13 security checks. Thirteen!! The Nigerians take their security seriously for people boarding planes, but not so seriously that a single person actually goes through my bags. Thirteen different people confirm that I am who my passport says I am. They actually say, “Weaver Tanya – is that you?” and I refrain from laughing as I confirm that indeed, I am Weaver Tanya. If I had a fake passport, I sure wouldn’t take this moment to reveal it!
Three look at my shot record and are happy I am vaccinated against every known tropical disease. Mary, the vaccine lady here at the airport, suggests that maybe I want her to give me a booster polio shot but I gently refuse her, showing her my record again. She is worried because I am going to a country that is very hot, because she is sure that heat = possibility of acquiring polio.
Now, after 13 individuals have confirmed that I am indeed Weaver Tanya and that I am headed to Mombasa, via Addis Ababa, I am sitting in a waiting room with no air conditioning or wireless, eating the crackers I purchase with the last of my Naira. Sitting with me are a cast of characters – Chinese businessmen, Muslim clerics, women covered from head to toe in black, a couple of men sporting long black beards, a man of Indian decent, a young Kenyan man wearing a Doctors Without Borders vest (I take a moment to thank him for his service to mankind and am rewarded by the largest, kindest smile – all teeth and smiling eyes), and various other sorts. Among the crowd, I do not see another westerner yet, but beautiful colorful head wraps are amidst those who sit with me in this waiting room and I am entranced by the different ways the wraps are tied and the vibrant colors in them.
The electricity goes out again.
Amharic, pidgin English, French, Ebo, Chinese, Hausa, Hindi, and a bunch of other languages I don’t recognize float around me, all mixing up with the others. It is hard to read, listening to all the words, so I give up and instead, try to distinguish one from the other. It certainly is an exercise in futility, as there are too many languages happening at once, some whispered but most spoken out loud, either into phones or to neighbors sharing the bright blue waiting room chairs.
The plan is to arrive in Ethiopia tonight, sleep a bit and head out to Mombasa, Kenya in the morning for two days of meetings and visits. Ethiopian Airlines has not instilled much confidence in me, so I hope that all goes according to plan and that: 1. All bathrooms are working today (been on a 15-hour flight with no functioning bathrooms), 2. The food is passable (this is usually a pipe dream), 3. We will leave and arrive on time (once, they left 3 hours early, without telling passengers and I was stuck in-country), and 4. They only take passengers meant to go where we are going (was on a flight once with a man who thought he was going to Cameroon, but ended up in Kenya, instead. The airline staff dumped him in Lost Luggage where I was tracking my lost bag).
Electricity is back on.
The languages roll on and on.