June 17, 2010

Brussels – Chicago – Dallas

The self-check in denied me twice. The attendant, polite and dare I say pleasant, ushered me to the front of the sprawling line and assured me it would be taken care of. She was wrong.

As it turns out, someone at Peace Corps or SATO (the government travel agency) canceled my ticket. Um yeah.

It was barely 8am and I wouldn’t have been checking in this early at all if I hadn’t met BushDiva to retrieve our stored luggage. But there I was, with a wild grin, suppressing mania disguised as laughter.

I was directed to the help counter where I was initially hung up on by a SATO attendant and then successfully relayed my story to a man who was kind enough to share his confusion at the “why” of my situation but happy to see what he could do about it. At this point it had to be about 3am in DC and he was forced to make phone calls to authorize the reissue of my ticket. He wasn’t too optimistic but he told me to hold on and he’d try.

God was smiling this morning because the first call he made was successful and 10 minutes later I had a ticket in hand and my luggage checked.  First crisis of the day averted.

After breakfast I wandered to my gate and slowed my pace as I passed a gentleman waiting at one of the gates. I thought I knew him – so out of place in the middle of Brussels – but he didn’t seem to recognize me so I kept walking. But I wasn’t wrong, and a few minutes later, this recently met blast from Liberia, tapped me on the shoulder and we chatted a little about how small the world is and respective places in it.

The flight –interminable as it was – was uneventful.

We landed and as usual I sprinted toward my next destination – eager to beat the crush that was sure to follow me to customs. Thinking maybe I could have kept my earlier connection to DFW if things continued this smoothly.

The only other person to forego the escalator for stairs was a gogo (African grandmother) struggling with too many bags and a bum leg. I slowed down and offered her a hand with her bags. When she made it down we put her on one of those motorized cars that race through airports – the driver insisting I ride too- to drop us at customs. At this point, everyone is assuming she is my mother or grandmother (at least in part because I continue to call her “ma” a habit from Liberia when addressing older women).

We made it through the first customs station and headed for luggage pickup. my bags appeared and I settled them beside me as we waited for her to emerge. Eventually they did – heavy as a body – and I heaved them up on a cart and we headed for the exit. By this point she was calling me her daughter and was eager to introduce me to her children who would be waiting outside.

It was not to be. She had to stop over in some cordoned off area that did not concern me. On my way toward my connecting flight I stuck my head in and bid her farewell – a little teary for no particular reason, certain that the extra time I’d requested when my ticket was first issued was so that I could help my Cameroonian gogo get where she was going a little easier.

Walking through the doors I looked around at all the waiting and expectant faces, trying to pick out her family. I think I spotted them, a few grown-ups with a gaggle of kids waiting for…my guess, their gogo.

But dallas called. And so I ventured into O’hare’s airport to wait for my connecting flight. Home is but a few hours away now…and I’m tired.

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