Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Flight day. Up at 7, shower, read, journal, financials. The usual.

Since Brigitta is going directly home to Hong Kong from Accra instead of back to Atlanta with us, she has a different flight time; she and I will need to catch a taxi to the airport around 9.30 or 10 am for her 12.20 flight to Addis Ababa. My plan is to wait in the receiving hall until she’s checked in and gives me the “OK” sign. If her flight is later delayed or canceled, she can text the team, and I’ll go back out there and bring her back. I figure worst case, she gets a flight the next day; she can stay at the guest house (alone) for one more night and catch a taxi to the airport tomorrow. Best case, she’s out of here by noon and home in Hong Kong before we arrive in Atlanta.

Everybody else is sleeping in. I don’t know how long they stayed up last night for movie night, but they hadn’t started the movie yet when I went to bed at 11, so …

Off to the airport with Brigitta. All bags? Check. Passport? Check. Money for food along the way? Check. Let’s grab a cab and go.

Traffic’s not bad, and we get to the airport ahead of time. Check-in is routine, then upstairs to fill out the form for departure control. That’s as far as I can go with her; I watch her go through the temperature scan, then immigration, then out of sight toward security to the right. By the time I get back to the house, she’s texted the crew that she’s boarding. I hear a jet go over the house on climbout at 12.35; that’s probably her. Or she, to you grammar pedants.

So. Now 6 to keep an eye on.

The crew wants to go back to the mall for lunch; there’s a large food court with good selections. Well, that’ll take while, so if we do that, it’s our only meal before the flight. They agree. OK, then.

As we’re preparing to leave, Pastor Simon shows up; he’s in Accra to meet a friend flying in tomorrow. So he comes along to lunch at the mall. Burger joint, very western. Lemonade with crushed mint leaves—hmm—were they washed with potable water? And the tomato slices on the burger? This’ll either be a great meal, or a really big mistake. But there are other westerners eating in the place, so maybe it’s OK.

While we’re waiting for the order, the waiter surprises us with a couple of free appetizers: fried pickle slices and tater tots with cheese and bacon crumbles. Yep. We like the place.

After lunch we’re stuffed, which we need to be, because we’re not eating again today. The girls buy some last-minute things, and we’re back to the house. Only 2 more cabs today, to the airport. We’ve given them our share of business since we arrived yesterday morning.

The crew gets the house cleaned up and their bags properly packed and weighed in record time. To my surprise, most of the girls have bags that are comfortably underweight; I even throw the first-aid kit into Karen’s bag because mine is 3 pounds over. Then we have time to just sit and talk, waiting for departure time. This is much better than running frantically out of the house, Home-Alone style. A few of us take unplanned showers, delighted that we have the time.

At 6.45 I decide it’s time to head out. Don’t know how long it’ll take to raise 3 taxis out on the street. So down the stairs we go one last time, each shepherding his own baggage. (That’s kinda how life works, isn’t it?) Mohammed lets us out of the big gate, and I leave the cluster of people and bags on the curb while I run down to the corner, where the taxi drive-bys are more common. In short order we have 3; Cam goes with 2 girls, I go with 2 girls, and Simon goes with Kait. All the luggage fits.

Traffic is fairly heavy; the driver says it’s “rush hour,” though it seems a little late for that back home. We come upon a significant backup from an accident, and our driver turns around and goes out another way—I learn that the other 2 drivers did the same thing. It’s slow going, but we all get to the airport before 8, which is 2 hours before flight time, so I’m happy with that. My cabbie charges 40 cedis instead of the usual 30, and Cam’s goes for 50, and Cam decides not to waste the time and energy arguing with him. Probably a good choice.

Check-in is routine. We line up at the far end, where the KLM counters are, and pass through a quick passport check before lining up for the counter itself. That’s routine as well, though it feels slower than it ought to. Then upstairs to Departure Control, where we fill out the same form we did for immigration; I guess they match them up and make sure everybody leaves. Then security, then through the Duty-Free shop to get to the gates. I tell the crew this is absolutely the worst place in the world to buy souvenirs, but a couple do. I’m not naming names.

Then out to Gate 3, which is crowded for this wide-body flight. Boarding is very slow. I’ll confess to worrying a little; if we’re late into AMS, we have just a 90 minute turnaround, and if we miss the connection, I might not get back in time to meet the next team, and that could get really complicated in a hurry. I sit there, muttering under my breath, for the moment the Eeyore of the group.

As we pass under the gate sign in the interminably long boarding line, I chuckle that it says the time is 9.59, and departure is at 10, and the flight is “on time.” Yeah, right.

In the end, we’re about a half hour late on departure, but the pilot assures us that we’ll be comfortably on time on arrival in Amsterdam, so I take cheer in that.

We’re seated in row 23, over the wing of the 777, filling the 4 seats in the center (Karen, Flavia, Audrey, Kait) and the 3 seats on the right (Lauren, me, Cam). It’s only a 6-hour flight, but it’s overnight, and I have my usual struggles. Everybody else seems to be sleeping reasonably well, but in the morning they tell me things were not as they appeared.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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