I left Dallas airport in the evening. After a painful good bye and a quick prayer for my luggage and loaded the 150lbs in 3 pieces onto the conveyer belt and headed through security. I was thankful that the hard part of managing the 3 large bags (at 50lbs each plus a 50lbs carryon and my heavy backpack) was over. Except my layover was to long in New Jersey so I had to get my bags and wait on the entry of the airport with my large haul for 17+ hours before I could recheck them and go through security. Another hop skip of about 20 hours to get to Togo Africa. I was unfortunate in my seat, having an inability to recline and a broken tv as well as a broken tray made for a comical and lengthy ride. My flight delayed by several hours had me missing my next transfer in Ethiopia. I was forced to stay the night. I checked into a hotel and was blessed to find hot water and a buffet! I settled in but couldn’t sleep. Of course, it was now day time in America and my body wasn’t responding properly to the African time zone or the darkness outside. It took me another 3.5 hours of flight the next morning to get to Malawi. I was alarmed to find ALL my bags had came in with me on this same flight! I have lost my luggage more than had made it on this trip and I was aiming low, knowing my chances weren’t looking good. Not only did everything make it but getting my visa sorted out and going through customs was a breeze! It seemed I simply walked through what usually takes me a couple hours!
I walked out of the airport and was greeted with the all too common taxi gang. “Do you need a taxi?”, “Taxi!”, “Madam! Taxi!” … I Looked at them all and said, “Yes I want a taxi. A BIG nice taxi!” I was ushered into a nice newer car that even had AC! I would be home in about 5 hours. I tried to stay awake for a while to assess the driver’s skill. I watched him artfully dodge the goats, people and potholes. “This is a Malawian road, do you know?” I said, “because there are people. There are goats. There are chickens. The only thing missing is the road!” We both laughed, and I promptly knocked out. I slept for about 2 hours. Waking up before I got to Muzuzu. I looked around and knew by the time passing and the strange looking pine trees, we were heading up the mountains. “Do you know where we are?” The driver asked.
“Where we are?” I answered in shock! “Don’t you know where we are?”
“No, I have never been this way.” Kicking myself for falling asleep!
“Well… I guess we will just keep going and see!” I Laughed.
I was pleased to see the signs for the city of Muzuzu. It was about 5:30pm and I asked that he take me to the grocery store before heading the one hour track down the mountains to Nkhata Bay. I bought the driver dinner and after seeing the sun go down I offered to buy him a room in town, so he didn’t have to drive the several hours in the dark back to Lilongwe. He accepted and slowed down his driving a bit. We drove past the hospital and I knew we were several miles from town. Such a long journey coming to an end. My mind was spinning my feet so swollen from the travel. To tired to smile, to excited to frown, I was left with a dopy grin on my face. The road was narrowing for construction, large concrete barriers erected on each side and a car coming towards us with his brights lighting our cabin. Just as we were about to pass each other a truck came speeding from behind us to cut between our cars. Unable to make the tight space his truck hit our front corner panel ripping off the entire front bumper, pulling the lights out and twisting up the cheap plastic under guard. The truck never slowed down. The car oncoming stopped after seeing our collision and helped tie the fallen plastic to the radiator while I fit the bumper into the back of the car attempting not to crush the eggs. Only about one mile away from the traffic stop. I told the traffic police what had happened and asked if a white truck had just passed through. The police officer told us to go to town and look for the truck. If we find it, we can persecute. I kept my eyes open but didn’t see the white truck.
Finally, into my own driveway hearing Fatuma yelling “MOM!” Over and over. Gift came outside running and yelling. Both almost giving me a fat lip jumping up and down. I kissed them both and held them, but not as hard as they held me. After hauling everything in and paying the taxi for the long ride, I was able to finally exhale. At least for a moment.
Everything was different inside. The furniture was missing. Anything breakable had been broken including but not limited to all the mugs, my 5 inch mirror, my speaker, 3 windows looked like they had been hit with a baseball, 2 chairs… and on and on. A light fixture in the bathroom had caught fire and burned the fabric door that hung below it as well as the wall above it. My dog Koinonia was gone. Bart dog was missing. Dobby dog wouldn’t have much to do with me. I sat in the kitchen while the girls both told me how difficult it was without me and how fat I am looking now. “Much to fat! Muuuch fat! You look like “Too Fat Joe!’” (An unfortunate name given to a boy about 20 years old and about 300lbs.) Too Fat Joe told me once, “People think that I am eating too much because of the way I look. Honestly, I don’t know why God blessed me with a beautiful fat body like this. But I know it must be God.” Granted I did put on about 40lbs while in the states, I still remember what 275lbs looked like and I simply laughed and tried not to be offended. I know this is only the tip of the ice burg as far as fat comments are concerned.
I finally told the girls good night after beating Gift 3 times in bow-bow. I was surprised that they had changed the rooms around, which explained why furniture was missing from the living room. I found out Gift skipped a bunch of school and took her mosquito net down promptly after I left. I was irritated, but I didn’t want to ruin the reunion, so I only kissed her and limped on ridiculously swollen feet, to my long-awaited bed. I understand that my bed is, by most standards, terrible. I’m fully aware that it is simply a worn-out bit of thin foam on wooden beams. But it is mine. My only bed in the world and we have shared quite a few tears together and I was happy to climb into the hot mosquito net and close my eyes.
The quite comes first, incredibly unsettling. Where was Koinonias whimper? Bart dogs old man noises? Dobby’s restless sighs at the both other dog’s noises. Electricity was off. Water was off. It was so hot. I was so tired. I lost it. All my composure.
I was in and out the entire next day. I slept so hard it was difficult to remember what exactly happened. A few people came but I had the girls send them all away. I woke up only long enough to set up my old phone and message home that I made it in one piece.
Today was better, I woke up at my usual 5am time before the girls. I opened my luggage and sorted the piles that I had acquired. My neighbor came to get his payment for some money the girls had barrowed while I was away. He told me that I was SO fat and then when I said I hope you have a great day, he said I hope for you a thin body in the next couple months. The kids came later in the day. But I crashed again in the afternoon. They went to the beach and I slept. I woke up with Bart dog on my mind. No one much like Bart but me. I know they ran him off after I left. I asked around and was pointed to the back of a house down the street. I came around the corner to find a scrappy mutt, much as he was when I has first met him. I picked him up and gave him a bath. Hundreds of flees died this day. Bart didn’t recognize me until tonight when he came back to the house and fallowed me into my room where I picked him into my lap and sat for a long time just looking into his awesome brown eyes. When the kids came back we ate rice and eggs. And I turned on my new toy, the compact projector! We watched “Pamana pamana donna fish” (The Little Mermaid) The kids laughed and cheered! After giving them each a backpack that was the bulk of one of my checked bags, I sent them in a taxi home. Fortune, Vinnie, Hope, Masi, Macy… 5 children in my core group, all moved to new locations none close enough to come over anymore.
This year would be different for sure. In good or bad ways, I can’t say. But it is already so different. I pray that God would hear my thank you to him. This incredible life, though so hard at times is such a gift. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m greatful for every one I meet on my airport journey. I’m greatful for the unnatural peace I had while travelling. And I’m happy to be home.