I was only at the airport before this trip started to impact me. As I sat there waiting to board my first flight, I couldn’t help but to wonder what this mission trip was going to do to me. Would I come home a different person? How would my heart and my mind be affected? The only thing that I could manage to do was to study my notes for the lessons that I was going to be teaching once I arrived in Kenya.
I started thinking about the people that I would eventually meet there… What would they look like? How would they act around me? How would my presence touch their lives?
And as I looked around at the people there in the airport I could not help but to think about how rich we are. I hadn’t even experienced how poor the people in Kenya and Uganda were yet, but I was already feeling like we Americans had quite a bit of excess. There were lots of very well-dressed people walking around carrying their fancy bags, and it was obvious that the large majority of people there had ‘enough’.
Then a dude that works the desk at one of the gates walks by me carrying his half-empty Starbucks Iced Vanilla Latte (just a guess). He carried his cup like it was a badge of honor, or some sort of clothing accessory… almost like Flavor Flav wearing that big clock necklace. People carried their Starbucks cups almost as if to say, “yeah, I’m in the club too.”
Then I start to notice all of the other ‘Starbucks accessories’ that people had. I wondered whether we have become a society that needs to be connected by our ‘badges of honor’? Is this what we do in order to help us feel like a community? This question really started to bug me… Why can’t we connect and grow in community without the need to identify with each other using these badges? Community and connection should be much more organic than this, shouldn’t it?
Eventually I boarded my plane and began the 17-hour (only counting flying time) journey from Tampa to New York to London to Nairobi. Even while on the planes, the whole trip still seemed somehow surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was actually about to be in AFRICA! After lots of flying, and eventually meeting up with the rest of the team in London, we landed in Nairobi safely.
As I got my passport stamped and started walking down to baggage claim, the only thing that I was sure of was that life was never going to be the same. It was dark outside already (it was late in the evening when we landed) so I could only see what was lit up, but it was different than what I was used to already. The open-air baggage claim area was hot and smelled like sweaty people. But that was okay with me because it meant that nobody could smell me either…
The ride over to the guest house where we stayed our first night was dark so it was difficult to get a real feel for what Africa was really like. I would have to try to save my first impressions until morning. For now it was simply time to get to bed, but how could I curb my excitement for the whole night? I felt like a 5-year-old kid trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve anticipating what the morning would bring… in AFRICA!!!
Check out more from this series in the africa diaries.