May 25th…May 26th (8,878 km to Dubai; speed 1042 km/hr)
Location? Somewhere over the ocean and not quite to Greenland yet. The sky is lit up with the rays of sun that have yet to kiss the coast we just left.The cabin is dark, except for the sun light peeking in through the windows. The stewardess is waking up a few passengers to have them pull the shades down…you might think I’m joking, but the ceiling has lights that look like stars. They even twinkle.
It’s 2am EST, four hours down, 8.5 hours to go. My inner-clock is a little off. We just had our four course “lunch”…at 1am. I’m on an Airbus A380…a massive beast of a plane. I have my own phone, TV with hundreds of channels, hundreds of movies on demand and more music channels than I could even listen to. I cannot believe this is coach. I watched one movie already and started another, but I can’t focus on the movie, my brain is bouncing all around. I can’t read or work on school work for the same reason…maybe a nap is in order.
Not just yet. I still have a few thoughts on my mind…and if you just got here, you might wonder how I got on this plane. That’s the story I hope to tell over the next 11 weeks, along with stories about the work I am doing. The last few months have been a whirl of words and paper. More books, articles, websites…more information was consumed in the last four months than my busiest year ever. So what do you bring on a trip that lasts 11 weeks? Three bags. One hiking backpack with clothes, medicine and an extra pair of shoes (43 lbs). One camera bag, with everything I need electronic (10 lbs). That’s it. Well, that was it, but I had to adjust my plan. One backpack, filled with books a laptop and a ream of paper (14 lbs). The additional bag was not intentional of course, but I’ll explain that another time.
Packing, driving to the airport, boarding the plane…saying good bye. None of it seems real. A continental trip dreamed about for almost three decades is finally coming true. I’m on my way to Africa. This summer’s trip will get my feet wet in field work, both in research and working in an “office setting”…hopefully answering a calling I had long ago, but never thought I would attempt. Taking everything I have ever learned and trying to use it to help people.
To be an active participant in development/aid work, comes the great responsibility of humility. Months ago, a correspondent from the UN asked me what I wanted my role to be, and I replied (with a little less finesse): Our role is to be not just an active participant in change, but a humble tool. We are to become the pencil and paper, not the author and not the muse.
By the end of this trip, I have a feeling I’ll tell you that the people I spent my summer with helped me more than I could have ever helped them.