Friday, July 28, 2006

the maiden voyage to africa (expanded and unedited)

the following is an excerpt from my journal>>

Let me start from the beginning of the journey to Africa. I had a funny feeling about leaving on Friday and even told my dad that I just recently began to feel unsettled about this trip. As it turns out, my flight from Philly was delayed for 5 hours because of bad weather at JFK. So by the time I got into NYC, my flight was already long gone. Several other people were in the same boat, or plane as it were, though I didn’t come to know that until the following day. At about 10 pm, when I got into JFK, I went immediately to South African check-in counter. But there was nobody there and a worker from another company said that they usually go home each day around 6 pm (handy). So I asked them at what time they opened in the morning and they didn’t know. They sent me to information. There I talked to a dude who had a big tag on his shirt that said “TRAINEE” . . . you’re not kidding! After I explained my predicament he said, “oh, well you’re gonna have a great time here tonight….we have lots to do and right over there there’s an arcade center with . . .” I think I actually cut him off which was rare for me but there was a line of angry people behind me. I don’t know how that guy survived. So after that I asked him specifically what time South African Air opens in the morning. He told probably around 7 am.

I had my temperpedic pillow with me and made a makeshift sleeping pallete out of papers, folders, and plastic trash bags as sheets. The airport was freezing cold and so the bags saved me, even though I got to rapped up in them at one point and started soaking myself with sweat. So anyway, I wake up early and go to South African Air….nobody’s there. Turns out that they didn’t open till 1 pm. So I hung out in the chapel, talked with my parents who helped me to get the number for Michael Teeteh, the brother who was supposed to be picking me up in a couple of hours, and read my Bible. I got a hold of Michael and told him that I would be trying to get on the next flight, still not knowing if that was possible. S.A. Air only flies one plane a day so if that one was full than all of us who missed would have to fly on standby. Finally the airline opened and they said that they would issue us standby tickets. By the grace of God we were all able to make it on board and we were in Dakar, Senegal about 6 hours later. I sat next to a Mexican and God opened up many doors for us to talk about faith. He was a seeker who had put some thought into the things he believed and I felt like our discussion was fruitful.

We landed in Dakar at 6 am local time. I had already missed my flight out of Dakar so this was another unknown where all I could do was pray. I Senegalese named Mata picked me out from the crowd as soon as I arrived (there weren’t many other Americans) and started trying to carry my bags for me and such, even to the point where he was literally fighting with me to take off my backpack. This is a custom trick thirdworlders use....they pretend like their your best friend and that insist on helping in every possible way so that by the end, you can do nothing else but tip them. I instinctually rejected his help and told him, “thank you brother, but I’m fine.” Then I thought they he might be able to help me get a ticket to the Gambia since I had missed my scheduled flight the day before. So he took me to this back door ticketing office place where we had to remove a road block in order to get to the place. Mata rattled off something to the gal working behind the counter in Wolof and then told me to step up to the counter. So I told the lady my predicament and she said that unfortunately the plane was full. But Mata wouldn’t give up that easily, especially with a good tip on the line . . . time for plan B. He said that he would go talk to his “friend at the check-in counter” who would surely be able to get a seat for me. “But I thought the plane was full,” I said. “Hahaha, no brother they tell you that so that you give them some dollars and they find a seat for you” said Mata. So as it turns out, after the plane is “full” it actually means that there are about 5 seats left for the bargaining. Who knew?

So Mata took me to the check in counter where they had a white piece of paper taped to the wall behind the counter with the flight number on it. Mata cut told me to wait as he cut ahead of everybody and handed my ticket to his “friend” at the counter. He came back and said that everything would work out but that the “boss-man” was here now so it wasn’t a good time to do the deal. I suddenly felt like I was doing something wrong but the thought of being stuck in Dakar at that rundown airport for another day was enough to squelch my reservations. Later, I went up to the counter and talked to Mata’s boy there, he said that I should come back at 9:30 (the plane was scheduled to leave at 9:45). So I just waited there and started learning French and Wolof with Mata. Around 9 the guy called me over to the ticket counter and issued me the ticket. So I gave a tip to Mata big enough for both he and his comrade. Before getting on the plane, I really had to go the bathroom so I went to the only bathroom in the airport. There was a big, Aunt Jemima looking lady cleaning the floor and she said some stuff to me that I didn’t understand, though I knew she wanted me out. I came out of the bathroom looking really downtrodden because I really had to go! I guess the airline staff there by the bathroom saw how pitiful I looked and send one of their employees into the bathroom ahead of me to smooth things over with this angry lady. They started getting into it at the door (this is all in wolof so I understand nothing). The employee motioned for me to go in but this huge angry lady was blocking the entrance. But he kept telling me to go in (each time more urgently as if to say, “go in man! I can only hold her off so long!” So I squeezed by as they continued to exchange words. As I was finishing up and breathing a sigh of relief, I heard them stop arguing. When I came out of the stall this big ol’ Senegalese woman started yelling at me and pointing her finger in my face. I wanted to say sorry but I didn’t know how so I just kind of slipped past her in the same fashion that I had come in. Fortunately she didn’t deck me.

So I finally get to The Gambia and meet up with Michael Teeteh, an incredible brother from Ghana who is now working with the Bible society in The Gambia as their new literacy coordinator. He picked me up from the airport and took me to his church, which was still in service. As I looked down at my watch I realized that I had been traveling (in some form of the word) since Friday afternoon and it was now Sunday morning. But then again, the old African missionaries had to take a 1 or 2 month boat ride in order to arrive so things could have been worse. Praise the Lord for all things!

3 comments:

  1. TEDD: That's a Chris Cote story if I ever heard one! You are not a real missionary brother! (You've always been one). We love you and will continue to pray for you! GOD bless you.

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  2. TEDO! ES una bendicion ver hermanos como VOS trabajando en el reino de nuestro Papito Lindo! Dios te bendiga un chorro y saludos a los brothers y sisters por alla!
    Futuro "don" Teddix

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  3. thanks Chris, I'll be a real missionary someday :-)

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