Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NAIROBI TO ACCRA: CROSSING A CONTINENT

My last night in Nairobi was rough. I was still struggling with a stomach bug, and when I got up in the early morning, I spent about fifteen minutes curled up in a tight ball on the cold tile floor of the bathroom, wondering how I could get Bob to call our trip insurance company and ask for a few extra days in Nairobi to give me a chance to recover. I alternated between that and wondering how Bob would get my body home for a funeral. Would I have to be buried in Kenya?

No, that wouldn't do. I took my next dose of Cipro and pulled myself together. We packed our bags, and at 6:15 a.m. we were making our way down to the lobby. Our cab driver was waiting for us, and we got to the airport with time to spare.

Flying from East to West Africa is a lot like flying from the East to the West Coast in the United States. New York City to Los Angeles by air is about 2,462 miles.
Nairobi, Kenya, to Accra, Ghana, is 2,566 miles. Both flights take approximately 5 1/2 hours, give or take a bit. Like the United States, the west and east coasts of Africa have a three-hour time difference.
That makes the United States and Africa about the same size, right? Wrong. VERY wrong. Africa is about three times the size of the United States.

Like I do so often, I was seeing the world through my Judy Lenses. Don't we often see things as if we are the center and biggest and most important part of the universe? It's always humbling to learn that someone else has bigger problems than I do, or that my part in a project was really pretty minuscule compared to others' efforts, or that I made a Big Deal out of something that was actually a little deal. It's also good to be reminded that my knowledge and understanding gathered from textbooks and limited experience is often skewed.

This is an image that will stick with me and remind me that I am a little piece in a very large puzzle, and that I have a lot to learn:
In reality, Africa is about the size of the United States AND China AND India AND most of Europe combined. Africa comprises 11.67 million square miles to the Unites States' 3.794 million square miles. There are fifty-four nations in Africa (more than a quarter of the world's total 196 countries), most of which I know almost nothing about, and so who am I to pass judgement on how things are done or should be done on that continent? It would take a lifetime of study to even come close to having a basic understanding of African economy, politics, and challenges. A bird's-eye view from the our non-stop flight across the continent didn't enlighten me either because I was asleep before we took off, and, other than a few minutes of semi-consciousness when I had some sips of water during the flight, I woke up not too long before we landed at 12:10 p.m.

During that flight, however, I turned the corner, at least as far as my health was concerned. I had been on antibiotics for twenty-four hours, the magic number. I was ready--more or less (okay, mostly less but a little bit of more)--to take on Ghana.

We breezed through customs and immigration, one of our easiest border transits ever, although we did have to show our immunization forms, which we only had with us because we had been told we would need too show them on our return to Kenya from Tanzania, which we hadn't. I wonder what they would have done with us if we hadn't had them in Accra? Sent us back? Deported us to the United States? Asked for a bribe? Who knows?

Bob's cousin Russ had just arrived and was waiting for us. We picked up our bags and headed outside into liquid heat--definitely a different climate than what we'd been experiencing on the other side of the continent.

After unloading our luggage in Russ and Shelley's apartment, I went to bed and slept two more hours. (It's always nice to immediately contaminate your hosts' bedroom like that.) From that point on, however, I made a steady climb back to good health.

8 comments:

  1. What?!?! Africa is bigger than the US?!?!? When did that happen? Seriously, I had NO idea Africa was that big. I love the comparison to realizing we are small cogs in the machinery of our own lives.

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  2. I suppose that is why it is called the "dark continent," because we know so little about it. The latest ebola news helps illustrate the point: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, we've hardly ever heard of them, let alone know where they are on the map. A tough place to be sick - sick and hot and humid.

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  3. We had a quiz during FHE with the other couple missionaries recently that involved naming all 54 countries of Africa. Even among these missionaries who have lived and traveled here, there were only a few of us that could name all 54. I'm afraid that most Americans back home would do much worse on the quiz.

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    1. Russ, we tried it this morning and got almost 40. Bob may have gotten a few more after I gave up. Alone, I may have gotten 25. Pretty pathetic!

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  4. Aunt Judy, I was unaware of this blog! Luckily, I stumbled across the link on your Instagram page. I have A LOT of catch up reading to do! I love your last post about the bead factory. Wish I could just hop on over there to buy some jewelry.

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    1. Well, it's nice to have you visit! Jorden should relate to some of these Africa posts, especially the ones coming up on Ghana. Didn't he serve in Africa?

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  5. Yes, Jorden was called to the Kenya Nairobi mission but his mission was split and was only ever in Uganda. I told him about your blog and he will definitely be reading of your experiences!

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  6. Glad you turned the corner; I was suffering vicariously for you, having been sick myself on trips abroad. We always just want to go home and go to bed in our bed when that happens, which is not possible. I thought that comparison picture of the US and Africa was great--never seen that before and it is startling. I don't think I could name more than ten countries--so geography illiterate when it comes to that continent!

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