Tuesday, May 4, 2010

At Least We didn’t Get Stuck in Accra

I am in London. It is 10:35 pm, I’m listening to Shrek the Musical and finally regaining feeling in my toes and fingers. My eyes are droopy with exhaustion, and all of my bags (backpack, purse, and drum) are hooked together. The floors are being extensively cleaned, and I have migrated through three different spots throughout the day. What is this new adventure? Missing our flight by literally less than a minute.

See, here at Heathrow, they have a rule that you have to be through security 35 minutes before your departure. When the girls and I got into Heathrow at 6:30am and decided to go into London proper, a lady helped us with our tickets and communicated that to us, telling us to aim for an hour earlier. What we heard, though, was “Make sure you’re at security at least 35 minutes before.” Now, I understand that we were cutting it close with that, don’t get me wrong. We just didn’t realize we would regret those extra seconds in the left baggage line.

London was glorious, and we made it back to the airport in time to get through security. But a series of things that took three seconds too long got us a, “Sorry it’s too late” at the gate. I don’t know if you can imagine living in a developing country for eight months as a fresh college graduate female who is just ready to get home who “slept” on the plane the night before, but I bet you can at least imagine that with me involved, many emotions were then introduced into the mix. Fortunately, a beautiful lady with customer service aided us in getting our tickets changed for free, which was helpful. However, I also had a Delta flight to get me back to STL from ATL, and since I got it off of Orbit for a fantastic price, I ended up just having to buy another, very expensive, stressful ticket. Our itinerary is the same, though, so all that changes is my mom and dad come a day later to pick me up.

How do I feel about this? I’m so glad you asked. I feel glad, stressed, upset, poor, irresponsible, responsible, silly, depressed, anxious, exhausted, relieved, grateful, loved, stinky, and adventurous. Glad, because the girls and I have been absolutely forced to sit back and relax. We don’t even have free WiFi, so our time is literally full of nothing in particular to do but eat, talk, and process. I don’t know how many of my readers are familiar with the concept of reverse culture shock, but it has something to do with coming from Africa where my feet were always dirty to London where this Zamboni looking thing has passed me going over the same patch of floor four times now. I had Starbucks, was cold, and was not the visible minority today. Weird things happen in an individual’s brain when a cultural change is made, and the girls and I just made a ginormous leap. As Nicole says, we entered the “magic portal” (airport) and travelled into a different world/time. Even short term missions often have symptoms of culture shock... Eight months is a while.

When I called my mom, she was utterly sympathetic, not upset at all, worried for me, and asked me what I needed. She just loved me in the way I needed. That’s where all of those good feelings in that last paragraph come from. The ones like stressed and upset, I bet you can imagine. I feel poor in the financial sense only; there are so many blessings in this situation. I’m stuck in London rather than Accra (where I hardly feel safe during working hours and the security guards constantly hit on us), I’m with two of my closest friends, my mom loves me and can support me financially when I need aid, my friends’ parents/siblings responded with grace and offers of helping hands. I’m exhausted because, I mean, who can actually sleep on a plane? Really. Relieved and grateful for our parents’ reactions and the help the staff here have given us. Stinky because travelling for three days doesn’t wear well on anyone. Adventurous because I’m about to sleep in an airport.

Airports stress me out. They really do. I don’t know why other than exactly what happened today- mistakes cost you in time, money, and stress levels. Trains aren’t like that, or at least not as extreme. With planes, you spend hours and hours getting your bags packed just so, and then you pay extra money for the extra pound that somehow was still there. If you miss your plane, there really aren’t alternatives that are viable, especially not here where my goal is to get from London to Atlanta. Talk about stressful. I was working to analyze this experience, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while my various airport experiences might have the effect of easing future flights/pre-flight stress. However, I don’t think that’s the effect at all- I think it’s having the effect of making me a permanent Stateside resident for a while. It’s not that I’m scared to be here or to be sleeping here. I feel completely safe, I really do. I know I can protect myself, and I know I’m going to be ok. It’s just the pre-stress, and now the prolonged stress that just glares into my being. I didn’t cry until I talked to my mom on Skype... Then I lost it. I just want to be home.


1 comment:

  1. I spent a night in Heathrow once. I remember the guy with the buffer coming around at least three times to scrub the floor. I was the only person in my terminal for about four hours. It was a long, long night.

    It will be good to have you back here. Talk to you soon.