Our day in Jo-burg began with a decent breakfast buffet in the hotel. Still not the same as breakfast out at home, but it was ok. Then back to the room and showers, etc. We, of course, had no change of clothes so we were wearing the clothes we had left Zimbabwe in and slept in. How nice! We didn't even have toothbrushes, etc, so had to get them from the front desk. Thank goodness we could do that. As a group we had decided not to go anywhere because we needed to be at the airport by 2 to get checked in and go claim our luggage and get it tagged for the flight home.
After showers, etc, Greg and Kyle turned on the tv. We all ended up watching a South African physics professor answer call in physics questions. At first I thought that we couldn't have found a more boring subject for tv, but it really ended up to be interesting and entertaining in its own way. We watched that until one of the Reeds knocked on our door and told us everyone was going to the pool to hang out. We went down there and just sat in the sun and talked or read. It was very relaxing. The kids played toss the toy across the pool and extreme cold. Extreme cold goes like this: put your foot in the 50 degree water and see who else can stand it. If everyone can stand it, then everyone has to go in a little deeper and eventually it was who could stay in the longest. Our kids ended up being the entertainment for all the guests who were out by the pool. They weren't loud or obnoxious, just having a good time and entertaining to the other people who were around. Greg, Kyle and John went to the internet "cafe" room and tried to get online. Sketchy at best. Finally, it was close enough to the time to leave that we all ordered lunch and ate out by the pool. Then back to the rooms, check out and over to airport. Check in went smoothly, although I wasn't even feeling real confident that we'd actually get on the plane. We were told we had to go get our luggage and come back to the counter to check it in. Our wonderful SAA rep from the night before had told us not to argue or discuss luggage at the counter and we'd just deal with things as they came. Next we all went to find her. When we did, she had already re-tagged all our luggage and sent them on to the luggage area to be loaded!!! I think we all felt like kissing her. What a huge help that was. We then spent the next 4 hours in the Jo-burg airport. Fortuanately, it is huge so there were lots of stores to keep us amused for quite awhile. Everything was totally expensive. The rand is strong and the dollar weak. Greg and I bought 4 paperback books and it cost us $53!!!! Outrageous, but we had an 18 hr flight coming up and wanted to make sure everybody had reading material.
I would have to say again that it amazed me how well everyone got along. We spent huge amounts of time together overall, but particularly that day in Jo-burg and everyone was talking, joking, etc by the time we boarded our flight. To me that is just a testimony to God's presence in everyone's life. We went through fairly strict security getting on our flight. They patted us down, checked our shoes and went through our bags--all after we had gone through the usual metal detector stuff. Poor Kyle had the projector we had taken with us and he had to explain what it was to the security person. She didn't really seem to understand, but finally told him ok. At this point I was finally beginning to believe that we might actually leave that night. But I wasn't going to totally believe it until we were in the air. We boarded without any problems and the kids were beside themselves with the "accomodations". Everyone had their own movie screen with on-demand movies, video games, tv shows and music. The plane was brand new and we all got to sit with our families. As we began taxiing I finally believed we were going home. Then we stopped and the captain came on. There was a malfunction with one of the bathrooms. They were hoping it was just a circuit breaker thing, but if not we'd have to go back and it'd have to be fixed before we could leave. WELL, if prayer can melt metal, it would have been melted. There were 13 people on that flight who JUST WANTED TO GO HOME and they were all doing some serious praying. A few minutes later the captain said that the problem was fixed - it had been a circuit breaker. Oh, thank You, Lord! And we were on our way.
The flight was uneventful. We were served a meal which we picked at. The kids watched movies and played video games. I think Caolinn and Kyle were trying to go for a world record on how many movies a person can watch in one sitting. Sleeping was hard, but Greg took his Ambien after leaving Senegal and he slept like a rock until we landed at JFK. The rest of us didn't sleep so well. We landed in Senegal at something like 2 A.M. People left our flight and once they did, we all had to gather our belongings from the overhead bins while the security people checked the empty seats and all the bins. This of course woke everyone who was even close to sleeping. Then once the passengers in Senegal had boarded and we were back in the air, the stewardesses proceeded to give cabin service. Snacks and drinks! At TWO a.m!! Oh well, it did finally quiet back down and finally, finally we landed at JFK.
Oh did that ever feel good! We were home. I was pretty giddy-lack of sleep and happiness at being back. We collected our luggage...all 25 pieces of it (we had to get the Fords and the Jacobinis 'cause they left without their luggage in Jo-burg). In the end, 2 pieces were missing, but we didn't think that was too bad for all we'd been through (those pieces made it back about a week later). We weren't really sure how to approach customs since we had other people's luggage, so we decided to pile it all on a couple carts and go through customs. We thought if it looked too overwhelming maybe the inspectors wouldn't want to deal with it (it was 7 a.m afterall). And essentially that is what happened. We had a bus ride back to church. The kids slept and the adults gabbed. You would think we'd have nothing to talk about by then, but that just never happened. We got back to church about 11 and so got to see some of our friends when we arrived. That was pretty neat.
So, that is the story of our trip. There is so much I left out, but I hit the highlights. Looking back over the past few weeks, I am amazed at all we got to experience and do. I think about all the emotions that we experienced while we were there. I know the first day we were there and I was alone in the hotel room for a short while I felt like I just wanted to go home. I felt like it was a big mistake to have come and I felt very out of place. Within a few days, I felt like I belonged there and was mostly comfortable. In fact, I felt like I'd been there forever. That was a pretty weird feeling in itself. Greg and I decided that we had to think through everything we did so much that life didn't just flow. We gave it alot more thought than we are generally used to so it seemed like forever. (We had to think about what we drank, what we ate, how we brushed our teeth, washing our hands, keeping our hands away from our faces, where our valuables would be safe, etiquette, even crossing the street since they drive on the left). I loved the Zambians I'd met and I liked doing the work we were doing. Toward the end we were all eager on some level to come home, but once home we all had varying degrees of missing Zambia. Just today I was saying to Caolinn that I am amazed that we have been home for more than a month now and Zambia still fills so many of my thoughts. The first few weeks we were home I dreamed about Zambia every night (or my dreams at least took place there). Now that is not so frequent. I don't know yet what all the lessons are that I've learned, but I know that I am much more aware of there being a whole different world out there than this nice safe one I am used to. I have had my belief that God's family is worldwide affirmed and rejoice to know that someday I will be with all races, nationalities worshipping God in His presence. I think that my ongoing struggle with how should we as Americans (with such vast resources, money, etc) wisely spend and live knowing that the vast majority of this world lives in poverty is probably stronger now. I think I am more content with the house I have and have felt less "I wish we had..." And I am more committed to helping others.