I slept badly Thursday night, waking often, and finally rose in the grey predawn to shower and do last minute luggage checks. I was intensely nauseous, finally succumbing a few times and accepting jc's offer of half an anxiolytic. jc walked me to the streetcar with my suitcase. I thought we'd missed it until he pointed out that it comes down a different street for the first run of the day. It was cool but dry, and I was glad I'd worn my long Patagonia fleece and a hat. I dozed through the Red Line train to the airport. I arrived 15 minutes early, set my alarm, and slept deeply on the airport floor, waking with the alarm to another bout of nausea, mercifully the last.
My Oromo friend soon arrived, looking dashing out of work uniform, with the suitcase of donations for the school in his hometown. He walked me through check-in, where I found that my bags would have to be rechecked in Frankfurt, but at least there were no baggage fees. Then we had coffee together, and my latte and my stomach decided to make peace.
I boarded the commuter, had a row to myself, and slept all the way to Vancouver. My layover was just long enough for a snack and a failed attempt to access the internet, and we were off. 10 hours to Germany, and lose half a day. My seatmate was a gentlemanly Somali Ethiopian. We chatted briefly, exchanged lunch items, and spent a pleasant enough flight. I spent an hour pacing and stretching midway through before putting an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland on the headphones and being soothed into a pleasant sleep.
We arrived in Frankfurt to find that we had to take a bus from our landing position on the apron to the terminal. The overcrowded, SRO bus wove its way through the bowels of the airport for a nauseating lifetime before unceremoniously dumping us in what seemed like a random location. After several attempts at finding the correct baggage claim, we finally found our bags. I must have mistakenly exited security only to find that I couldn't recheck my bags until 3 hours before departure, so I had a very long 12 hour layover ahead with 50 pounds of baggage in tow. After realizing how exhausting it was to lug it all around, I found the nearest bench next to the nearest bathroom to the Ethiopian ticket counter, parked my bags, spread out my fleece coat, covered myself with a scarf, and slept the day away. Soon it was time to check in.
By the time I got on Ehtiopian airways I had worked out some tricks for sleeping on a plane, was a little less exhausted overall, and the 6 hours flew by pretty quickly. Before I knew it I was in Addis, going down the steps to stand in the long visa line, then the shorter money exchange line, no line for baggage, medium line for customs, with no problems and amid the sea of faces was the foster home driver, holding my name in big black letters on white paper. He rang the Oromo contacts on his mobile, they took the bag and we were off.
I stepped out of the airport and saw Africa in all its glory in the morning light. Misty hills and a certain quality to the air. I drank in the sights as we drove through town: Africa, still so familiar to me, though I've been away all these years. Africa has held a special place in my heart since my Kenya trip in 1995, and I'm so glad to be back; but the greatest joy of all is knowing that from Africa I will soon receive the best gift of my life: one of her sons, and mine.
Dispatch from Portland's March for Our Lives
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