City of Angels
While waiting for my flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, I enjoyed watching the bigger airplanes take off and land in Hong Kong’s International airport. The A380 is an exceptional beast that seems to lumber down the runway in slow motion. Unfortunately I would not be on one of these monsters to the city of angels. My flight was American Airlines #6122 direct on a Boeing 777-300. Still, I enjoy the 777 very much and have become used to this aircraft over the years.
However, before continuing on the LA post, it has been suggested that my blog stories are “dragging World Vision through the mud”. This is far from the truth as I firmly believe that World Vision is a sound organization in most of what it provides for those in need. The organization can be hypocritical at times, which I identify. There are many facades that are hidden under the cloak of what is perceived as “Christian” where on the surface it looks saintly. Every organization has its skeletons in closets, and this is one that seems to bury more than others. More times than not, a blind eye is turned where it should not be and wide open when the matters are trivial.
In every career, one makes many friends, some better than others. But those friendships can only be measured by those who stick with you and those who “forsake” you. When the career ends, for whatever reason, one quickly discovers which are which. The support of those you thought were close, that you once called “brother/sister”, vanishes and backs are turned. This is what inspired me to write my blog 18 months after my career with the organization ended. Plus, outside of what some deem as “mud dragging”, the adventures I have had are worthy of noting.
OCS Meeting – Los Angeles
What I really enjoyed about traveling east from Hong Kong to Los Angeles is that I arrived in LA two hours after I departed Hong Kong. Well, in clock time anyway. I departed Hong Kong at noon on April 7 arriving in LA at 1415 the same day. Obviously, the flight was much longer than two hours, it was a 12 hour flight in real time.
When I landed in LA, I realized how crazy the LAX airport was. I have seen busy airports over the years, but nothing like LAX. While standing in the arrivals hall, one could feel the air of Hollywood all around. There were bodyguards almost everywhere you turned waiting for someone famous to arrive. My moment of excitement was that Tom Cruise was arriving from some film shoot, and I was hoping to get to see him. I did meet his personal bodyguard while waiting for my car, which is how I knew he was landing. Sadly, my car arrived before the actor appeared.
All of the meetings for the next week would take place at the Double Tree hotel in Monrovia, a suburb of LA. This hotel was close to the World Vision HQ in Monrovia, which oddly enough was my personal address as well, at least on all documents. Since I lived in Costa Rica, I needed a residence outside of CR for most administrative needs.
Instead of dinner that evening, many of us headed to Denny’s for the all-day breakfast!
Since the first day of the meetings would be only the training team with Andries’ team, the rest of us were free. Someone came up with the idea of hiring a limousine to take us around Los Angeles. This was a really good idea to get some sightseeing in early as most of us would be flying out after the meetings.
We toured most of Beverly Hills and Hollywood in the limousine, seeing some famous and not so famous celebrity houses. Our car did drive by Tom Cruise’s home just as someone was leaving, not sure if he was in the car. Also, we drove by the not-then-so-popular Justin Bieber’s home, but none of us had any eggs!
Beverly Hills was such a posh place with all of the fancy stores and cars running around. I could not help but think of the movie, Beverly Hills Cop while here. One can smell the money in the air with all the luxury there is here.
After the limousine tour, we were dropped off in central LA. Here we were able to walk down the “walk of fame”. It was pretty interesting seeing all the stars along the sidewalk. We arrived in LA the same weekend that Annette Funicello had passed away, so her star had a small memorial tribute. I remember when I was young watching the Mousketeers on the television.
While walking, I discovered the LA Harley Davidson clothing store. Definitely I had to stop in and see what there was. I ended up purchasing a very nice leather jacket, that to this day gets some good compliments. I have not seen another one anywhere like it in all my recent rides.
Being my first OCS team meeting, it was nice to see the entire team in the same room. All of the Regional Security Directors, the training team, and analysts were on hand. There were only a handful that could not make this meeting. Vince was still running up the Syria response and was not able to help represent the GRRT. This was the first time I was able to meet Mark, the analyst who replaced Sean. Over the years, I had believed that Mark was one of those I could truly call “brother” along with a few others.
The general concept of this trip was to cover some of the following:
- “Where do we see OCS moving to in the next 3-5yrs?”
- “What is the value that we add to the organization?”
- “How can we keep the good things we do and improve on the not so good?”
- “Do we want to be part of a new and innovative way of doing things in the WV security space?”
Lots of white board exercises, it was good that we could write on the walls!
Concluding World Circumnavigation
Once the meetings were over on April 11, it was time to complete the process of global circumnavigation. In 10 days, I successfully flew around the globe in one direction! I left Los Angeles for San Jose, completing the loop in Dallas. I was looking forward to having some free time at home, but it would not be long. Within a couple of weeks I would get the call to help Vince and team in Syria.