I finally realized my dream of stepping on African soil when my office sent me to Sierra Leone, or Salone, on a project last month. Sierra Leone is on the west coast of Africa north of Liberia and south of Guinea. What an exciting opportunity!
As office SOP, I visited a travel clinic and got some shots. Yellow fever. Typhoid. Tetanus. Meningitis. Hepa A & B. Oral vaccine for cholera. A weekly tablet for malaria. I never had so many vaccinations at one time. What about those who actually live there, are they protected? I wondered. With the required yellow fever shot, I applied for a visa.
Even before my visa came, I had been making several travel preparations: gathering the personal and work-related items to take on the trip; making lists to do, to pay, to bring, to buy, to leave, to repair, to follow up; making verbal and written instructions for the home and the office... Is this typical of mothers and wives when they travel, or am I just the obsessive one?
I think it took me more than two weeks to meticulously organize my three travel bags--one check-in, one hand carry, and a backpack. I wrote down everything that went into each bag so I'd know where to look when I needed anything.
"Mom, what are you packing?" Markus asked as I sorted through piles of items scattered on the floor.
"I'm not packing any great clothes," I replied.
"What great clothes?" he teased.
"I mean, not office clothes." I had done my research and was packing accordingly.
On the day of my departure, I took a shuttle bus to the airport after finding out that this was cheaper than taking a taxicab ($46 vs. $75). I was at the check-in line 5 hours before take-off.
"You're early," the British Airways agent at the counter told me.
"It's my ride," I replied. I intentionally chose an early shuttle schedule because I don't like worrying about missed flights. I would sleep at the airport if I had to.
I checked in my luggage along with a big group of South African athletes returning from a competition in BC who were also flying on BA, on the flight before mine. As I watched my luggage on the conveyor, I worried for a moment that my suitcase might be thrown in with theirs.
I spent most of the trip from Vancouver watching movies on my personal screen and enjoying airplane food. I don't know a lot of people who like airplane food. Me, I don't care. Just feed me. I saved the non-perishable snacks, sugar, salt and pepper for my stay in Sierra Leone. I wanted to drink those cute bottles of white or red wine too, but I thought I'd do it on the flight back.
Our plane landed in London before I finished Wolverine, which made me regret seeing 17 Again, Che and The Soloist before it. At the Heathrow Airport, I met my two American female companions, both around half my age, for the first time. After a short layover, I was on a smaller BMI plane that would took us 7 hours to Freetown-Lungi International Airport.
The sun was setting now. I mentally tracked our location. Flying over Spain...over the Mediterranean Sea...over Morocco...
I'm in Sierra Leone! This is Africa! I HAVE ARRIVED!
My luggage had not!!
(to be continued, My luggage goes missing)