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Airport Adventure - Welcome to Africa!

Everything was going smoothly enough. The plane landed safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which for an anxious flyer such as myself is really all I hope for. Then the chaos began.

Travelers crowded into the aisles of the plane, restlessly straining to look ahead and begin deplaning. Except no one was moving forward. For 20 minutes I sat hunched in my seat, trying to avoid the elbow of the woman standing above me as she leaned on the seat ahead of me. The plane smelled of cologne and sweat. My connecting flight to Lusaka departed in 40 minutes, and I was getting anxious. Finally, bodies started moving forward. I grabbed my backpack and carry-on and pushed my way into the aisle, following the flow of bodies out of the plane, down the external stairs, and onto a waiting shuttle bus that deposited us at the terminal. Inside we joined crowds of other travelers moving towards security scanners. I thought I was standing in line, waiting my turn to grab a plastic tray to unload my belongings onto the scanner belt. But as I stood there I noticed others grabbing trays as soon as security brought them from the other side, then pushing their way onto the belt ahead of me. "What is going on?" I thought. After a few confused and frustrated moments I forced myself to join the chaos, grabbing two trays as soon as I could and pushing them onto the belt against all the instincts of politeness my mother has ingrained in me. Finally making me way through the security line I grabbed my items and hustled towards the gate for my next flight.

But this airport was like no airport I'd even seen. No organized waiting areas in front of well numbered gates, no passengers sitting with their families or charging their phones along the walls, no gate attendants announcing departures. This was like a sold-out stadium crowd rushing for a single exit after a concert. Huge masses of people standing facing a wall of exits to the tarmac. There were so many people I couldn't be sure I was even in the general area of my gate. I overheard some English, but mostly the languages around me were unfamiliar. I asked the crowd around me, "Is this the line for Lusaka?", though "line" was in no way the right word for the situation. I got some curious looks, some nods of agreement, but mostly I felt like what I was, a single white woman in a foreign country with no confidence and no clue what to do next. Then I heard "Lusaka!" from somewhere to my left and suddenly the crowd moved swiftly in that direction, taking me with it. I saw someone in uniform up ahead and with desperation called "Is this the line for Lusaka?" and got a quick nod of assurance. Finally, finally, the crowd inched forward. Passengers came from every direction to push ahead and get through the one ticket counter at the gate. I did my best to hold my place among the mass of surging travelers and eventually made it onto another shuttle, another set of stairs, and finally, into my seat on my flight to Lusaka, Zambia.

With a deep sigh I pushed my backpack under the seat in front of me, secured my seat belt, sat back, and realized - I was in Africa! I had 3 more hours of flying ahead of me to get to my destination, but there I was, in Africa, at the beginning of one of the most incredible adventures of my life.


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