Waking up with the thought of leaving and taking on the long journey home is always met with mixed emotion. Getting myself and my bags packed I enjoyed a cup of coffee with Andrew and Susan and got to see the kids playing in yard one last time. I took care of saying goodbye to the watchmen Andrew has and thanking them for their kindness while I was a guest there and also Rosie who had been the one taking care of my room each day (cleaning up and making my bed etc… and also providing all the cups of coffee and tea and afternoon snacks for me). Rosie made me promise to come see her when I come in June and was surprised that I wasn’t staying longer. She had thought I would be staying a month! I told her Andrew was kicking me out and sending me back to America 🙂
Isaac arrived at 8:30 to collect me and the plan was to have breakfast in old town with him and then stop off at Mtendere to pick up one last letter from Kita and hopefully see Gracian and tell the kids there goodbye. Isaac was lucky and took a trip to the US last year and was able to experience pancakes. He has talked at length about his pancake experience. I thought I had seen a menu at a place in Lilongwe that served pancakes so I wanted to treat him and have a chance to sit and talk. We did find the place and they did have pancakes! They were Swedish pancakes, but pancakes still so both of us enjoyed a good breakfast and good conversation.
Making sure he is taken care of and that he promises to stay safe while I’m away is always my priority. The fuel problem is still in full effect and the lines at the filling stations in town were longer than I have ever seen them. I took a few pictures so people could get an idea of what all of that looks like. The morning was gloomy and a little rainy as it always seems it is on the day I leave Malawi. I don’t ever remember a day that I have left where the sun has been out and shining…maybe its just me, but the country always seems to bid me farewell with a gloomy day.
We drove out to Mtendere and tried to find Gracian again (the third time) he was again not there because he was out picking up kids from boarding school 🙁 I was able to see Kita and get a letter for my Dad from her and tell all the others goodbye. Then it was off to the airport. Andrew and Isaac both told me to be there 2 and a half hours early so that is when I arrived there to get checked in. The ticket counter wasn’t open yet so Isaac had my back stored with his friends from a safari company that has an office there and we went upstairs to sit outside and watch the planes come in. I could see the Ethiopian plan had not landed yet so we had plenty of time. We had a Fanta together and just enjoyed out last bit of time.
When we did head back down the stairs the counter was open and all of sudden the line was LONG! I told Isaac to go ahead and leave, but he wouldn’t have it. He wanted to wait until he knew I was all checked in. I waited in the line for about an hour (maybe more) and then when I got to the counter I found out that the computer system was not working (typical) so all the boarding passes and luggage tags were being written by hand…something we would never see here in the states. My bag was taken, boarding pass given and I told Isaac goodbye. He was hesitant to leave, but I had to pass through the passport exit gates so he couldn’t stay with me and there was no need for him to hang around. Isaac always gets a bit nervous when its time for me to leave because he knows this is when the tears come. I always cry, he always says I will be fine and looks at me with his sad confused look wondering why I get so upset at this point each trip. I think leaving a friend is always hard, but leaving him here in Malawi I always get emotional…not sure why….I just do.
Off I went up the stairs and to begin the long flights home. My route home wasn’t the best, but it was the least expensive so that’s why I chose it. I would be taking several planes and once I was home in St. Louis my travel was going to be around 30+ hours. Sitting at the gate and preparing myself for the journey was my task. Once on the plane I sent a text to Isaac to thank him one last time and let him know I was safe and made it on the flight. All of sudden my phone rang and it was him. To my surprise he hadn’t left the airport. Instead he was back upstairs outside watching the plane. He said he had seen me walk up the stairs onto the plane and that Andrew had just called and he was able to let him know I was on the plane and on my way. He must have sat up there for over an hour once I had passed through passport exit just waiting for that last second to see that I made it on alright. A good man that Isaac!
The first leg (the shortest) would take me from Lilongwe to Lubumbashi (the Congo) where we would land and sit for an hour while others got on the flight. Then it was 5 hours to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) where I would change planes. I had about 2 hours in Addis so I checked my email one last time and had a cup of coffee a bottle of water and then boarded. This leg was 5 hours to Rome where we would sit for an hour while the crew changed and then it would be 9 hours to Washington DC. I always feel “home” once we touch down in DC because that is when I can call Patrick and let him know I’m safe back in the US. Being on that flight for 14 hours makes me feel so yucky! I get of feeling as if I smell bad, I look bad and just want it all to be over. I rechecked my bag onto US Airways and asked if there was an earlier flight I could catch instead of waiting until 1:30 pm…my DC flight landed at 7:30 am, in fact there was and I was thrilled to be “just in time” to make the 9:30 am flight to Charlotte NC. I would have a 4 hour layover there and then it would be on to the FINAL flight home!!! Everything worked out well I was in Charlotte and was able to make a call to Ellen and get her caught up and get myself caught up on her week and then boarded the final 2 hour flight HOME!!!
Seemed that last 2 hour flight would never end…but it did 🙂 Patrick and the girls were all there waiting for me and even little Elyse said her eyes got “cloudy” we she saw me coming. It was great to have the 3 of them in my arms and I know Patrick was comforted knowing that again I had made it home safe and sound.