe.

During that conversation, I suddenly connected some dots and thoughts:

  • A friend who lives part-time in Guanajuato and part-time in the Czech Republic told me that he hates the city where he’s living. “After the planes fly over in the morning, the contrails spread out and it’s gray here the rest of the day.” He told me.
  • A forum post about the pollution in Chiang Mai, Thailand caught my attention when John and I were up on the 40th floor of a high rise that overlooked a horizon of green-yellow pollution that spread out in all directions as far as the eye could see.
  • The day we went to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok for vitamin B12 shots (in part just to see and experience this affordable hospital with our own eyes) and looked out into the city, but could not see the skyscrapers two blocks away because the pollution levels were so high. Front page headlines that day warned people to stay indoors because the particulate pollution was so dangerous.
  • My cough was worst at the times of the day when hormone levels tend to change: morning, evening, mid-afternoon, and around 3:00 AM at night.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that my cough was not a cold or allergies or tuberculosis or cancer. The housesitter told me that when she was in Bogota, she read that the pollution was so high that it was like smoking 22 cigarettes per day.

My cough was from pollution. I coughed whenever my hormone levels changed just because there’s shit in my lungs from having traveled for 2 months in Southeast Asia where the particular levels are so high, it’s sometimes hard to breathe.

And yes, the pollution throughout the world is getting worse.

But I believe that this problem is orchestrated. And that there’s a way to solve the problem already, otherwise the Powerful Families that currently control world politics would not allow the pollution to happen. Clean energy exists, after all. But the Powers That Be want to make sure that they remain in power (fossil fuels are an important source of profits). Their goal is to take over clean energy slowly, decimate much of the world’s population (if necessary), and then clean things up heroically to further secure their position of power. The masses will be grateful.

Bleak, right?

A hybridized vision of World War Z and the Hunger Games plays out in my head.

Does it help to have these thoughts? I don’t know.

But I do know where the sky is still blue. And that seems important right now.

Related Posts:

Hoping for Honduras: Planning a Wedding from Outer Space — By Jennifer Shipp

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Big Bang vs. Blisters

The Full Central America-4 Experience: On Being Turned Away at the Border –By Jennifer Shipp

Opening Act: Nuclear Pig / Main Stage: St. Vincent and the Grenadines — By Jennifer Shipp

Wishing for Death in Thailand: Malaria — By Jennifer Shipp

Dear Lydian: The Politics of Love — A Short Tutorial on Visas and Immigration — By Jennifer Shipp

Related Posts:

Untitled: Not Sure What We’re Doing Here

On Leaving Lydian Behind in Burma

Happy Valentine’s Day from Singapore

The Silver Pen and the Singapore Wedding

Bagan, Myanmar: The Inner and Outer Realities of Place

Lydian and Naing Naing: In Myanmar

You Recently Viewed ...

Transit Without Visa in Spain as a Myanmar Citizen – By Lydian Shipp

Transit Without Visa in Barbados as a Myanmar Citizen – Lydian Shipp

Hoping for Honduras: Planning a Wedding from Outer Space — By Jennifer Shipp

Spring Break — By Jennifer Shipp

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Big Bang vs. Blisters


Bruised Banana