Why am I in Ethiopia?
Ah, many reasons.
1. We had hoped I could come back during the summer.
2. The stateside founder of the ministry we'll be working with was planning a trip in October along with a stateside volunteer. This should be a totally different experience with the Boss Man here.
3. There are several opportunities for me here this week...new developments within the organization and decisions being made...that will forecast the next 5-10 years. I would love to see those first hand...you know, since we'll be living here in a few months. God willing, of course.
4. I need to get to know the Ethiopian staff and those being served through the ministries here. A large part of what Keith and I will be doing here is relational ministry. That may not even sound like a real kind of ministry to some of you, but it is perhaps the most effective kind.
5. So, if you were moving across the ocean, wouldn't you jump at the chance to figure life out there? Even Ethiopia is getting less scary...I mean more totally awesome...the more I am here.
Are those enough reasons?
Why didn't I tell anyone, not even my BFF or my parents?
1. I did tell 2 friends (who have the luxury of flying for free) in September when Keith and I discussed the trip. Sadly, neither could join me.
2. You are aware of the communication situation between Keith and me. Not another word of making the trip until last week when he asked before purchasing a plane ticket, "So are you really going to Ethiopia?"
3. And the days leading up to my departure were filled with arranging child care and preparing food for 22 out of the 27 meals for which I would be absent. It really just slipped my mind.
How was my first solo international traveling experience?
First we should address the fact...the miracle...that I was even permitted to do so. I don't have a clue. You and I are seeing a new side of Keith. Perhaps my hauling the kids and Simon to Oklahoma and Texas proved to him that I'm wearing big girl pants and can keep track of my own passport. I will say he sent me off with a verbal list of instructions and walked me to the front of the security line. That sweet man.
One of the things Keith mandated was that I "make friends" with a traveler so that upon arrival amidst the chaos of baggage claim in Ethiopia someone might notice if I need assistance. Or if I happen to go missing. That lucky person was the gal in front of me to check in for my connection in DC. She and her husband were adopting from Ethiopia but were on this trip to go backpacking in Tanzania. For fun. Not my cup of tea, but I'll take what I can get.
I struck gold at the check-in counter with an airline employee who had been disapprovingly weighing everyone's carry-ons, shaking his head at them. Yes, they weigh and measure your carry-on bag! The limit is 17 pounds, and mine was 10.5 over. But, I had greeted him cheerily and pretended to understand his English as he tried to make conversation. He said something to the effect that he could tell my heart was happy for Ethiopia. So, he leaned down and quietly said he was going to just check that bag for free and then kindly waved me away when he saw my other carry-on, which was perhaps heavier than the first. Bless him!
I have no complaints about the flight accept that a flight attendant adamantly woke me from my first and only good nap, despite the pleas of the man and woman next to me to just let me sleep, so that she could force on me a gluten-free meal that I did not order. Peaking out from under my eye mask, I tried to shoo her away but she was relentless. Finally I took out an ear plug with one hand, the other holding the meal she refused to take away, and heard the woman 2 seats down say she did order a gluten-free meal. I handed it to her before Pushy Flight Attendant could even reach for the slip verifying that the meal indeed belonged to the woman in seat J and not to me in seat L.
The best in-flight movie was "Rock of Ages." Although I found it under the category Blockbusters, I felt it fit better in Classics. Stellar cast. Amazing music. You mean you haven't even heard of it? Me either. However, I must have the movie and the soundtrack. Hint, hint to anyone who is looking for a going-away gift idea.
At the horrific baggage claim, my backpacking friends were no where to be found. But the good news is that not a single stranger approached me offering help. I, however, tried to take a luggage cart from one man, whom I had assumed was an airline employee dutifully bringing in carts for arriving passengers. I later realized the guys with that job were wearing earthy-toned scrubs and not a navy Polo wind-breaker that I mistook for part of a Delta uniform. He politely told me he needed both carts. Awkward? Yes. But even more awkward was that he and his brother fell in line directly behind me to wait an eternity at customs. Born and raised in Ethiopia, they had spent the last 8 years in New York and their English was impeccable. The 3 of us traded stories of past, present and future as they walked me through customs and all the way to the man holding this sign: