It all started on Thursday, I realized as I was rushing through the terminal just a few minutes ago. But Thursday seems so long ago. So very long ago.
Thursday I walked out of World Vision's headquarter offices on the northern edge of greater Los Angeles. I walked to my car and drove into the constant traffic that makes its home in that city. I drove south to OC. I saw friends. I crashed at a hotel next to LAX, and then I flew back to Johannesburg.
You never realize it whilst in transit, but you lose a day of your life on the airplane. All of a sudden it was Sunday and I was the last person waiting for bags to come on the luggage belt. Except mine never came.
It was the clueless, unhelpful lady at the check-in desk at LAX. I had told her I was connecting through IAD to JNB. I said "Johannesburg" and she mumbled something about not knowing the airport code, and guessed "JAB." Her co-worker and I corrected her simultaneously: "JNB." Apparently she didn’t listen, and now my bag is on its way to Jabiru, Australia. And I'm sitting on a plane bound for Entebbe.
Having some-teen hours on the ground here in Joburg was vital. I drove home, showered, and went to evening service, even though I was only half awake, because you should really go to church on Easter. I drove home. I got pizza. I didn't pack. I was sure I'd wake up early. And I did - I woke up at midnight on the nose, I took my malaria meds, had a drink, watched something on the still-on TV, and went back to bed.
Then I woke up at it was 10:30am. I packed for my 2+ weeks of travel in under 5 minutes, which has to be some kind of record. There wasn't a lot to pack. And I'm sure I left important stuff behind, but as long as I'm on the airplane with my passport, the rest should sort out.
I rushed to the store for a couple emergency replacement items that the airline would be picking up the tab for (including a rain jacket, thank God). And then to the airport, at about 95mph. Thank God, also, for the lack of law enforcement on the highways here (and thank Hertz for another MB).
I left my house keys in the car when I returned it. After retrieving those, and getting through customs, and calling Diana in Kampala, I bought 2 gifts, toothpaste and a toothbrush (those were not the gifts), and a sandwich. And then I was walking out to the bus that takes us to the waiting plane.
It was so bright and blue and clear out. Its flat at the airport, I felt like I could see most of the way to Uganda, had the world been flat. I paused outside the bus, and then I had that feeling again. I've been having it a lot lately.
There's a part, right at the end of a chapter in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, where Aragorn takes Frodo's hand and leaves a certain place in the Elvish kingdom. Tolkien tells us that "He never came there again, as a living man."
It’s the qualification on the end, that I like. It leaves the door open for him to come again, some time. Some how.
It was like I had pressed the fast-forward button on life on Thursday. Nothing since then has seemed real - everything has been in a haze. Its Jenny's birthday, and Jonny's in a week, too. I left my plug for the video camera in Kruger, or somewhere else, but thankfully I have the big battery with some charge left. I'll wear the same clothes many times this week. My good swim suit is in my lost bag and I'll have to get another one on vacation if they don't get my bag back to Joburg by Saturday, when I come through there on my way to Mauritius. I have two swimsuits, for crying out loud. I have way too much stuff.
I forgot to leave payment for the maid. I haven't read nearly as much as I had hoped to in preparation for this trip. I'm not really sure what exactly I remembered to pack and what I didn't. There's a faint wireless signal out here in the middle of the tarmac. I have a ticket to Cape Town but I'm not sure I'll be able to get there before I leave SA. David's looking for an apartment in NYC for us and will probably get one in the next couple of days, without me ever having seen it. When the project ends in April I have nothing else lined up besides a few weeks of training. My return flight is to SF and I don't have one back to NYC yet - I'm sick of buying plane tickets, I'm traveling about 50,000 miles in a single 30 day period.
These are my kind of problems. But I took this pro-bono project at large, and planned this week in particular, because there are other people with problems in the world too, and some of them in particular make my problems pale in comparison. It was time for me to focus on that for a change.
I'm sitting on a plane bound for Entebbe, and tomorrow morning I'll be on a bus north to Gulu. I'm going to northern Uganda to spend a week with the child soldier rescue / rehab camps there. If you don't know much about child soldiers, I hope you can learn a little this week about the very real, and very horrible scar on our generation's record that it is.
This is the beginning.
(Editor's note: the Uganda trip happened 2 weeks ago. I had little access to the internet to get posts up while there, and a lot of hand-scratch notes to type up that were taken when I was in the field anyway, and then last week I was off to Mauritius. I spent the time in Mauritius thinking over a lot of what I saw in Uganda. I'll be posting my blogs from the week in Uganda in present-tense form, this week, the way I wrote them. But in reality, I'm safely back in ZA for the next two weeks. Also, there will not be pictures with the Uganda post, for the time being, and the reason for that will play out in due measure.)
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