By Amy Paulson (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
I was at Zurich Airport on Wednesday waiting for my flight to Nairobi. I was tired, from a 5:30am start and my stomach was churning from excitement and some anxiety about traveling alone to Africa for a month long trip to our projects in Kenya and Ethiopia. I’d already called my parents the day before, checked three 20 kg bags of luggage (including a huge Lego donation), kissed my husband goodbye and had a cry when we parted ways at airport security.
I made my way to the gate and was getting in line for some much needed coffee when I got a text from my friend: "I suppose u know that there was a big fire at Nairobi airport…"
Seconds later, I got a call from Maisha founder, Beatrice, whose mother, Mama Maisha, was calling her from Kenya and updating her on the situation. A fire had swept through the international arrivals hall at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Flights were being rerouted to other airports in Kenya and in East Africa.
Suddenly, I heard people around me saying, "Fire at Nairobi airport!" I stepped out of the coffee line and tried to look for news on my phone, when the SWISS staff finally made an announcement: Fire at the airport… more info at 9.30am - the time when we were supposed to depart.
Realizing I might not be able to leave after all and would have to wait for additional news, I got back into that coffee line.
Confusion, fear and stress. The options soon became clear: fly to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and try to find a hotel and onward travel to Nairobi from there - without any further support from the airline. Or rebook my ticket. Looking back over that strange day, I can see some positives:
· I can cope with a crisis, make decisions and be resilient. After a couple of calls, I decided to rebook my ticket. I managed to run like the wind to get third in line at the transfer desk and rebook a flight to Mombasa for Sunday. I'd still need to figure out transport to Nairobi but at least that would buy me some time. I’ve since been able to rebook a direct flight to Nairobi on Tuesday - much less hassle with those three massive bags.
· I can extend my time in Nairobi and now review three extra days of Gracias-sponsored tutoring taking place at the Maisha Children’s Home. A teacher's strike last month meant that the tutoring wouldn't start until a day before I was originally scheduled to leave Nairobi. The first day of any new activity is always a bit chaotic; these extra days will give teachers and kids a chance to organize themselves and start benefiting from the learning activities while I evaluate the progress.
· I can spend more time with my husband (who'd just returned from a weeklong business trip), friends, and cat.
· I caught up on some much needed sleep Wednesday afternoon (4 hour nap, anyone?)
· I’m using the extra time to catch up on some pending tasks, take publicity photos and update the website.
Today I’m feeling extreme gratitude for all the above, that no one was seriously hurt in the fire and that I'm "stuck" at home (with no scheduled meetings - yay!) instead of stuck and desperately seeking shelter in another country. As I wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, “I dodged a big bullet!”
Photo courtesy of crschmidt