Monday, September 2, 2019 – A journey home….

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I look at my phone and it’s six AM. I had planned to get up earlier to do some writing, but I had apparently passed out from exhaustion before setting my alarm on the phone. I’m trying to figure out why the bathroom light and the main light in my room are blinking alternately, which is what has woken me up otherwise I’d probably still be sleeping much past my departure time for the airport. When I try to turn those lights off, or anything else on in the room for that matter, nothing seems to want to work and it’s then that I realize the power must be out or at least there’s some major malfunction. It was truly a blessing in disguise as I would have missed my flight had it not been for being awakened by those incredibly annoying lights. As I’ve been told by a very wise man in the past, there are no coincidences, just “God-incidents,” and Father Bill definitely knew what he was talking about.

Thankfully, there’s more than enough light in the room (remember, no window) for me to quickly pack my things as my flashlight was in the extra duffel they made me check and isn’t with me at the time. Oh yes, there’s always the flashlight on my phone in case the lights go out totally and I check to make sure it charged overnight which is one thing I did right. It’s amazing how incredibly exhausted you become from traveling without even realizing it. Yes, the phone did charge and the blinking lights are still on, but for how long. Jumping in the shower was a risk if everything went out, so I had to pass up my last chance at a nice shower for several days until I arrive at FAME. I gathered my things, double checking to make sure I had all of my chargers and my passport from the safe and I’m off. Walking out of the doors to head across to the main hotel lobby I am hit with a blast of hot and humid air that immediately fogs my glasses to the extent that they are totally useless until I finally get into the lobby where once again I can see. It’s just after six am and the temperature is still 100°, but the “real feel” temperature is 115°, and the humidity is probably 70%. Like being in a sauna is perhaps an understatement.

After checking out and telling the desk clerk about my room (these things are expected in other countries and I’m used to it from spending so much time in Tanzania where brown-outs are commonplace) so they’re aware, I thank him for my lovely stay (it was truly lovely and I have Abubakar to thank for that) and hail my Uber ride. Dreading stepping outside into the heat again, I watched my driver approaching with the app on my phone until the last minute, took off my glasses this time and made my way to the street. I had plenty of time to make my flight, but my breakfast was in jeopardy and it was rush hour traffic. Luckily, the airport in Qatar is massive and there were no lines to go through immigration or security so I was able to spend about half an hour in the club having coffee, cereal and fruit prior to heading off for my gate and the last leg of my trip to Kilimanjaro.

The flight went smoothly, though my next adventure of getting my visa and going through customs was unfortunately decidedly different. Long ago, I would always send our passports to the Tanzanian embassy in Washington, D.C., where they would process our visas so we’d have them on arrival. Two years ago, though, they decided that volunteers here should have a business visa and, at that time, the embassy was unable to process these, which meant that we’d have to get them on arrival at the airport. About two weeks ago, I learned that the visa application process was now changed to online (a good thing), but I was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to process them in time for us to arrive (which I confirmed by speaking with the embassy) and so it was back to plan A, get them at the airport which I had been warned could take an excessive amount of time meaning up to two hours. My arrival to the airport confirmed this worry with incredibly long lines at the first visa window and further verified by the snail’s pace we were moving once I was in them. Needless to say, we will be doing this process online in the future. An hour and a half later, I was finally through the process and into baggage claim where, gratefully, my three duffels were still sitting.

Now came the process of going through customs. This has also changed quite drastically over the ten years I have been coming and, I will say, all for the right reasons. Customs is a means for a government to collect taxes or tariffs on goods not purchased here, thereby protecting their own economy. This makes absolute sense, but unfortunately, there are many items that are just unable to be purchased here and must be brought in. So, in the end, this is a necessary evil that shouldn’t be looked upon as anything less and is merely the government doing what any other does in as similar situation. Regardless, this took me another hour or so to get through, so all told, Pendo and Violet had been waiting outside for nearly three hours for me to get through the entire process. They had been worried sick about me as I didn’t have a working sim card yet and it wasn’t until I was in customs that I realized the airport now has a working WiFi I could use to contact them. I had arrived just before 3 PM and by the time we were in the car departing the airport, it was well after 5 PM with the sun setting in front of us.

All was well, though, as I was back in Tanzania, my other home, and with my family here. Gabby and Gabriel were waiting for me at home, both six months older than the last time I had seen them and with Gabriel now taking up a storm, but somehow only wanting to say “Michael” constantly. This is such a familiar place to me and I now move between the two cultures effortlessly. It is a wonderful feeling that has so enriched my life and I am forever grateful for that first visit here so many years ago and all those who have supported me on this journey.

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