LOVING DELTA When embarking from Fargo, North Dakota on Delta via Minneapolis and Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya for the sixth time in nineteen months with few irregularities, its easy to assume such will always be the case. Especially when the Fargo check-in crew makes tremendous effort on behalf of ASAH and GETTING OUR STUFF there. Apparently from this point, I will have to apply to Customer Service of our many bags of supplies–underwear and sanitary pads to keep girls in two villages in school at puberty plus clothing and supplies for the ASAH School for Orphan Girls, now open in Duk Payuel, my final destination. TOO MUCH FUEL Have you ever had a flight delayed because the incoming plane had been overfilled with fuel and had to fly around for an extra hour or so to burn off the load? That’s what happened Thursday, June 7 while I sat in the gate area waiting for what I expected to be a non-eventful trip. REBOOKING Announcement. Calls to the gate for rebooking. Angry business passengers shouting through the cell lines to the agents on the other end. Deep and heavy sigh for me. At the beginning of a trip I’m all excitement and optimism, but fatigued or anxious, I’m capable of tears and an angry tone myself. My cell rang and a Delta agent prepared to find another option for me as I would miss my connection in Minneapolis. The option to fly Minneapolis, Detroit, Paris, Nairobi sounded excellent, but the Paris flight was on Kenya airlines, and when I asked about my TEN bags, she said Kenya Air couldn’t accommodate them. I needed to stay on Delta/KLM. Some options involved me going home (with all the luggage) and coming back in the morning arriving in Kenya Saturday night, the 9th. This wasn’t a great option since my plan was to travel to Nakuru on Saturday to meet up with Moses, one of our Sudanese orphans in the Kenya Kids program. Moses is now in college, and we had plans to attend visiting day at the five primary and secondary schools in Nakuru where the other nine students are enrolled. THE BEST OF THE TERRIBLE OPTIONS There are two other Delta flights to Amsterdam–the earlier one was full, the second one would have me missing the connection and put me in Amsterdam for more than 24 hours resulting in having to reclaim and then recheck my bags. In the end I chose to fly to Minneapolis and overnight there. The bags could remain in Delta’s custody (involuntary travel change) and I could fly out Friday afternoon on the same flight I was to have taken the day before. This still had me missing visiting day at the schools, but while I was working things out with the agent on the phone, one of the Fargo crew (Kyle and Annie–they’re the greatest!) came by and said–what are they doing for you? I gave him the info–he thought he could do better. As the call concluded, the phone agent told me I had to go back and check-in again for the new ticketing. At check-on, Kyle said he’d gotten me on the 7pm to Amsterdam, which I had been told was full. That turned out to be nearly true–obviously I got a seat, but there would be only a 30 minute window in Amsterdam to go through security and board the flight to Nairobi. Once boarded in the cities, we were delayed 15 minutes, then 30, then 45 though the flight attendant suggested we might make up that time in the air. Which we did. Still, I arrived in Amsterdam just as my Nairobi flight took off. THE SURE-TO-MISSED MISSED CONNECTION Rebooked once again, this time leaving at 9 pm Amsterdam time, which is the time I was to have arrived in Nairobi. Now I’ll get there at 6:30 Saturday morning which allows me to get to Nakuru to visit the kids, the initial goal. YOTELING Though I managed to sleep a few hours on the flight to Amsterdam, I was pretty bone tired upon arrival. And then I saw a sign for Yotel. Tiny pod rooms available by the hour. Four hours for 44 Euros got me room 53, a single comfy bed with clean sheets, down comforter, two pillows, a pull-down table with a fold up camp stool and a tiny shower, sink and toilet area, and an alarm clock to wake me up. Nearly four luxurious hours of laying-flat sleep. Could life be better? HAND & FOOT PAMPERING As I write this I’m having a pedicure thinking of the tremendous contrasts in my life, which is mostly privileged. On Monday I will travel to the village of Duk Payuel where I will be sleeping either in a tent or a tukul. It’s the rainy season where the temperature can rise to 100 F, or drop to 60. The winds can destroy a tent, life a thatched roof off a hut and pull enormous trees out by the roots. People live a marginal existence where malnutrition borders on starvation for many. I’m not feeling sorry for myself on this journey, but each visit reminds me that life is tenuous for many people on our planet. A pedicure is a luxury, and I’m grateful that my circumstances allow me to participate in the pampering, but my work with ASAH has opened my eyes to existence at its most basic level. ASAH School is a luxury for girls. The twelve ASAH girls between the ages of 10 and 17, were all orphaned. The causes are varied. Our selection process includes need, ability, desire to join our program, the guardian’s willingness to allow their attendance and agreement to let the girl to finish her education instead of selling her puberty for the cattle dowry. The girls were selected from across the village so that no single chief (there are several in Duk Payuel) is shown favoritism. On this trip, we hope to add four additional girls from two neighboring villages. Follow the blog for updates. I promise no more news of pedicures or flight announcements.