We got ready for the day, ate breakfast, and packed up our luggage for Gambella. We then walked to HH where Yohannes exchanged money for us and we gathered our donations to take with us. On the way to the airport, I saw a man walking down a random street in Addis. He caught my eye because he was wearing a bright blue shirt, and as we got closer I could see that it was one of the Covenant Healthcare shirts that the Knochel girls donated. We brought a bunch of the shirts earlier this summer when we came to Ethiopia, and it was good to see that the donations were being distributed and used.
Wass dropped Mathewos, Kiersten, Kerri, and I off at the airport, where we checked in and went through security. Haile and Welde would be with us in Gambella, too, but they had left a few days earlier. We boarded our flight and taxied to the runway, where we sat for awhile. Finally, they turned the plane off. It was so hot!! They announced that the plane's cooling system was not working, so we would have to head back to the gate. Turns out it was more than that, and I am so thankful that we did not take off. One of the propellers did not work either, along with some other things. We got off the plane and stood around while they tried to figure it out.
It started raining, so a bus pulled up and we loaded onto it. We watched them trying to figure out what was wrong, and Kerri kept saying, "I am not getting on that plane!" The bus then drove us back to the terminal, where we switched gates and waited for a new plane. Finally, we left a few hours late.
I loved watching out the window as the mountains gave way to the beautiful, lush jungles of Gambella, Jalen and Jordan's birthplace. As the plane came to a stop at the Gambella airport, I could see 2 huge World Food Programme planes parked there. They have been doing food drops over South Sudan. We also noticed lots of aid workers and ferengis at the airport.
There's nothing quite like a trip to Gambella to make you thankful that there's a God in heaven that you can pray to whenever you wish. First there was the plane trouble, and then there was the long arduous journey from the Gambella airport to the Baro hotel. The last time I was here, Wass was the driver and took it slow for us Americans. This time, we packed into a public transport bus that flew down the cratered road, swerving back and forth to miss the biggest of the holes. Of course, I sat in the back seat, my shoulder being thrown against the side, my head hitting the ceiling, and my knee smashing into the metal bar on the back of the seat in front of me. I think I still have a bruise from that bar.....My brains were addled and I knew that the luggage was going to plummet off of the roof at any given moment. The driver kept stopping so that a boy could get out and check on the bags.
There was no air, and it was very hot and stifling. Lion King songs kept running through my head in tune with the locusts buzzing and other jungle sounds. Dirt flew in my face as monkeys swung from trees by the side of the road. We passed UN vehicles, herds of goats, and donkeys laden with sticks. We finally arrived in Gambella Town, meeting people's questioning gazes as we drove down the streets.
We checked in at the Baro hotel, and learned that we would be staying in the old rooms as the new ones are booked up for months and years by all of the aid workers. Mathewos insisted that I switch rooms with him because his had air-conditioning. It was so nice of him! My light didn't work though, so someone came to fix it.
Somewhere along the line, the pillowcase and washcloths I had brought along must have been packed up with the donations and given away, so I had none at the Baro. My duffel bag and towel were completely soaked from the downpour in Addis as they shuffled luggage from one plane to the next. So my fabric cosmetic bag became my washcloth, I "dried" off after my shower with a wet towel, and one of my t-shirts became my pillowcase. I climbed in bed, feeling slightly paranoid as the lock on my door was the flimsiest thing I have ever seen, and pulled the mosquito net around me. It was very surreal to be back in my boys' hometown....and it was absolutely crazy to picture them living and growing up here. How different their lives are now.
I fell asleep surrounded by jungle sounds drifting in through my screen.