Monday June 27 & Tuesday June 28, 2016 MoTab European Tour – Salt Lake City to Berlin, Germany
The Choir and orchestra members, guests and staff total close to 600 people for this tour. Each person is allowed 1 large sized suitcase (shipped as freight a week ahead), 1 carry on sized luggage (to be checked on the airplane) and 1 “daybag” to keep with us at all times with necessary items such as our passport,itinerary and medications, etc. (and as we would learn, having a change of underwear and a little clothing in the daybag is also a very good idea!)
That’s over 1200 pieces of luggage alone that need to be transported. And that doesn’t count all of the larger instruments like Cellos, Basses, Harps (2), percussion. and an organ. And then there are the multiple airplanes and busses required to transport and move this grand musical army across two continents, 6 countries and 10 cities.
Trying to imagine the logistics makes my brain hurt! This tour was 4 long years in the making. But, of course, it was kept a heavily guarded secret known only by a handful of Choir leadership until 11 months ago when it was formally announced to the Choir & Orchestra (reaction here – and yes, that’s me leaping and clapping like an excited porpoise)
This big announcement came immediately after returning from our two-week 2015 New York “Dream Tour”. So, just a few days after my return I was breaking the news to my boss that I would need 3 weeks off in less than 1 year, for another Choir tour. Exciting for me, but not so much for him!
I was very blessed to have enough vacation hours saved to be paid for my absence from work. However, many MoTab members have not been as fortunate and are making tremendous financial sacrifices. And all members are certainly making individualized sacrifices to leave home, family, responsibilities, children, grandchildren and other difficult situations.
Day 1 actually began for us the night before departure. Mr. Mo and I were frantically last-minute packing and repacking. And as we all know it’s not the actual packing that takes all the time. It’s the deciding what to pack and what To leave. Packing, unpacking, repacking…. Invariably, despite hours of deliberation, I always make decisions I regret. I dream of the day that I will be able to travel as efficient and “light” as guru Rick Steves. Until then, I muddle through.
At about 3 in the morning, Mr Mo and I decided we would force ourselves to stay up all night with the idea that we were helping train our bodies to be on European Time (8 hrs ahead of MST). In hindsight, that might not have been the best choice, since it seemed to cause tremendous exhaustion – although, by Day 3 we felt pretty good – so, the jury is still out about our “induced insomnia experiment”.
Eventually, my decisions were based on time.
It ran out.
So, I just had to stuff everything in that I thought I would need (and yes – I did pack way too many ‘just in case’ items).
This is my fifth Choir tour in 8 years of membership. During past tours the Choir has actually chartered a couple of planes to take us to our destination, but this time we are travelling international, and everything is different. We are divided into 10 “Waves” and multiple “Groups” within the waves, with a “Flight Captain” assigned to watch over their particular 20-40 people in the group. Each Wave and Group are flying on different itineraries, and routing through multiple airports.
Mr. Mo and I are assigned to Group 2 in the Ninth Wave.
We had the latest flight time out of Salt Lake City, so we are among the final group to arrive in Berlin [some lucky ones arrived up to 8 hours earlier].
In-between SLC and Berlin, our group stopped in Minneapolis and Amsterdam. Other waves and groups took multiple routes through various global airports. Eventually all of us converged in Berlin!
- Getting to sit next to each other on all legs of our flights (once,were not assigned next to each other but a nice passenger switched)
- Being randomly assigned to an exit row on our longest leg from Minneapolis to Amsterdam (leg room and easy access to the WC – hooray!)
- Being fed an actual lunch on our short 1 hour flight from Amsterdam to Berlin! (we were starving and there had been no time to buy anything in the airport – thank you Air France!!)
- Our checked luggage arrived with us in Berlin [unfortunately, about 40 Choir members routing through Paris have missing luggage].
TOUR MIRACLE #2
Every Choir tour has miracles. Some are personal, and some effect the entire group. Mr. Mo and I consider Tour Miracle #1 the passing of his mother Elaine 1 week before. This was such a blessing so that we were here to say goodbye to her, and to be with all the family participating in her funeral.
Our second Tour Miracle happened the moment we arrived in Berlin.
After being in transit 24 hours across 8 time zones we were really tired, and our brains were fuzzy. We staggered our way to the baggage claim area. Mr. Mo left our day bags with me, and went to pull our checked bags off of the conveyor. Then off we rushed through the exit doors to BERLIN and on to the waiting bus that would take us to our hotel [and a bed!]
About 3 minutes into our bus ride Mr. Mo realized he did not have his day bag with him! Our hearts sank. All of his Euro Cash, his credit cards, his ID, his camera, itinerary, and 3 weeks of medication were in that bag! And here we were on our very first day of tour!
I remembered that there was a security number on the back of our lanyard for emergencies. I quickly texted the description of the bag and contents. We were pretty sure he had left the bag in the baggage claim area. Our security team immediately mobilized and told me they would let me know.
As we made our way through the busy streets of Berlin it was hard to really take in the amazing sights out the window. All we could think about was the bag. We prepared ourselves for the worst, and brainstormed together on how we would cope and get by without those very necessary items.
Then the miracle happened – by the time we had pulled in front of our hotel I received a text that his bag had been found by Berlin Airport security! However, it would only be released to our church security team if we could send proof of his identity.
Blessedly, Mr Mo had followed the instructions to keep his passport “close to his heart”. It was actually the only item he had not kept in his daybag. Instead, he had zipped it into the lining of his shirt. So, he simply took a photo of his passport page and texted it to our security to share with airport security.
Within a few hours we were reunited with the daybag via our wonderful security team. Hooray security team!
And when we opened the bag,
Nothing was missing.
Even all of the cash was there.
The heavy weight was lifted! We walked a short distance from our hotel to see the historic Brandenburg Gate – WOW!! Imagine the history here. So cool.
Time to pinch myself. We are really here. We are in Berlin! Let the adventure and music making begin!
We returned to our hotel to fall into what seemed the most wonderful mattress with the most wonderfully soft sheets of our entire life. And we slept soundly. – MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until afte our return. During this tour I journalled and blogged every day and scheduled publication for after my return.
Check back each day for a new installment!