Harrisburg, PA – left home at 2:30pm – May 30th, 2012
London, England – May 31, 2012 (1:27pm EST, 6:27pm here)
There’s a certain excitement that starts in my belly and moves up to my neck and finally to my face, where I feel a stupidly large smile forming. While I’ve known I am returning to Africa for quite a long time now, it is only when I actually hand over my passport to be stamped and am welcomed to a new country that I know I truly am returning. Right now, I am sitting in Heathrow airport in London, recalling the many flights I’ve taken through this city both as a single person and later, married, travelling with Eric and the kids.
Costa Café is still here – my meeting place with other International Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, with whom I worked in Eastern Europe, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Portugal a few years back. I feel the same excitement I felt then…my waiting grounds where I’ll board a plane which will take me to a place where the foods, smells and air are different. I can’t wait to return to Congo, Kenya and Zimbabwe...I have friends there I want to see again, favorite lodgings I’ve missed and children who I want to see – have they grown? Are they doing well in school? What has changed for them in the past year? What do we need to do to help them get through the next one with hope, health and dignity?
My eyes are a bit bleary from lack of decent sleep and they sting a little. I hope this means that I will sleep deeply during the next flight. Two flights down, two to go (and a long drive) until I reach my first intended destination, Tandala Hospital. There, I will unload a large army duffel bag chock full of sutures (I wonder what customs thought when they x-rayed that bag?), gloves, water filters, and other needed supplies. Can’t wait – seeing the doctors when they receive these items is like seeing Christmas through the eyes of a three-year old.
I love it.
Nairobi, Kenya sitting in a plane to Bangui – June 31, 2012
My dream of sleeping in the plane ride from Kenya to CAR has fallen to the wayside, as I was seated by a 2-year old whose mother didn’t believe in paying attention to. With no toys, books, or someone to talk to, the little guy thought it would be fun to poke me and shake me when he even got the hint of sleep coming over me. If I ignore him, he kicks.
The mom looks tired and it seems she’s using this plane ride as a personal vacation – one where she is continuously putting on new makeup and where she is straightening her crown. Yes, I kid you not…she is wearing a crown. The gold-colored and pearl crown is in stark contrast to the incredibly tight leopard pants and tiger print shirt she is wearing. Maybe she thinks she is the queen of Africa? Don’t know, but what I do know is that this cute little prince here is going to start to annoy me pretty soon. Wonder if I can offer him a Benadryl?
Bangui, Central African Republic – June 1, 2012
It is 4:53pm in Bangui and I’ve been here since 1pm. It was a long trek to get here! I left Harrisburg right on time, which allowed me to make my 45 minute connection in Chicago. From there, off to London where I had a 12 hour layover. Then, to Nairobi, with a 45 minute connection to Bangui. I had no idea that I’d have to stop in Cameroon on my way to CAR, though! That was a bit of a shocker. But, I finally made it to CAR and was met by Thelma once I got through customs. She is lovely and has graciously opened her home to me. Her home is simple, but clean and secure. It is in a compound which includes schools for children as well as pastoral school for French-speaking nationals from over Africa. I feel comfortable here, even as I swelter.
It seems that I didn’t bring my capris with me, so tomorrow will be another day of wearing jeans that really have no business being worn again. But, Thelma warned me that pants will be better than a skirt tomorrow as I have a 12 hour drive in a pick-up truck and I will be appreciative of the pants if and when we get stuck in a hole on our trip down to Tandala Hospital. So, I’ll bathe tonight and air out my jeans and they will be on me again tomorrow. I am so grateful for the clean t-shirts, socks and underwear I have along and for the fact that I will be able to bathe. That is always a nice thing after two days of travel. I know I need a bath in a bad way.
Tomorrow will start with a short drive to “the beach” – some place close to a river, where I’ll have to do customs into Congo (DRC). A man named Gilbert will walk me through the process and I am told he will not take any lip from anyone, so I am hopeful that my duffel bag of medical supplies will make it through without a hitch. I have granola bars ready, just in case a guard needs a snack, though. I have found over and over again that a little kindness followed by some food (m&m’s, granola bars, beef jerky, etc) goes a long way. So, I am ready!
Oh, wow! A class is about to start at the seminary and they are starting to sing. It is amazing! Just mind-blowingly beautiful singing is coming through the open door (too darn hot to close anything) and windows.