Home From Rome

Running on what I like to call “papal adrenaline” I got a massive two hours of sleep on Tuesday night before waking up to watch the Canucks game online at 3am Rome time.  The two hours brought my total hours of sleep over three nights in Rome to a whopping total of six hours.  A combo of things led to my lack of sleep namely the desire not to waste any of my trip sleeping, adjusting to the time change, the Canucks playing two out of the three nights, writing these blogs, and knowing I could sleep on the long flight home.

I went up for breakfast at 6:30am as usual and ate the same delicious food for the third straight day:  bacon, eggs, salami, ham, prosciutto, bread, and yogurt.  After breakfast I ran up to get my bags, said goodbye to the most beautiful hotel room I had ever stayed in, and took my spot on the bus to make our way to the airport.  This final ride in Rome was the first time that we did NOT travel in a police-led motorcade but it was a relatively quick ride nonetheless.

In making conversation while waiting in VIP lounge to board our plane, I discovered that I wasn’t supposed to remove my name card from the airplane on Sunday.  Thus, I was the only person in the entire delegation without a placeholder on the flight back to Vancouver.  I was relieved to find out that we were to sit on the same seat going home.

The conversation on the flight back was very lively and much more comfortable than on the way to Rome.  Obviously, spending the last 60 hours together helped with that.  I had a wonderful chat with His Excellency Governor General David Johnston and I thanked him repeatedly for having me on the trip.  We were able to share stories about our families, our interests and our experiences.

After less than three hours in the air, we had to make a quick stop in Glasgow, Scotland.  It turns out that the runway in Rome was so short that the 757 couldn’t take off with a full tank of fuel.  Thus, we were able to do a bit of shopping in Scotland while the plane refueled.  I bought this:

Seven hours later we touched down in Ottawa at just after 4pm.  We said our goodbyes, exchanged business cards, and took our last pictures.  After everyone else in our delegation had left, I washed up a bit and changed into a suit while waiting for Ted to pick me up at 5pm.  As I looked around the empty VIP lounge, I remarked that it felt like the end of a parish youth ministry function and I was the last youth to be picked up.

Ted and I made our way to the archdiocesan pastoral centre to kill a bit of time before the evening function:  the annual “Meet the Movement” event for Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO).  We arrived to the venue just after 6pm much to the surprise of many of the CCO staff members.  Turns out only a few people on the event organizing committee knew that I would be attending. For those who didn’t, some of them knew I was just in Rome while others were wondering what I was doing in Ottawa.

The evening provided a wonderful opportunity for me to catch up with old friends and make a lot of new ones.  In fact, it felt very much like a family reunion as I hadn’t seen many of the CCO staff members in years. During conversations, I was able to share some stories from my trip to anyone who would listen.  At the same time, I was able to learn a bit about what CCO is doing in Ottawa and I was happy to support such a worthwhile movement.

We got back to Ted’s at 10:30pm and I settled in for what I hoped would be a good night’s sleep.   Sure enough, I matched my Rome total with a good six hours of shut-eye (I got some good sleep on the flight of course).  I joined Ted’s lovely wife Teresa and their four daughters for breakfast including the three year-old daughter that I had scared the you-know-what out of just a few days prior.  Thankfully, we made fast friends over the morning.  :p

I took Ted and Teresa out to lunch to thank them for their generosity and hospitality before going to the airport.  A couple of flights later, I was home from Rome just before midnite.  I was thrilled to see Gail and Sean in the van (Kayla was already asleep at home where my mom was).

“Where’s Jacob?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s sleeping over at a friend’s house.”

Glad he was so excited to welcome his dad home.  Despite all the transformation that I had experienced on my trip, it was somewhat comforting to know that some things had remained the same.