Well my trip back to Africa started out with a bang. That was mostly because I waited until the very last minute to pack. By the last minute, I mean the literal hour before I was supposed to leave my house to go to the airport. I like to play this little game with myself where I act like I am so chill and laid back and not uptight at all and everything will just work itself out. If you know me at all, you know this is far, far from the truth. The week leading up to my trip was just straight crazy, but keeping up the lie I was telling myself I was all like, “I’ll just throw some things in my bag and trek off to Africa like it ain’t nothing.” Well, that’s a great mentality if you really are chill and laid back, but as we have already discussed I am not. And I am usually reminded of that fact when I am down to the wire on time and start hyperventilating because all of a sudden I remember that I don’t like things to be last minute, and I don’t like to feel rushed, and I don’t like surprises and you get all three of those things when you wait till the morning of to pack for an international trip. Go me.
My roommate woke up that morning to a wide eyed, panicked, and breathless version of me full of last minute questions and concerns that any self respecting international traveller would have asked days in advance. Poor thing had just rolled out of bed and was sitting calmly on the couch still waking up while I stood in front of her bordering on hysteria.
As I ran out of the house, in my head I was screaming “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be late. I’m going to be late!” But I managed to restrain that panic to my thoughts and did not allow it to transfer to my mouth. I tossed my 50 lb suitcase into the backseat of my car and I prayed to the sweet baby Jesus that I had packed my underwear. And a passport. And something to read on my 30 hours of travel. And a toothbrush. Tell you what I didn’t forget – snacks. Girl’s gotta eat.
As I walked through the airport carrying my friend Ashton Kate’s mandolin to Africa for her, I got lots of admiring stares. I threw my shoulders back, held my head higher and almost convinced myself that I could play it as well as I was sure these people thought that I could.
It reminded me of the days of showing livestock when I would walk into a public place with my boots, wranglers, and belt buckle on and people would stare and I thought they were admiring a true cowgirl. Little did I know, they were staring in disbelief that someone wore that outfit proudly in public. The stench coming from the bottom of my boots probably didn’t help either. Oh how cool I thought I was. Oh how tragically mistaken I was.
Today, however, I really was cool. Because I could play the mandolin. Or at least these people thought I could. Little did these people know, the only thing I could do with that mandolin was use it as a weapon to whop somebody over the head. Perception is reality people. Perception is reality. I briefly considered throwing open that mandolin case and sitting cross legged on the floor of the airport and demonstrating my skills for the passengers in exchange for a little cash money. I thought it could be a great way to pay for my lunch. That is until I remembered I couldn’t actually play the mandolin. So, yeah, I payed for my own mediocre airport lunch.
Does anyone else feel like when they are traveling they have to ration out times for bathroom stops and drinking? It’s a funny thing when you have to regulate your bladder control to airport security and flight take off timing. It can be a painful situation if you are off on those timings too. I am always scared to drink much because of it and then I end up as parched as the Sahara desert and they give you just enough water to help you swallow your spit on an 8 hour flight. For a girl that typically consumes an slightly grotesque 4 gallons of water a day, it’s a rough trip. So, I find myself asking for more water, which I then pour into my Nalgene and store away for a desperate moment. Usually one that is coupled with eating the pretzels or cheese and crackers that I hoarded from my tray during that delicious on flight meal (read: There couldn’t have been much food in that meal that was actually produced in nature.)
So very hard to believe that I made almost this exact same journey a little less than three years ago. I was scared out of my mind. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had travelled internationally before, but never by myself and certainly never to anywhere to live. Saying goodbye to my family in the airport that morning was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I just wanted it over. Two years seemed like a lifetime then. I couldn’t fathom in my wildest dreams not coming home for two years.
Walking out into the airport of the country I was to be living in for the next two years was beyond anything I had ever known. I was way out of my element and a way different skin color from all those around me. A sea of black, brown, and caramel faces, many covered from head to toe in billowy robes, was all I saw. Lets just say it wasn’t hard for me to pick out the people who had come to pick me up, but in that brief moment before I spotted them, I was overwhelmed by just how far out of my comfort zone I had just stepped.
Today, I know the routine. I know the flight path. I know the language. I know the currency. Today is not a step out of my comfort zone, it is more like a welcome home.
Welcome home to a beautiful people and a beautiful country.