10 hours is a long time to kill, especially when you killed 9 hours only 1.5 hours ago. But that is exactly what I am doing – reading, walking, reading, walking, stretching, eating, reading, walking. I knew Heathrow Airport rather well from my visits to Africa and now, I know it EXTREMELY well. I know where every bathroom is located and I know which food I prefer. I know which areas are always crowded and which have extra seats for nomads like myself. I park my body and backpack in a quiet area and finish another book. I watch people and am amazed by the variety, the colors, the textures, the expressions, the joys, the sorrows, the angst, the happiness, the hugs, the pushes, the smiles, and the excitements.
Bazillion hours later, as 9:30pm approaches, my gate is on the board and I start making my way to another terminal in search of my flight to Abuja. Abuja…a city I’ve never visited, but which has ties to AFCA for 5 years now. Abuja is where the American International School of Abuja is located and it is where I am headed, to say thank you to the children of that school for supporting AFCA’s work.
I stand in line and out of nowhere, a beautiful African lady approaches me and asks me if my name is Tanya. I have déjà vu, thinking of the time a stranger in Congo told me, “I was told you’d been in the Ubangi. What were you doing there?” It was a little disconcerting and to this day, I don’t know who he was and how he knew where I’d been. This time around, the young lady tells me that she is Josh’s (my host in Nigeria) sister-in-law and that she’ll meet me when we get off the plane in Abuja. Her name is Blessing.
I step in the plane and keep checking my ticket because it seems that a mistake has been made. I talk to the steward who assures me that, yes, I am sitting in Business Class, and, would I like champagne, orange juice, water? Wrapped in a quilt I’d like to take home with me, I keep reading my book while watching the people, feeling so content and grateful to the man who made this gift happen. Don Palese is a man whom I’ve never met, yet who offered us his frequent flyer miles. He set up my flights to Nigeria and like the stacking Russian dolls, I discover a gift within his gift – business class seat within his gift of a free flight. It would be so easy to get used to this way of travel and I may need to be hauled off to coach class the next time I board a plane!
Blessing and I talk for a long while as we wait for our ride. She is lovely and we talk about her dream to provide Nigerian children with the books they need so they can go to school. We meet up with Josh and are taken to Josh and Linda’s apartment where I nap and shower. It’s so good to feel human again!