At about 5:00 AM, I saw Chris come in and start to check in. I walked up behind him, not trying to sneak, but trying to decide if this was the man that I was going half way around the world with, as I had never met him before. Turns out it was him. We shook hands, I met his father, and we both checked in for the next leg of travel without issue. After that, we both sleepily went through security, just starting to get to know each other. (Chris didn’t sleep either; he said that the combination of too much to do in preparation, a drive of several hours, and pure excitement proved too much for a brief attempt at sleeping. I agreed; I had no trouble staying awake in the sleepy airport.) We found our way to the gate, hours early, and sat alone for quite a while. We got to know one another quickly, skipping the small talk, and getting to the point. We talked about Jesus, love, hope and Africa. We learned about each other, and our spouses, who knew each other 15 years ago, but have not seen each other since middle school. Sarah had sent a gift to Chris, so I delivered the dvd of a Christmas pageant from Sarah and Courtney’s time together in Chicago, and Chris skipped forward to the noted point, as instructed. Soon, we were watching as a preteen Courtney was doing an African dance with several other girls to celebrate “Christmas in Africa.” I learned that Chris had a good sense of humor, and as he put it, “Courtney always had a little Africa in her.” Soon enough, it was time to board the flight out of Charlotte to Washington DC. We were seated separately, and the early-morning regional flight went by quietly.
Washington DC left us with enough time for breakfast, and before long, it was time to board the plane that would take us all the way to Africa. We checked, and were reassigned so that we could sit together. Better than that, we had a three seat section for just the two of us, which was great for the 12 hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As soon as we stepped on board, I felt like we had already arrived in Africa. The PA had music playing that could only be described as traditional African woven with some jazz, which was great, until I realized that it was only about a five minute loop, and we would hear it for the next 45 minutes from boarding to just after takeoff.
Chris and I chatted, continuing our conversation about Africa and the exciting possibilities that God had in store for us, as well as some good “getting to know you” talk. For the next 12 hours, we drifted in and out of sleep. The Ethiopian Airlines crew was something straight out of the 1950s, when commercial flight was just hitting its stride. The flight attendants were all female, all tall and thin with strikingly beautiful African features. They were all extremely polite, and spoke very good English. They were so interested in serving us that they would wake us up to make sure that we didn’t miss any of the services; even if you had just fallen asleep a few minutes prior….. We ate lunch, dinner and breakfast on the plane. I’m glad that I brought along reading and entertainment, because the in-flight movie system was not working properly. I was so excited, and so tired, that the flight was tolerable, although I found myself a little concerned about the prospects of bringing Andy and Bethany along for a similar ride. We arrived in Ethiopia after a flight of about 12 hours on a stopwatch, but 20 hours according to the sun. We flew from morning Friday to morning on Saturday.
We took a shuttle bus from the international terminal (which we didn’t set foot in) to the regional terminal, where we sat for about 5 hours due to a delay. This terminal was about what I expected from an Ethiopian airport. It was small, not bright, and not clean. It was crowded, with most of the seating already taken. There was a wide variety of people; a collection of all shades of black, white and yellow skin being represented. I noted, in particular, that there was lots of Indians and Asians. This was the only airport that I had ever seen lounge chairs out for people. Chris and I found a pair of traditional airport seats, and waited for our flight to come up in the arrival/departure tv screen. We were able to find some open wifi, and let people know that we had reached our destination continent safely. I’ll be honest with you; I was proud of the way I was handling this airport. I was not scared, and allowed myself to not think about all of the germs that must have been on every surface that I was obligated to touch. I convinced one of the young ladies keeping a shopping kiosk to let me charge Chris and our cell phones. Eventually, it came time for us to go through security, which was similar, but less invasive as in America. We went to the gate waiting area, and eventually made it in to our plane. We boarded, and flew to Entebbe, Uganda.