A week ago I arrived in the United States of America(commonly known as “bulaaya” in the Luganda dialect of Uganda and “lobo pa muni” or “lobo ma woko” in my Acholi dialect!). Prior to this trip, I had never travelled out of Uganda(besides the two trips I made to neighbouring Kenya: one when I was a 10year-old-girl scout and the other in 2009 for my cousin’s traditional wedding in Kisumu to a very nice Jaluo girl).
So naturally, everybody and I mean everybody: my 7year-old nephew,my mother,my sister Miriam, my brother Jordan, my girlfriends Dorah, Midi, Susan,and Tina, Annet,Sandra, Sarah(who have all travelled abroad before) had all sorts of advice to give me. It was all in good faith I know. My American mum Patty was as equally worried about my possibility of getting lost at one of the airports as my biological mother was! I honestly didn’t know what to expect on the flight as I had never been on an airplane before. My ultimate goal was to get into my seat and be nice to people, make friends on the plane and find somebody who would guide me to my destination.
When I was little there was a movie I loved a lot. “Coming to America” starring Eddie Murphy was one of my favourite movies. So I figured I wouldn’t take life too seriously and try and fit in like Eddie Murphy!
My mother dropped me at Entebbe airport almost 3hours before my flight. She wanted to make sure “the plane did not leave me.” She stood outside the departures lounge until I finished checking in and made me go to the glass windows to wave goodbye to her. Poor thing! It is the first time I am away from home. It’s also the first time I am not within her reach for so many months. So naturally, I think she was afraid much as she was excited and happy about the opportunity that I had got. She was afraid I would get lost or get trafficked. But mostly, she was afraid of terrorists. Just a few months ago, Al Shabab terrorists attacked West Gate Mall in neighbouring Kenya and killed tens of people. Hundreds more were injured. Generally, East Africans are much more cautious now and particularly very suspicious of people that come from the Horn of Africa (particularly Somalia) because it is the hub of Al Shabab insurgency. So anyway, a few of my friends warned me not to sit next to Somalis on the plane(as if you get to choose the seat you want on the plane!).
I had to wait for almost two hours for my plane flight. In the waiting area I met Francesco,a brown-eyed 26-year old Italian boy with the cutest dimples and loveliest hair I had ever seen. In halting English, he explained to me that he had been in Uganda for 6months working at Nsambya Hospital, a Catholic founded hospital situated in the Nsambya suburb of Kampala. He is a bio-medical engineer by profession. And he was leaving Uganda to go back to Milan, Italy to start his PHD studies! So we whiled away the time talking about school and life and family and pasta! That was so much fun! And then we got called to board the plane.
I didn’t get to sit next to Francesco on the plane. My neighbour however, was a pleasant young lady who happened to be Acholi and Ugandan too. She has lived in the US for almost 7 years now and she’s married to an American with whom she has 2 children- a boy aged 7 and a little girl aged 3. She was travelling back to Delaware where she lives with her husband and children. She gave me good company from Entebbe to Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia and she helped show me where to go and where to check in for my next flight. The airport was crowded with UN peacekeepers who I figured were probably being deployed to war-torn Southern Sudan. It is a beautiful airport, certainly more beautiful than Entebbe airport. Also, the air-hostesses from Ethiopian Airlines are very pretty. They look just like those beauty queens from pageants! Also, they served a lot of food on the plane.We left Addis after four torturous hours of waiting!
My next flight was from Addis to Rome. It was almost 9hours. By now, my feet were aching and I was tired of the journey already. Also, I got a tummy upset from the food that I had eaten on the flight from Entebbe to Addis. So I kept running to the toilet every five or so minutes. Also, in an ironic twist of fate, I happened to sit in between Somali girls. My Ugandan friends and family would have been scared to death if they knew that! But they turned out to be really nice people(Stereotypes suck!). Some of them were on their way to Minnesota and two of them were headed to Ohio which was my final destination. Inwardly, I thanked my lucky stars!…..