Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giraffe Pictures

While I take my time in getting up the latest blog (I'm really tired after a ton of travel and last minute things in S. Africa) I'm going to post giraffe pictures for you guys! I'm also putting up a picture of Emily who lives in Abidjan. She's the one that took care of me during my much too long layover in Abidjan on my way to S. Africa...

How cool is that!

This is me with the giraffes

Me and Susan with the giraffes. Pretty good photography skills going on here... I put my camera on top of the termite mound and turned the timer on! You can see the termite mound in the picture of me with the giraffes.

This was taken when we were back at the truck and the giraffes were doing their own thing. This was also the time that the man was trying to talk to me in Hausa and to Susan in French...

This is Tara and Emily. Tara is on the left and she's the Journeyman who's house I moved into when I moved to Niger. She ended her term in Niger in March and went to Mali. Her term in Mali ended in August.
Sweet Emily is on the right and is living in Abidjan. Thanks Emily for helping me get out of Ivory Coast!

Another blog is coming soon - stayed tuned!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Keep reading! One of the two posts below is for YOU!

This will be an interesting day of blogging. As I write I’m not even sure how it will turn out. There is so much that I want to write about and a few great stories that I have to share… but, there are some people out there that don’t appreciate the longevity of my blogs (I’m talking about a SPECIFIC Journeyman who’s name is Daniel) and would rather have a overview of the happenings in my life rather than the entire story in detail.
So for those of you who love to read the details and those of you who don’t – you’re both in luck! I’m going to give a “shorter” blog that talks about the last few weeks and then I will give a “longer” one that goes more into detail. I will be posting them at different times so stay tuned for both – I am spending the rest of my evening writing so hopefully you will have them to read by tonight. I will be writing the shorter one first.

So Daniel, if you’re running out the door but have 4 minutes, then you should sit and read. All the others out there that have nothing to do tonight and want to read funny, sad, and interesting things, grab a cup of hot chocolate and settle in on the couch because you’re in for a treat tonight!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Short Version

The last blog that I wrote talked a little bit about my time at home and the reunion that I had with my family.
I’m going to start this blog before I left from Niger on September 6th.

I was headed into Niamey at the beginning of September to prepare to head to South Africa. Susan was driving and we were almost to Niamey when I spotted giraffes on the side of the road! I had my camera nearby and we pulled over and jumped out. I did a short video and then we took some pictures as the giraffes just stood there! It was so neat to see them in “real” life! I will post pictures on the other blog.

I had my ticket to fly to S. Africa for the morning of the 6th. Susan took me to the airport and I flew away. I landed in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where another Journeyman picked me up and I spent the day with her for my long layover. The rest of my travel time was ridiculous. I added another country to my list to travel through and it took me about a day longer to get to S. Africa. All because my original flight from Abidjan to Accra, Ghana didn’t exist.

Once I was in S. Africa I made a trip to the grocery store where my stress level was taken to the max and I left without buying ice-cream! That afternoon I went to see the doctor for my knee and he took x-rays but said that I needed an MRI. The doctor was unable to pinpoint the problem. I had the MRI the next morning and was still struggling from the complete lack of sleep from my travels in the previous days. That Tuesday night I got a phone call from home that my grandfather had passed away.

Within 12 hours I had help purchasing a ticket and getting myself to the airport to catch a flight to America. I was met at the airport in St. Louis by my parents and I thought that I was living in a dream!

Over the next few days at home I did many different things which included, a girl's night out with my mom and the five oldest girls in my family, motorcycle rides, time with my grandma, a Cardinals game, visits with out of state (and in state) family, Settlers games, a drive in movie birthday bash for my younger sister, sleepovers with my nephews (they didn't last very long), long walks and a couple of nice dinners out.

I left America and headed back to S. Africa on Sunday the 27th of September. I made it back without any problems. I started physical therapy the following day and have been doing that ever since.

I have done a few different and fun things since being back in S. Africa. I have gone on a Safari, gone to a “Lion and Giraffe Park”, shopped at the mall, eaten at a Wild Game Restaurant (!) and visited with my friends Paul and Kimber and the Berry family, all who I went to FPO with (and I went to Italy with Paul).

I take walks often with Dean and Donna, two wonderful ladies that the Lord has blessed my time with while I’m here. Someimes we walk two or three times everyday.

That brings me to right now and I have finished my therapy and am waiting on my tennis shoe soles to come back. I gave them to the therapist and she is putting pieces on the arch part of them so that they will help support my feet better.

Diagnoses on my knees: my kneecaps are in the wrong position. Meaning that I don’t need surgery but physical therapy is a must. Right now my plan is to return to Niger this Friday.

Thanks for reading and have a great night!

Five Countries in HOW MANY HOURS?! (the long version)

I said goodbye to the chief’s family and my friends and told them that I would be back at the beginning of October. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Susan and I always have a good time on our Niamey drives. We laugh and carry on and talk about “our people” and all the different things that are going on in our villages. We left Kondike early on September 4th for Niamey where we would spend the next couple of days. I was headed to South Africa and Susan was going to Abidjan for a Church Planting meeting for a few weeks.

Well, on the road to Niamey, there is a section that you are able to see giraffes on, but mostly during the rainy season. I had seen one when I was with the others on the drive into Niamey when all IMB missionaries were leaving for ADVANCE in July. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to see him for any longer than a second or two because we were in a hurry to get to the capital city.

On this particular drive we were going through giraffe territory and I mentioned how cool it would be to see some giraffes. I fished out my camera “just in case” and Susan and I continued being Chatty Cathys. Within about a minute of retrieving my camera I looked over and saw a couple of giraffes in the distance. “Susan! Stop the truck! I just saw giraffes!” She slams on the breaks and we got out and locked the doors. We couldn’t see them from the truck at that point but by golly I knew they were there! We ran out into the bush a little ways and stopped when I spotted them in the near distance (oxy moron?). I immediately turned my video on my camera on and did a small clip before turning it off and taking some snapshots. They were SO COOL! It was so unlike any giraffe that I had ever seen in a zoo. These were much taller and, well… this was real life! I ask Susan to take a picture of me with them and I did the same with her. We were careful not to get to close because we didn’t want to scare them off. There was a huge termite mound right there in front of us and I put the camera on the timer and set it up there. Susan and I ran toward the giraffes to get in the picture. “Take One”, Hmmm….. it got one of the three giraffes but only our backs. “Take Two”, BooYa! Success! It turned out great! Susan looks so excited and I’ve got this “oh, my goodness, they’re really giraffes!” look on my face ☺

We started back to the truck only to find a man on a motorcycle pulled over and writing our license plate number down. “Oh, great.” I said. Turned out that the man spoke Hausa and French. There was a Fulani boy standing nearby watching the three of us. The man started talking to us in Hausa and all I got out of it was that there was a problem and the police were on their way. Susan and I exchanged glances and wondered what it was all about. I told the man that I didn’t understand what he was saying, so he tried talking in French. Susan knows a little French but amazingly, she played dumb (which I didn’t know until we were back on the road a minute later). The man asked in Hausa what I spoke and I told him “Fulfulde”. He motioned the young boy over and asked him to translate. The problem here was that the young boy spoke a different dialect of Fulfulde that Susan and I did. Now the man thought that I was lying to him and kept pointing to my camera and the giraffes that were now a little ways across the road. Susan made the comment that we should get going and I rolled up my window as the man told me to wait because the police were coming “right now, right now!” I waved at the man and said “Sai anjuma!” (“Until later!” in Hausa). He just waved us on angrily.

Susan and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was but we knew that if they really needed to get a hold of us that they could find us with the license plate number. No biggie that we were both leaving the country for a few weeks! Later, after thinking about it, we realized that the man was a driver for the giraffe viewing trucks. You are able to pay a guide and pay for your camera and go out and take pictures of the giraffes. All we can think of is that he got upset that we hadn’t paid and had used our camera to take pictures without paying for it. As far as I know they haven’t contacted the mission AND I have great pictures and a video!

Once in Niamey I did some running around and saw a few of my Fulani friends from the JAPCYN group. Friday night I packed up my things and made sure that I had my tickets. During that time I realized that I had forgotten my credit and debit cards. “I’m traveling internationally through many different countries and I don’t have a credit card?!” I was just a little upset with myself. Truth of the matter is, I haven’t used my cards since I went to Italy in April and have only used my debit card ONE TIME in West Africa and that was when I was in Senegal last year for ADVANCE. They just slipped my mind.

The next morning I dressed myself in my new green dress from the tailor and Susan took me to the airport. My first flight was to Abidjan, Ivory Coast and I got away on time and my flight was uneventful.

The night before (Friday night) I had talked to my friend, Emily, who is a Journeyman and lives in Abidjan. She had the day off and agreed to pick me up at the airport for my 9 hour layover.

I didn’t have to collect my luggage because I had a connecting flight to Accra, Ghana, that I was going to catch at 9pm that night. From Ghana I was going to catch my last flight to South Africa at about midnight. That would have put me at the airport about 7 am the next morning (Sunday).

Emily and I met up with another IMB couple and we had lunch. After that we went back to her apartment and talked for a few hours. I changed my clothes to a pair of jeans and a t-shirt knowing that I had a longer flight from Ghana to S. Africa. I wanted to be a little more comfortable. Then I took a nap while she did other things and we left a little later for a light coffee and doughnut dinner before I had to catch my flight. Once at the airport she told me to run in and make sure that my flight was on time. I ran in knowing that this was West Africa and they have things under control! No worries! YEA RIGHT.

To my surprise (not really) my flight wasn’t on the screen and it was supposed to be leaving in the next hour and a half. “Hmmmm” I thought. I ran back outside and told Emily that I didn’t see it. She parked the car and came in with me to help me figure it all out. I would have asked someone myself about it but I don’t speak French and I knew that I couldn’t communicate effectively with my unique dialect of Fulfulde. We got to my airline office which was open, praise the Lord! and she began talking to the lady behind the desk. Emily had to show her my information and the verdict we got wasn’t pleasant. The flight that I was scheduled to take NEVER existed – ever. Emily got all the information that she could before calling someone to help us out. The lady told us that there was a flight leaving for Accra a little after midnight and that I could take that one. Ok, great. But by the time I get there my S. Africa flight will already be in the air. Oh, boy. The non-existent flight stress just got worse…

Emily worked with the lady and found as many different options as she could. Some of which would take me through a couple of other countries before I would reach my final destination. There was another option of going to Accra the next day and waiting until Monday morning for a flight to S. Africa. That would have been fine with me but I would have missed my doctor’s appointment that I had scheduled months ago. We left the office and we used a pay phone to call Mark. He is Niger’s Business Facilitator and he’s the one that had got my tickets for me in the first place. Emily talked to him and filled him in on the whole deal. Emily and I made our way back to her apartment knowing that we had a few hours before I could catch the soonest flight… and we waited.

Someone (Emily or Mark) called Gary, the Business Facilitator for the Ivory Coast. He came to the apartment to help us figure things out. I called the Guest House in S. Africa and told them I wouldn’t be there in the morning but would let them know my new flight schedule when I got it. I called way late my time and they were an hour ahead of me… so I woke up Nancy and Stan, the Guest House directors, and I felt so bad! Nancy said that she was happier with me waking her up than her going to the airport in the morning and not finding me.

***So by this time I’m getting a little antsy. My fingers were tingling and I couldn’t sit still. I also couldn’t help but feel bad about the situation – even though I couldn’t change it and it wasn’t my fault. Gary was with Emily and I and it was already 10pm and poor Mark had gone down to the travel agency in downtown Niamey to figure the mess out. When the guy at the travel agency got there to let Mark in and look up my flight information, he had grabbed the wrong keys from home and had to go back and get the correct ones. So everything was taking a little longer than we had time for! I was getting nervous even though I knew that I couldn’t change anything. The Lord continued to remind me that He had already gone ahead of me and knew that this was going to happen before the creation of Adam!***

Mark told us that he would call when he figured something out on his end. Gary called anyway. Mark said that they were trying to get me to S. Africa by Monday morning but that meant a complete re-routing of my travel plans. That’s okay, right?! I’m flexible!
Mark asked if there was anyway that I could get on the flight to Accra a little after midnight. It was a tad after 11 by this time and I didn’t have my luggage. I’m not sure what they were planning to do with it since the flight they were supposed to put it on was never there in the first place. But anyway. Gary and Emily and I headed to the airport while Mark tried to get things taken care of on his end.

Here’s where the big stresser comes in…

Mark was trying to get me a flight from Accra, Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria. Then from Lagos I was going to get on a flight to S. Africa. But they didn’t want me leaving Abidjan without everyone knowing my flight schedule, especially myself. I didn’t want to get to Accra and not know for sure if I was going to Lagos or not. So in the mean time Emily and I went on an Anna’s luggage search. Emily works in the media department for West Africa and knows many of the airports here inside and out from traveling so much. She knew exactly where to go to get my luggage. The man that we had to get through would only allow one of us to go. She couldn’t send me because I spoke no French and she couldn’t go in fear that they wouldn’t give her my luggage. She was sweet and kind to the man (without being inappropriate) and he let us both through. She led me through a maze of doors and walkways and finally straight to my luggage. It was sitting with a few other bags next to an office that had a lady working in it. Emily explained the situation and the lady let us go with my luggage. We went back to the office to find Gary talking to Mark. I waited. I paced. I prayed. I laughed at the sense of humor that God had putting me in this situation knowing that He had it all taken care of when I was wondering where in the world He was?!!!! Emily and I had a few nervous laughs over the whole situation and she said that she had an extra bed if I needed to stay the night.

Gary got off the phone with Mark and said that Mark was buying me a couple of new tickets and that I needed to be ready to go when they showed up in the system. The lady behind the counter worked with us and waited with us while we watched the screen for my name on the new flights from Accra to Lagos and Lagos to Johannesburg to come through. They never showed up. By this time it’s pushing midnight but the lady told us not to worry because the flight personnel were all eating. Ok, yea, great, that makes me feel so much better that my flight is leaving in a few minutes, I’m not checked in yet and I have a feeling that you don’t REALLY know where my flight even is!

Emily made sure that the lady knew that I didn’t speak French and the lady let her know that she would take care of me. A few minutes later she told me it was time to go. We still hadn’t seen the information come through but we trusted that Mark had gotten it and I would get my connecting tickets in Accra. I said goodbye and thanks to Gary and Emily and I was off.

Once I got through the first passport check that got me to the room where I was supposed to check my baggage, the lady disappeared for about 10 minutes. Oh, my goodness! There was nobody at the checkout counter (probably because every other person on my flight was already checked in and was ON THE PLANE!) but within a few minutes the lady was back and so was another worker. They got me checked in and I ran through the rest of security to my gate. There were three other people sitting there. “Yup, I knew it. I missed my flight.” I waited for someone to come to the counter so I could ask. It never happened. It’s 12:30am at this point and every once in a while a few more people trickle down to my gate. By 2:00 there was a plane that came in. It was mine. I got on and we were off. It was a short flight, which I was happy about. I knew that I had about a 6 hour layover in Accra before I flew to Lagos.

We got off the plane in Accra and walked into the airport where we were all going to fill out the customs paper. All the passengers entered this huge room that was completely dark. It was about 3:30 in the morning and they didn’t have the lights on – holy cow – West Africa…

The lights came on and I got in line after mine was filled out and ready to go. Once I got to the window they asked me, in English, for my Ghana visa. “I don’t have one, I’m in transit” I told them. The man looked at me and asked where I was going. “Lagos.” Then he looked through my passport and made a note to me that my Nigerian visa expired less than a month ago. “Yes, I know. I’m going to be in transit there too.” Then he looks at me with an ‘are you kidding me’ type of look and asks to see my tickets. I knew it! I knew that someone would ask for something that I didn’t have. I smiled, “Well, Sir. You see, I don’t have them. But I’m going to get them from the airline office here as soon as they open.”

By this time there are several other people listening and almost laughing at the crazy white girl who is traveling through Ghana and Nigeria without a visa for either and no proof of a connecting flight to get out of Accra. The man asked me when my flight for Nigeria was supposed to leave and I told him 9am. He told me at that point that I had to wait for the transit office to open and that would be around 7. He told me that I had to sit over in the corner nearby with my luggage that I didn’t have at that point. He kept my passport and told me to go get my luggage. When I came back he led me to a chair and told me to wait for the next three hours and he kept my passport. He said “Come and find me at 7am when the transit office opens. I will be in room two and I will give you your passport back then” Hmmm…. I was exhausted at this point and didn’t even care. I just wanted to lie down and there was a man in the chair about five feet from me snoring away with his neck in a position that would have had death close to my door. He looked so uncomfortable! I sat for a few minutes before the sleeping man woke up and just walked away – random. So I moved over to his chair behind a desk in the middle of the walkway/corner that they put me in. I pulled my wrap-around-skirt from my backpack and put it around me and I laid my head on the desk. I was almost asleep when an immigration worker walked over and said “what are you doing sleeping behind this desk?!” Oh, boy. More drama. “The other immigration worker told me to stay here until the transit office opens at 7am because I’m in transit to Nigeria and I don’t have a Ghana visa.” “Give me your passport,” he demands. “I don’t have it. You’re immigration friend took it from me and he’s in room two,” I replied. The man smiled and then asked me if I wanted a mattress to sleep on while I waited? “Are you serious?!” I asked in shock. “Yes, I have one for you, I will bring it out.” Sure enough, a couple of minutes later he brought me a small mattress. He moved the desk and positioned it just right so that it was in between the wall and the desk. Then he took the stray chairs and lined them up at the end of the desk and mattress so that people walking by wouldn’t be able to see me well. He told me to sleep good and walked away. I put my suitcase at my head and my backpack under the desk. Lying on my stomach I was asleep in no time.

Sometime later I woke up to “hey, you, what’s you’re name? Hey, girl, what’s your name?” A little louder, “LADY, WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” I looked up and saw two more immigration workers standing about six feet from me. I could see the sun coming up outside and I was cold. “What?” I asked groggily. “What are you doing here sleeping on the floor?!” the Ghanaian asked. I glanced at my watch ‘6am – an hour and a half of sleep’ I thought to myself. “I’m waiting for the transit office to open.” I wasn’t quit awake yet and I was now going off of about 12 hours of sleep in the past three days (the lack of sleep in Niamey before I left for Abidjan was my fault but none the less, I was like a walking zombie). The man looked at me and said, “Where’s your passport?” What is up with every person that walks up wanting to see my passport when I don’t have it, when I can walk through security checks with it ready to show and they could care less to see it?! “I’m sorry, I don’t have it. The immigration man in room two took it and will give it back at seven when the transit office opens.” The other man wasn’t saying anything but looked at me like ‘you’re crazy’. The first guy looked irritated and waved me up “well, get off the floor, you can’t sleep here!” No way! I was agitated at this point and said “look, the nice man down the hallway gave me this to sleep on until the transit office opens and I’m tired!”
“Get up off the floor and give me that mattress! There are going to be people coming in from flights and they can’t see you sleeping here behind this desk. Here sit in this chair.” He motioned me to the chair and I declined his hand to help me up. I was not going to give him the pleasure of touching me, even if it was just my hand… He asked to see my tickets and again I went through the story of how my flight didn’t exist so I came on the next available one. I told him that I was going to Nigeria and from there headed to South Africa. I explained in detail why I didn’t have my tickets because they didn’t show up in Abidjan by the time I needed to leave. But I assured him that I would get my tickets when I was given my passport and allowed to leave “the corner”.

I moved to the chair and tried to wake up. A few minutes later the man that gave me the mattress walks down the hallway and sees me awake and sitting in the chair. “Where’s your mattress, Mam?” I told him that there were two other immigration workers that woke me up and took it away. He looked irritated but didn’t say much. He asked what I was waiting on and I told him “the transit office”. About 7:00am the man that took my mattress came and told me to come with him and that he was going to help me get my tickets. Out of all the men that I had dealt with in the last couple of hours, he was the one that I didn’t want to have help from. He was about my age and his commanding attitude was getting to me a little bit. He said “go down to room two and get your passport and come back here and we’ll go get your tickets. (It was about 7:15am and the transit office still wasn’t open yet). What could I do. I walked down the hallway and peaked my head in the door. There were about five immigration workers sitting in there with one of them being a woman. As soon as she spotted me she looked at the man with my passport and said “Hey, your girlfriend has come to see you”. AHHHHHH. I ignored her and the smirk that the comment put on the man’s face and I asked him if I could have my passport. He put up a fuss because the transit office wasn’t open and he wanted me to sit until the people came. I had tears ready to overflow from the stress of the multi-personalities within the immigration workers. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think that I raised my voice with the man. “Sir, there is a man down the hall that wants me to come with my passport so that we can get my tickets. I only have an hour and forty-five minutes before my flight leaves and I have no ticket and my baggage still needs to be checked!” He handed over my passport after verifying that the man I was going with wouldn’t let me out of his sight.

The young man walked a little too close to me the whole time. He took me outside the airport and carried my passport the whole time. I looked like someone in trouble to everyone watching…

We walked and walked and walked all over the place. I’m pretty sure at one point we weren’t even in the airport parking lot. Finally after lugging my luggage and carry-on for what felt like a mile ling hike through airport territory, we came to the check in counters and airline offices. He stood nearby and watched with a smile as I got my ticket and showed my “new immigration friend”. I was saying a prayer of thanks that the Lord allowed everything to go through and that I had my ticket to Nigeria. But they couldn’t give me my ticket from Lagos to S. Africa until I got to Nigeria.

I went to check in and the immigration man that was with me – the same man that woke me up and took my mattress away from me – gave me his “official” card with his name and title on and ask me to call him when I got to S. Africa so he would know that I made it okay. I smiled “thanks, sure.” I took the card and I’m not sure where it went after that but I can assure that he did not get a call from me…

I weighed my luggage and my passport was looked at by a couple of really nice workers. “Can we please see your connecting flight ticket from Lagos to Johannesburg, please?” Great, just what I need. “I’m sorry I don’t have it with me. I will get it in Nigeria”. They exchanged looks and then the man said, “we can’t legally allow you to check in until we see verification that you are a transit passenger. It wouldn’t matter if you had a valid Nigerian visa but it’s expired.” I’m guessing by the kind way that the man and woman treated me they had had a full nights sleep the night before, unlike a couple of immigration workers I had already dealt with.

So at this point the only thing that I can think of to do is get a hole of Mark and ask him to email it to me. The check in workers told me where the internet room was and I headed that way. I had my backpack on and I carried my suitcase up a huge flight of stairs to the second floor where I collapsed into a chair. My knees were killing me and I was running out of time. I got there and ask if I could use the internet and the guy working there told me it was one Cedi (Ghanaian money, it’s pronounced CD) for 30 minutes. I didn’t have any Ghanaian money! I asked him where the exchange desk was and he told me I had to go outside and around the corner, down the walkwa… I was gone. I ask people along the way until I was led outside and pointed to a door a ways away. “Go in there and then to your left and you’ll find the desk.” Guess who is at the door? The immigration man that took my mattress and gave me his “official” card so that I could let him know that the little white girl he had the pleasure of helping was okay. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be checked in and going to your gate”. I wanted to say “what are you doing here? You’re supposed to stay with me and not let me out of your sight until I get to the gate!” But instead I explained the situation to him kindly. I didn’t have time to waste. There were about 18 workers standing there, not working. Maybe they were all on their morning breakfast break at the same time. They told me that I couldn’t take my luggage inside and that I had to leave it with them. “Fine” I said. I found the desk and you wouldn’t believe what the two ladies there were doing?! They were exchanging shifts and counting all the money. The lady getting off the clock was in a great mood. The lady walking into her shift I cannot say the same for. I stood and waited and finally about 15 minutes later the lady asks how she could help me. I explained that I needed to exchange money to get on the internet and didn’t know how much I should exchange. She said that I wouldn’t need very much because the exchange rate was 1 to 1, so I gave her two 5s. While she was counting up other money I was an idiot and asked how much I could get if I exchanged cfa (my money in Niger). I wanted to get the most out of it for sure. She said that I could get five more Cedi from the cfa. So I forked over the cfa and asked for the dollars back. I got a HUGE huff and an eye roll from the lady and she said angrily “you are my first customer and you’re already causing problems!” I quickly asked her to just do the dollars and she said “no, I have the cfa, don’t worry about it.” She took her time and by now I only have about 45 minutes to get checked in and get to my gate after I get a hold of Mark and get my itinerary printed for my next flight! Anna! Don’t freak out!

The man that was watching my luggage outside peaks his head in the door and asked what was taking me so long. I assured him I was coming. She took her time again and by now the first lady is back again. To make this long story about the exchange lady shorter, she got mad again because she didn’t have the right change and so we exchanged money from cfa to dollars again and she gave me the 10 Cedi as I should have originally taken.
I flew out the door and down the walkway to get my luggage. When the man asked again what took so long (over 30 minutes to exchange 10 bucks?!) I told him that the lady wasn’t having a good morning and that we needed to pray for her. He laughed as I ran.

I made my way back up the stairs to internet room with all my things and forked over the Cedi. I got online and emailed Mark. Then it hit me that Mark may not check his email this early on a Sunday morning. I asked the guy if I could make a call? “Sure you can.” I forked over the two Cedi and whipped out my cell phone (that doesn’t have service anywhere except Niger) and I found Mark’s number. I had one minute from the time that the boy started dialing – not from the time Mark answered the phone. “Hello” I heard 32 seconds into my one minute. I talked FAST “Mark, it’s Anna, I’m in Accra and they won’t let me check in until I have proof that I’m leaving Nigeria. I need you to email me the itinerary please. My flight leaves in 40 minutes!” we hung up at the one minute mark and within minutes I had a scanned copy of my itinerary. “I hope this works!” I ran back downstairs and when the man and woman saw me they let me bypass all the others. “Great! I need to keep this one and you have to give one to the people up there when they issue you your tickets.” WHAT?! I only had one copy! They told me that I could check in and bring them another one once I got my ticket.

I was given my ticket and also handed a little card that had some numbers on it and something about a lounge. I didn’t have time to read it. Back up the stairs and to the internet room a third time. Before running back downstairs I paid the internet guy for the copies. He had forgotten to charge me for the first one. While he was getting my money I met a guy from New York checking his email. He didn’t say much except “get her the money fast, she’s gotta go”. I thanked them both and left in yet, another hurry.

I gave the workers the other copy and ran to go through security. Once on the other side I had about 25 minutes and I was hungry. So I went to this little restaurant and bought a bowl of fruit with the few Cedi that I had left. I sat there until I heard my flight called a few minutes later. “Whew! I barely made it this time too! Thanks God!”

I was in line to board the plane and there was a guy and a girl in front of me. Both looked Nigerian but spoke in perfect English with no accent at all. I wanted to ask them where they were from but didn’t get a chance. Maybe I didn’t get a chance on purpose – it’s kind of tricky to do that here sometimes. Because if I were to ask and they were from America they may think “um, yes! What the heck are you thinking? That I’m a crazy Nigerian?” But the flip side would be “Right, just because I don’t have a Nigerian accent you assume that I’m not Nigerian”. So I didn’t say anything.

I got to the gate and showed my ticket and passport. The lady checking them saw the little card that I was given when I checked in and she asked confused “why didn’t you go to the lounge?” Huh? Lounge? What the heck are you talking about lady? I was so lost. “What?” I asked. “The lounge? Why didn’t you go?” I was being pushed forward and just turned around and walked down the terminal to get on the plane. The flight attendant looked at my ticket and said, “good morning, your seat is 4B, first class, right there” and pointed to the seat just a few feet away. FIRST CLASS! That’s what the lounge ticket was all about!

Bummer that my flight to Nigeria was only about 45 minutes long. The shortest flight I had was the one in first class. Just my luck!

I get to Lagos and boy did it feel good to be back! I couldn’t believe that I was really in Nigeria! How I longed to be outside the whole time! But that’s ok, I was about to sit for the next 13 hours in the airport and dream about sunshine.

All the passengers took a bus to the entrance of the airport and while we were riding I decided to ask the couple where they were from. “Here” they answered with smiles and a showing of their passports. I made a comment about their lack of accents and they agreed. We got to talking and I found out that they were brother and sister and had both been in and out of America their entire lives. They had both been to college in America and had business degrees and crazy, random minors and I was shocked at all this! Their dad lived in Ghana and their mom lived in Nigeria. They had just come from a long visit with their father.

Once in the airport I was waiting for an immigration escort and the guy and girl walked up. They said how good it was to have met me and asked what my plans were from there. I told them that I was in transit and would be leaving in 13 hours. “Oh no!” The sister said. “You don’t have a visa do you?” They felt really sorry for me for some reason. Not that I looked like some pitiful, pathetic, un-bathed, white girl that had been traveling for over 24 hours just to get to the country DIRECTLY below where she left from in the first place! The sister dug into her wallet and pulled out 500 Naira (about $5). “Here’s this so you can at least buy yourself something to eat and drink!” Oh, no. A pity gift from an actual native of Nigeria. I felt so dumb. “No, no. I’m ok really.” She looked at me and gave me ‘the eye’. “Our parents are loaded, don’t worry about it and have a great rest of the day!” I was barely able to thank them before they were gone. Funny encounter…

Then I was led by a BIG, Nigerian immigration man to the transit office where he took my passport and told me to wait in the South African Airways lounge until 6pm when I would go with him to get my ticket. “Ok, Anna, sleep is right around the corner – maybe. Just find the lounge and then take it from there…” I couldn’t find the S. Africa Airways lounge for the life of me! Finally after asking 83 different people and being led in the RIGHT direction I found it all closed, dark and locked up. I’m laughing at myself at this point. Why not make the bad situation that could be worse, funny?! It was hilarious to me! So I went back to the nice, HUGE immigration worker and I told him my problem. He told me to go to the Virgin Nigeria lounge, because that’s what I flew from Accra. Ok, sounds great. I walked up this full flight of stairs and was kind of unsure as the where the entrance was. So I asked a guy that was mopping the floor. He smiled at me and said, “it’s just right there” and pointed around the corner. “Thanks,” I said and turned to walk away. “What’s your name?” I turned around and smiled “My African name is Hawa and my American name is Anna” I said. “You have an African name?” He gave a little surprised laugh (although I’m not sure what he was surprised or laughing at, because I’m a pro African liver and a magnificent traveler among West African countires! Haha!) and he then he grinned really big and with a head nod he said “I like the face!”

I like the face? What?!

“Thanks” I mumbled and turned to walk away. Once in the lounge I was treated like a queen. One of the ladies walked me around the corner to a big couch and I laid down and was out in less time than it took to say “goodnight”. I wasn’t afraid of oversleeping because I had about 12 hours. Although I knew I could sleep that long if given the opportunity. When I woke up a few hours later the lounge was significantly fuller than when I went to sleep. I stumbled to the restroom while people watched me like I was drunk. I felt like I’d been hit by a train. On my way back to the couch I talked to the lady and told her that I needed to leave the lounge in time to get my ticket and get checked in. She assured me that she would help me keep track of time because she knew that I was tired. I asked her if I could have some water and she got a bottle out of the fridge. I told her that I only had 500 Naira and asked how much it was. She just smiled but didn’t say anything. How poor and clueless did I really look that these people were just handing me things?! I was thinking “well, ok. At least I tried to pay her.” I went back and drank the water and fell asleep again.

I woke up about 5:30pm and went to ask for something more to drink. I got a coke that second time. I asked her how much it costs? She looked at me and smiled “Mam” she said softly, “this is the airline transit lounge and it doesn’t cost anything to eat or drink here. It’s all included in the price of your ticket.”

I felt like an idiot. I know that many of you are now laughing at me but I had never done anything like this before!

I got something to eat and finished my coke and was out of there a little before six.
I found the immigration/transit office with no problem and the same man was there with my passport to help me. But he seated me between two of three guys that were sitting on the couch in the office. The three of them were getting yelled at for causing a ruckus over something. I tried to pretend uninterested even though they all knew that I was listening.
The immigration man led me to the S. African Airways office that took us way to long to find and I got my ticket. After that he led me straight to the security point where he watched me until I was through. He was a nice man. Much better than those in Ghana. Except for the mattress giver, he was my favorite.

So here I am over two hours early for my flight and already sitting at the gate. I was cold so I pulled my wrap-skirt out and put it around my shoulders. There was a man sitting in the chairs across from me and about 10 seats down. There was a little bench next to my chair with a seat on the other side. A Nigerian guy a little older than me came and sat right in the that seat. He looked in the mood to talk. Not me! I just wanted to write in my journal and talk to Jesus. That was it… but the guy next to me had different plans. He talked to me for the two hours about religion and leadership, politics and authority. He was a Free – Thinker and told me that he believed in the survival of the fittest and about how everyone is their own god and has to watch out for themselves. I shared the scripture story from Adam and Eve to the ascension of Christ. He said “that’s great but…” At that point the Lord allowed me to see that the Muslim sowing field that I live in in Niger is no harder or different than anywhere else in the world.

I boarded my last flight and headed to Johannesburg from Lagos. I sat next to a little girl about 11 years old. She wanted to lean her seat back so badly but I just reminded her that we had to wait until the seatbelt light went off. She drifted in and out of sleep a few times before reaching down into her bag. She pulled out a well-used Bible and opened it to the middle of the book of Psalm. She was done reading by the time the light went off and not long after that the stewardess brought out food. The little girl bowed her head and prayed before she ate.

After dinner I helped her lean her seat back and she fell asleep with her earplugs in, listening to the movie she had left on in front of her. Later on when we were both awake we made small talk about her family. Her dad lived in Nigeria, where she was from, and her mom lived in S. Africa. She hadn’t seen her mom in over a year and was going to be with her for the next two weeks. An ache went through my heart as I thought about how I knew how much she missed her mother...

I asked her about the Bible and if she knew Jesus. She answered with a confident “yes, I’m a Christian.”

That little girl was such a huge encouragement to me. I sat with tears in my eyes as I thought about her innocence. What a blessing to be a child and to feel that the love of Jesus is so simple. When really it is, but then thoughts of the Free – Thinker from earlier in the evening came to mind. The lives of the lost were heavy on my heart that night.

I made it to Johannesburg and got my passport stamped with a fancy sticker. Once I got to the baggage claim I waited until all the luggage was gone only then to realize that it had been lost. I have been traveling internationally for over six years and this is the first time I had ever lost a piece of luggage. I got the claim number for it and was told it should be there by Wednesday morning.

So, after two days and five countries from start to finish, I was finally in S. Africa. My big bloop for the morning was on the ride from the airport to the guest house and I spotted a truck with several men in the back. I asked Stan, “Hey is that your South African bush taxi?” His answer was kind but I could tell he wanted to laugh, “No, Anna. That’s a work truck and they pile all the workers in the back and drive off for the day’s work.” I just sat there, baffled.

What day was it again? And where the heck was I?