Sunday, December 05, 2010, 1:20 A.M.
I have had the worst flying experience ever. My flight out of Amsterdam was delayed by 3 or 4 hours because of weather and so of course I missed my connecting flight out of here and in to Little Rock. I wasn’t angry about that, because I’ve learned from working at ABF that you can’t control everything about transportation. I was disappointed to learn that all the connecting flights out of Memphis had already left and so we wouldn’t be able to get out of here until tomorrow. I called Delta to try to switch my flight to Ft. Smith and they said that the only way I could do that was to pay $200, which I did not want to do. So I called the number they gave me for a hotel and they said that a shuttle was on the way to come and get me. I went outside and waited for over an hour, but no shuttle. I called again and the same guy, Scott, said that they had sent three and I must not have seen them, so I went outside and stood in a different spot, under the “Hotel” sign and waited. I was SO cold. I had on my sweater and my katinge. That wasn’t enough, so I opened my baggage and got out the sweater that I bought Deby for her birthday when I was in Amsterdam. I put that on and then got out the purple scarf that I bought at the Nile source. I wrapped that around my ears and then around my neck, then wrapped the katinge around my entire body. Lucky I had bought those gloves in Amsterdam. But I was still cold. I was almost shaking I was so cold, and after 45 minutes there was still no shuttle. So I came back inside and called Delta back and said I still want to change my ticket. The lady transferred me to another lady and I explained the same to her. I was cold and tired and angry, but I tried very hard to be sweet and patient with the people on the phone, because goodness knows that I know what it’s like to deal with cranky, stressed out people. The second lady was so very sweet and had a slight Southern accent, and she kept exclaiming and saying that she felt sorry for me and she put me on hold for a long time and then had to transfer me yet again to get everything finalized, but she told me that they were doing my transfer for me for free of charge. She even kept apologizing. I was so happy that everything worked out. God worked that one out for me!
But the part that sticks out the most about the evening was that while I was standing outside I looked around and I didn’t see anyone. Not a soul. Every once in a while a couple airport workers would run by at a distance on their way to a parking shuttle through the cold. But other than that, the place was deserted. If this were Africa, there would be people everywhere! In the time I stood there, at least 6 people would have invited me to come and share their food and I would have been greeted and smiled at and touched dozens and dozens of times. I would have had the comfort of knowing that there were people near, that any time I looked up I would make eye contact with someone who would offer a smile that came from the heart, not the face. Yes, I would have had to watch my bag carefully, but I would have felt the pulse of the beating heart of Africa. Of humanity. But instead I was standing in America, cold as I could be and bitten by the bitter wind, with no one to smile at me or make me laugh or touch my arm. In my entire 24 years of life I have never felt so alone. And I wept. I wept for loneliness for my Africa, gone from me not yet 36 hours and already the reason for my longing, my utter despair of spending the next year in this place. In all my three months of being in Africa, I never once cried for missing anyone or anything in America. But I stood in the cold tonight and I cried great, shaking sobs for my homesickness for Africa. I had cried at student assembly on Friday as the students and teachers came to me with gifts, and when my female students saw it they reached up and wiped my tears away with soft dark fingers, crying themselves. But tonight I cried alone. I felt a loneliness so deep that I literally could not even stand correctly and hold my head up straight. I wrapped my arms around myself in an attempt to hug away the longing, the hurt of the greatest emptiness I have ever known. But nothing can take away the loneliness for Africa. And I feel I will always be alone until I can return to my Africa.