It’s 4:30 in the morning and rain is pouring down. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out it was raining. I got up, pushed a series of red and green buttons on the wall to turn off the AC, and yet it still sounded like there was an angry hurricane above me. But when I looked out the window the branches on the bushes didn’t even sway. Finally, I unlocked the door, stepped outside, and saw streaks of shimmering silver beneath the streetlight in the distance.
I wasn’t crazy but it wasn’t a hurricane. It was a simple rain storm. In Colorado, you never see rain without wind. I watched as rain fell from the sky in a straight line, a jarring reminder—home is far away.
This trip started like all the others: frantically packing the night before and thinking I lost my passport. But, on the first flight—Denver to Chicago—we were told we had to check our carry-on bags because the cabin was full. My boss had a mini-suitcase styled carry on, so it might have been okay if she had a luggage lock, but I had a rolling backpack. And both were stuffed with delicate valuables and electronics.
The lady printed off our checked-luggage tags and tied one around my bosses bag. I took deep breaths and assured myself it would be fine, I could grab my bag as soon as we got to Chicago.
Suddenly I overhear the lady talking to my boss, “—pick them up in Abidjan.”
I froze. Checked to an African airport, all of which are notorious for losing luggage. Everything will be broken OR since I have no locks, I’ll pick up an empty backpack! As this horror mulled in my brain I watched a couple with huge camping backpacks board without any hassle. But they wanted to check our carry-on bags all the way to Abidjan because there’s no space?
All the way to Abidjan.
I looked at the lady, still shocked at her suggestion. “No,” I said in a low voice, and cut into the boarding line with my backpack and not another word. It’s the meanest I’ve ever been to a customer service rep, and part of me still feels bad. But now that it’s over, another part of me feels like a victor against the airlines. You wanted me to loose my bag and all my belongings? HA!
The rest of the flights were long but thankfully uneventful—especially compared to the flights we took to get to Kenya. I tried to conquer my fear of using the bathroom while flying by using it while the plane was on the tarmac in Burkina Faso, waiting to take us to Abidjan.
But my laughable fear might not be as crazy as it sounds.
There was liquid ev-ery-where. I’m going to pretend it was water that puddled all over the floor and “seat.” My shoe was untied and I had to contort my legs in the cramped space to wash the strings in the sink. I banged the walls and whispered “gross gross gross” instead of running out screaming. Of course there was no toilet paper either.
My boss, who used a different bathroom, had the same experience (minus the shoe string washing). Which tells me this is not unusual. So I shall return to my strike against airplane bathrooms.
But it wasn’t all bad. For the first time while traveling to Africa ALL our luggage arrived. Our rooms were ready on time. And they had dinner prepared for us. But I still can’t tell you what the food is like because we were all motion sick and declined to eat. I’m not sure if that was rude, but one of our trainers who will present at the conference said no, don’t worry, “Don’t let them pressure you.” It was a kind reassurance but in that instance I was reminded that every action from here on can be used to negotiate a higher or lesser price at the end of our stay.
Like Kenya and India, negotiation is key to every exchange, and there are trash, flowers, and lots of trash in the flowers. But, that’s where most of the similarities end.
If we list the amount of first-world luxuries from all the places I’ve traveled it goes like this:
Even though the toilet has holes for a toilet seat to screw into, the seat itself is viewed as an unnecessary item. I’ve almost fallen into the toilet back at home a few times, but to my surprise, it’s actually easy to balance on the rim of the toilet when you don’t expect a seat to be there.
Also like Kenya and India you have to use bottled water to brush your teeth.
We’re staying at a “bring your own sheets, towels, soap, and pillow” kind of place. I have my baby panda pillow pet and my jacket wadded up to make a bigger pillow. They agreed to supply sheets for our team, which in my case is a 3 by 2 yard sheet of beautiful blue fabric like the kind you by in a store. But in this hot send humid climate it’s perfectly.
The foam mattress is surprisingly comfy. However, it might be that “sleeping” on an airplane for two days lowered my standards to the point where 3 inches of foam on wood slats feels heavenly.
We don’t have any WIFI yet, so I’m writing this on my phone with the hopes that in the morning someone will arrive with a router. Update: We were given a router with 65 mbps to share with all our people. Update update: The power went out and when it came back on the internet had 144 mbps. Not bad for being in the middle of nowhere.
In India I learned what it’s like to be involved in a Christian community, and that just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they want to follow Christ’s example. Hungary made me believe that maybe international travel isn’t all bad and it’s okay to feel at home when you’re 17000 miles from it. Kenya taught me to appreciate the times when life moves more slowly. Enjoy life. Hakuna Sheda (No one actually says Hakuna Matata, “They will think you got it from Lion King.”)
I’m not sure why God sent me here yet.
I’d like to share more photos with you, in the moment, while I’m here. But uploading the gecko for the cover image took 20 minutes and made the other people in the room look around and wonder why their connection suddenly became slower. And my battery is at 12%, draining fast.
À plus tard!
Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.
Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)
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