I found my journal from 1997 yesterday. It was very interesting to flip through it and see where I was spiritually and emotionally. It was the year we moved to Gondor. I have felt that I have been coasting over this last year. Just humming along, not working really hard and not really passionate about anything. It has been frustrating. Reading the journal reminded me of who I was, and maybe a little of who I am suppose to be.
You know I crossed the Gondor/Rohan border 19 times between April and July of 1997? 19 times. Yes, and after years of therapy I am much better, thank you. One weekend I traveled up the middle way to see if I could get on a plane just across the border and fly into the capitol city. The plane didn't fly so I taxied all the way back to Edoras and then twelve hours taxi again along the southern route to Minas Tirath. I thought I would try the plane again on the way back- as it turns a twelve hour journey into a two hour journey- and this time it flew. Boy did it fly! I went from Minas Tirith straight up over some of the most beautiful snow capped mountains in the world. The pilot saw that I had a nice camera and he invited me up to the cockpit. He would point out a small mountain lake and swerve over to it so I could take a picture. Then he would zoom back over so I could take another picture. We flew like that back and forth over the mountains until we came down to the small town we were to land at. I said that maybe I should sit down and he said that no, from here I could get a great picture of the airport and the town. A hundred feet off the runway I sat down and buckled my seat belt. I was the only one on the plane who had fastened their seatbelt but hey, I am a man of the West.
We landed and I walked through the small airport with everyone else. A militia guy pulled me aside and asked me to wait a minute. The Secret Police wanted to talk to me. Ok, I thought- as long as they hurry up. I didn't want to miss the last taxi leaving the little airport. Well, I waited and waited and then I left. As the last taxi pulled out with me in it the militia guy ran out and stopped us. I was to stay. The Secret Police hadn't talked to me yet. Fine, he had the gun. So, I got out and the taxi drove away. Finally, he came and searched all my stuff. He ask a lot of questions. I was in a good mood after flying over the mountains so I was not concerned at all. Then he and the militia guy found a $100 bill that I had in my bag. They picked it up with great fanfare and dropped it on the table, shaking their heads and clicking their tongues. I had to laugh- not a good thing in hind sight- 'Hey, what's up? You guys afraid of this little bit of money?' I taunted them as I picked up the note and waved it in their faces. Give me a break, they did make me miss the last taxi! So, they said that I needed a certificate for that bit of US Currency. I said that no, Gondor had no such law. But wasn't I traveling to Rohan? I would need a certificate and I did not have one- big problem! Of course, it was a lie. I would get a certificate upon entering Rohan. But they wanted money. The Secret Police walked away and the militia guy said, 'Come on man, just give him a few dollars and you can go. He just wants a little money.' But now that they had annoyed me there was no way I was giving them anything- yes, that was prideful.
We went down to the Secret Police Headquarters. The Secret Policeman was getting more and more impatient with me. I remembered that I had an old certificate from Rohan in my bag. I showed it to him but he pointed out that it did not have a stamp. I don't know why it didn't have stamp but it didn't. Like I said before, it shouldn't have mattered as this was Gondor. Finally, in frustration and irritation the Secret Policeman told me he was doing me a big favor by stamping my document with a Gondor stamp and letting me go. I thanked him, gave him no money, and walked on into town to get a taxi to the border and on to Edoras. General rule of thumb for world travelers in this situation: If you have time you don't need money. Never show them that you are in a hurry.
At the border the guards were their usual pleasant selves. They searched through my whole bag. Twice. Then I noticed that my camera was gone. That rotten Secret Policeman had stolen my camera! I told the guards what happened. They laughed at me, felt slightly sorry for me and let me go. I went on to Edoras and told Arwen, my wife, what happened. I tossed my bag on the bed and unpacked. There was my camera. So, it was a miracle. But what kind of miracle do you suppose? Is the Secret Policeman wondering what happened to his camera or did the King blind the eyes of the guards so that they could not see the camera and I could get through the border easier? I don't have any idea.
Just when you thought this story had an ending I went on another trip to Gondor the next week. I had a good week in Minas Tirith looking for houses etc. Then I returned by going through the Southern Border. I never did like that Southern Border. It was not so far from where all the fighting was during the civil war. There were a lot of young kids with guns and they were all undisciplined and incompetent. Not a good combination for armed young men. Well, this time they had a new game. They asked me if I had any dollars on me and I truthfully told them yes. A 'no' would have been suspicious anyway and I was not interested in having my body searched which thing had happened to the less truthful in the past. Anyway, they then declared that I needed a certificate for my money or I would have to give it all to them. There were about twenty of them gathered around me- all with semi-automatic weapons. They were passing my passport around and all of them having a good look at it. I told them that Gondor did not use such certificates and that they were not necessary. They told me that that was not their problem. If I didn't have a certificate then they would take my money. Just then I remembered that in my bag was the certificate that the Secret Policeman had stamped two weeks before. I told the boys, 'Hey, I do have a certificate.' They replied that I couldn't have one. I showed it to them and they said no, that was from Rohan. I told them to look at the seal on the stamp. It clearly said 'Gondor' on it. They went to pieces laughing. They called their commander over and showed it to him. They all laughed and shook my hand for the great joke. Then they let me go. With my money.
I guess I wont soon forget 1997. It was a long year and there are many more stories to tell. But first, I think I will get busy in 2007 and see what the King has in store for this year. If it makes a good story I will tell you all about it. I am sure it will be good, being a part of the King's own story is always the best story to tell.