Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Trips...

Last summer, like all summers, we traveled to Romania to visit with my mother-in-law. But we decided to avoid the questionable meat in that country by smuggling twenty pounds of nice organic beef and chicken from America.

Last year I told the story of how, despite incredible odds, that meat survived a cancelled flight and missing our connection. It spent 63 hours outside refrigeration and was still cool and edible for our month in Romania.

I now tell the story of this summer's attempt to repeat the process.

There were two principal differences between the summers as we set out. First, we reversed the ratios of beef and chicken. We brought sixteen pounds of ground beef and four pounds of chicken breast last summer. And, mirabile dictu, we got sick of hamburgers, chili, and meatloaf. So this summer, we planned to bring four pounds of ground beef and sixteen pounds of chicken breast. Chicken is just so much more versatile. 

The only other change is that we doubled the insulation of the product to be smuggled. We put the meat in small insulated bags and then put those in larger insulated bags. And those were wrapped in clothing and put in our checked luggage.

Now, storm clouds were gathering on our trip, literally. Newark flights had been seriously disrupted due to storms on July 2, the day before our departure. And July 3 was forecast to be even worse. But we had to press forward.

The meat was taken out the freezer at 2pm on Tuesday and went into our bags.  The clock is ticking.

Our priest, Father John, drove us to the airport. We were ready for anything, because, as we were driving to the airport, we were hearing about horrible storms in the area. A tornado warning was announced for northern New Jersey but then cancelled. But the ominous clouds were visible all about.

Newark Airport

We were dropped off and checked in. Here we are at Newark International Airport, awaiting boarding on our flight which, unexpectedly, was scheduled to take off ON TIME! While we were drinking these beers, we spoke to a Swedish couple who had slept at the airport the previous night because of cancelled flights the previous day. Could our flight really take off on time, despite all the storms around?

It did. Now, I love everything about travel. Except for one thing. I have never in my life fallen asleep on a plane. And this was no exception. At one point, over the north Atlantic, I look at my wife, sound asleep, and I think, God, how much better she is going to feel when we arrive.
Munich Airport

We arrive in Munich. Here we are in Munich, awaiting boarding on our flight which, unexpectedly, has not been cancelled (like last year) but, instead, is scheduled to take off ON TIME!!!

It did. We had a fun hour and a half to Bucharest. We were seated with a family whose fifth grade daughter wanted to take full advantage of the chance to practice her English with the American curiosity. Granted, she admitted that she goes above and beyond the requirements of her class (she primarily studies by attentively watching the Disney channel). But this young girl speaks already competent English and she is fearless in creative circumlocution to avoid vocabulary she doesn't know.

But I'm sure there are many girls just like her in American grade schools, already speaking competent Spanish learned in grade school studies (he says, turning away so you don't see him suppress facetious laughter).

We arrive in Romania. Last year, the primary crisis of our food was created by our luggage not arriving with us and waiting an additional two days for delivery.

This year, my wife went to look for one of those luggage carts while I waited at the carousel. Both of our checked bags arrived within a single minute. When she came with the cart, she looked at it all with disbelief.  

Five minutes later we were in the car of our neighbor, Virgil, driving toward our apartment.

After forty minutes of insane unregulated Bucharest traffic, we were home.

We had our luggage in the apartment. I calculated the time.

Our meat had been outside of refrigeration for 19 hours. We opened the bags.

Our Frozen Meat in Romania!

All the meat was...still...rock hard...frozen...solid.

And so, what's the lesson here? 

The meat started at 14 below zero. It was in double insulation. We had succeeded the previous year with even less organized insulation. No one who wants to eat trustworthy meat in a foreign country should shy away from our solution.

We've already eaten a nice big burger from it to celebrate July 4th.  Our primary chicken plans are to mix the meat with peppers, onions, and packets of organic fajita powder we brought along.

And so, last year's drama was an aberration. Bringing frozen meat to a foreign country is easy and trouble free. 

God bless and Bon appetit!

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