Our journey continues…March 5, 2014…
as we attempt to exit Chad, we arrive at the airport in plenty of time. First identity check, where we show our passport, is when entering the terminal building exterior gate, about 25 yards from the terminal. Next identity check is when entering the terminal building doors, then again when entering the ticketing area, then again when getting checked in at the Ethiopian Airline ticket counter for our boarding passes. Next identity check is as we turn in the completed exit form. They are pretty sophisticated with electronic finger print and iris scan. They stamp our passport with exit dates. Then hopefully the final check of our hand carry bags through the machine so we can enter the waiting area. They confiscate both of our fingernail clippers. Hum…didn’t see that on the “no” list. We get settled in the waiting area and “people watch” for an hour. Lots of Chinese work in Chad so they travel East on Ethiopian until they catch a flight home. As we are waiting, I go up stairs to the one snack bar to buy a couple of $2.50 (CFA equivalent) soft drinks, but they don’t have any change for my $10.00 bill; must be a really slow day for them. We sit thirsty and wait, but it isn’t too long before we see people lining up. (No announcements as there’s only one gate.) We join the growing line. Guess what? Another identity check and another security check where they search our hand carry, one last time. (We think) We board a bus that will take us to the aircraft, disembark the bus and as we approach the stairway to climb aboard, we have a final boarding pass check. Do we feel secure yet? Yes we guess.
It’s a nice new aircraft, a Boeing 7XX, I forget. It has three seats on each side and four or five in the middle. As you can see, this old aviation guy is off his game. It’s just an airplane, what can I say. They watered and fed us well all along the four hour flight east to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Each seat had the fancy new individual video monitors with 27, too many, channels to choose from. I like the one showing the airplane over the moving map. It shows where you are going, where you are and where you have been, but after a while it‘s kinda like watching grass grow. So I switch to an action movie and Judy tunes in a docudrama. You know how opposites attract. Yes, we’d be more than happy to watch each other’s movies, but, when we can sit together and watch our own choices, it’s a good thing.
We arrive in Addis just as the sun is setting and it looks like a city set in a bowl. As we enter the terminal we see it is very modern with lots of shops to look through helping the time pass more quickly and many restaurants. To our surprise, about an hour before boarding was to begin they announce we are to go to the boarding area. We comply and as we hand our boarding passes to the nice counter lady she says, “Oh, Jim’s pass is for N’Djamena to Addas, I need the one for Addis to DC.” So, as I, Jim, look at my little ticket pouch I see I have two, yes count them, two boarding passes for N’Djamena to Addis and no, pass’s for Addis to DC. Hum, again… a reminder I must get better at checking paperwork, each and every time I get handed something. We look at the lady with pleading eyes and she simply says, “Oh, no problem, I’ll get it fixed.” WOW! I guess that would be normal, but I have to think its normal to panic at first as well. We sit behind her and right at that same time see her computer stop working. She called her supervisor, who looked like he called someone else and our ticket lady went to work helping her co-worker, leaving my ticket problem sitting on her counter and me wondering. We watch as the computer people come and fiddle or er, complete appropriate repairs, and in a short half hour her station is up and working once again. She promptly returns to her station and helps the next customer in line, as my poor neglected boarding pass sits alone and cold next to her keyboard. I, on the other hand sit sweating, wondering, pondering and worrying the fate of my mismarked boarding pass. But, to no avail, for as soon as the line empties, she takes care of my boarding pass and prints a new one. She turns around and hands it to me with a smile. Once again God reminds me, how He takes care of the birds and bird brains and I never did have anything to worry about. Funny how we think worry somehow helps.
A few minutes later, the actual get on the airplane line, starts to form and we join the throng; slowly inching towards the door. On board we find our seats and quickly realize we have four seats all the way to DC. Not a bad deal! We heard Ethiopian feeds one well and we were not mislead. I think they fed us two dinners and three breakfasts on the 16 hour flight, with a seemingly constant flow of libations in-between. They kept interrupting my movies with their prompt service. Yes, I know I should have been sleeping, oh well.
It was something like a 16 hour “night” as we flew west. In the wee hours of the morning, just before day light, the wonderful staff passed out hot damp towels for our morning baths. It was a good wake up call for landing in Washington DC. Once in the terminal the airport staff did their best to direct sleep deprived passengers in the multiple directions we are attempting to go. At last we arrive at passport control. For the first time I can remember, the agent did not say the, “welcome home”, that always gives me that “home sweet home” feeling. This time it was just a simple, “next”, then, “thank you”, then “next”. For me, there has always been something very special about coming home to America. The times I have lived outside of America have given me more appreciation for all America has to offer. It’s so clear why millions of people want to come here.
We have four hours to use up, before the first segment of our final destination flight of this leg of our journey, to the grand and glorious center of the USA, Wichita, KS. So we first have to recheck our bags as the flight was cheaper to end here and re-board another flight. Since we’ve been gone TSA has started a “Pre-Check” program for faster movement through security. On Judy’s boarding pass it says “Pre-Check”, but not mine, so we go through the old way. One of our colleagues in Chad said their favorite hamburger place in the US is Five Guys and guess what we find at our gate? Yep, I’m a happy camper. On this flight, I am sitting next to a gentleman reading a book, with script I do not recognize. So I ask him what is the script. He says it’s an old book written in Hindi. He is from India but has been living in America for 30 years. That starts a good conversation about what each of us does for a living. He seems to be a very spiritually perceptive man, but not a follower of Jesus. He’s on his way to Fiji, to vacation with his family. As we change planes in Dallas, Judy and I board with a bunch of home bound Kansans, excited about the upcoming NCAA basketball playoffs.
We arrive in Wichita as the sun is setting. My dad picks us up at the airport and we speed away to “Freddie’s Frozen Custard” for a dinner/snack and then to his home. He is 94 years young and Wilma his wife, is no less young. After 37 hours of traveling, it is good to be done…for now. Thanks for your prayers for that part of our journey…and as it continues.
Jim, for us both.