Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ethiopia: Going Home, Wednesday, Part 2

Sitting at Frankfurt Airport, Germany, drinking an unimaginative yet satisfying Americano from a big, chunky cup and saucer.

Photo credit: francisfrancis

I am now a "majority" again, instead of a minority, back in the Land of Faranji. I feel a perverse desire to whisper "habesha" to the diluted numbers of fellow travelers who are Ethiopian.

Bought a book about "HeLa," Henrietta Lacks.

Paid an extortionist rate to shoot a touch-base email to people back home.

Photo credit: Sheabell

At 6:40 a.m., an astonishing, neon-orange sun crept skyward.

Eight rolls of toilet paper in the Frankfurt Airport bathroom stall. The decadence of it. I pulled out my roll of "soft" from my purse, purchased the day before yesterday for 7 birr, and added it to the collection. I don't need to carry toilet paper with me anymore.

Talked with two women who were also on the flight from Addis and who waited for the same plane to Chicago. One was an Ethiopian-American woman with her young daughter, returning home to Chicago after a visit to Ethiopia. The other woman was joining her husband in Sioux City, South Dakota (brrr!); they haven't seen each other in 7 years. This woman is Eritrean, but has been living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for some time. Her two children, ages 12 and 8, live in Eritrea with her parents.

After a lengthy layover in Frankfurt, it was finally time to board our plane. But what was this? A fight erupted between two men, almost coming to blows (where are we, Harar?). One man even said, "You're touching me! Stop touching me!" Better than an in-flight movie.

Lufthansa is a civilized airline -- it serves wine with every meal (or beer), no extra charge. And the lunch was actually good: an Indian dish with spinach, rice, tofu, and other delectables. When I was almost finished with my after-lunch coffee, the attendant asked if I'd like a Bailey's. Well, hell, yes. I poured the balance of my coffee into the Bailey's on ice. When I finished drinking it, I licked my chops like a cat.

We arrived in Chicago, went through customs. I was able to say goodbye to the Ethiopian-American and her daughter; they'd arrived at their final destination. The woman looked forward to donning a traditional dress and then presiding over a coffee ceremony tonight, a ritual she loved to perform and participate in for its tradition and beauty. 

Unfortunately, the Eritrean woman was on a much slower track through immigration, and I lost sight of her. I silently wished her well.

(Back in Addis at Bole Airport, a 30-something couple and their three or four young kids vibrated with excitement, happiness, nervousness. They were on their way to Austin, TX, their brand new home as future Americans  - the lucky winners of a "diversity lottery" slot. It was so fun for me to be among the first to welcome them with congratulations and a smile. )

The plane to St. Louis was delayed, and I borrowed a cell phone from another passenger to call Cat about it; I left a voice mail.

Finally, we boarded, took off, and landed in St. Louis. Cat, Tim, and Jasmine were waiting for me. Three year-old Jasmine took immediate, no-nonsense charge of my wheeled bag and steered it all the way to the car.

Cat had brought me a bag of kettle corn as a welcome home treat. What a good girl.

As the bus driver from Gonder to Gorgora said at the end of the line: "Complete."

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