Thursday, July 27, 2006

Heading Home (Friday-Saturday, 3-4 March 2006)

Throughout our time together in Lui, our group had salivated about the fantasy of hot food and a cold beer. After we finished the meeting with the Lui representatives, we went back to the Methodist Guest House, then our driver was available to take us to dinner.

Strangely, we Americans in Nairobi, after visiting Sudan, had Chinese for dinner! How funny is that??? But our driver picked the restaurant. So … ok!

It’s really hard for me to talk about that last dinner in Africa with my traveling companions. We had shared so many experiences! And were so bonded! But I also knew that this was the end of that intense experience. I knew that – no matter how much we might wish it different – in the next 48 hours, we would all return to our individual worlds, and would never again feel as close as we had in the past 2 weeks. Sad for me, it was.

Father Bob & I had return plane tickets for that night. Archdeacon Robert, Sandy, and Rick had tickets to return on Saturday. So after dinner, the whole gang accompanied me and Father Bob to the Nairobi airport. We got there around 10 p.m. for our near-midnight departure.

I can’t talk much about those hugs and leave-takings. It was so hard and so sad to leave my companions there.

Then Father Bob & I had to just cool our heels in the Nairobi airport. Not long after we got into the airport, we saw the display saying our flight had been delayed. Oh well. We took turns – one of us wandering around the airport, while the other “kept the other’s seat.”

This struck me when we got into the plane. We had all the usual in-flight announcements, which nobody pays much attention to. But then I heard something different in the script, and began to pay attention. The flight crew was alerting us that – before we departed – they were going to do an industrial-strength “insecticide drop” throughout the aircraft. In other words, they were going to bomb us all with insecticide. They did it, and it wasn’t very noticeable. But it did make me aware again: there are a whole bunch of insects and parasites in Africa, which the First World does not want to have.

I’d like to just skip over the plane ride(s) and jump straight to our arrival in St. Louis. But I think other people have talked about the plane ride. So I guess I have to ‘fess up to it.

I had scarcely eaten anything in Nairobi – just a fried shrimp, a fried dumpling, and part of one beer. But about 30 minutes after our take-off from Nairobi, I realized I was feeling very, very bad. And got sick – projectile vomiting like a scene from The Exorcist. Aargh! It was so embarrassing. The flight attendants took care of it well, but I was seriously chagrined to have made such a mess.

I do wonder what was going-on gastro-intestinally. I had not eaten much. But I continued to have serious gastro-intestinal problems for about 48 hours after getting home. Maybe it’s those plates of salad I ate when we got into Nairobi (as some of my traveling companions opined). Or maybe it’s some bug I picked up. Whatever …. it was darn miserable.

Our flight home left from Nairobi around midnight on the night of 3 March, and we arrived home in St. Louis around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, 4 March.

Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law met my flight in St. Louis. I was amazed at how grateful I was to greet warm, friendly faces. Riding home with them, I talked and talked and talked with them – doing a heart-dump on my time in Lui. Folks who visit Lui in the future: be sure someone you love greets you at the airport and takes you home! For, when I returned, I was very eager to talk with others who had visited Lui or would be sympathetic to the trip.

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