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Out of Africa – Sudan Airways – 1992
After a month of adventures on the African continent, it was time to return home to London. Having flown Sudan Airways on the way in, I was not alarmed by the amount of duct tape in the cabin. I settled into the direct flight from Nairobi and gazed out the window while beneath us slipped an enchanted landscape of sand-colored towns, their flat-roofed buildings growing out of the earth. We followed the Nile northward, a pewter ribbon curving through the rolling desert. Reentry thoughts began crowding out the various episodes and challenges of the trip. I looked forward to a shower at full pressure and my own bed.
In Khartoum, the aircraft’s door opened to a blast furnace. Herded off the plane, I noted our luggage piled on the tarmac. On instinct, I grabbed my backpack from the heap and entered the terminal with the rest of the passengers. At the door to the hall, uniformed guards lugging AK-47s demanded our passports. Everyone obliged, so I followed suit. It was then I realized I did not know the status of US/Sudan relations at that time.
Two Australians and I found each other and huddled.
“I didn’t know Khartoum was on the itinerary.”
“Neither did I. I thought we were going straight to Frankfurt. Where are you going?”
“Direct flight to London.”
We watched our arrival plane leave.
After an hour or so of milling around, the three of us approached an airport employee. “When’s the connecting flight?”
“Probably be a plane through here in three days,” she said and walked off to carry on doing whatever she had been doing.
No one else seemed concerned, so we tried to act unperturbed among the crowd in the stifling waiting area. The monochrome environment outside the windows looked flat, barren, and bleak. Certainly no place to make a run for it.
After another hour, we asked a second official.
“Um, when is our connecting flight?”
“We’re not sure where the plane is,” was this one’s answer.
Not long after that exchange, the airport staff suddenly scrambled. Some unexpected event was unfolding outside.
A plane was landing.
With our passports returned to us, we lined up to board. By the time I found a place to stash my pack, only one seat remained. I flopped in, mentally daring anyone to challenge my possession of it. I secured the strap, such as it was, and caught my breath while we rattled off the ground.
An hour into the flight, I turned to the woman next to me. “Where’s this plane going?”
I sat back in my seat and thought, “Close enough.”
I hope you enjoyed my silly travel episode and that you have a wonderful end-of-summer Labor Day Weekend. For those affected by Hurricane Idalia, all the best to you. Besides trees on houses and cars, the hardest part is often the power outages at this time of year—the heat, the bugs… And, of course, flooding is just about the worst of experiences. I pray your recovery is swift and that you will know God’s grace in the midst of it.
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