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I attended a memoir writing workshop this last weekend with Nicole LeFavour. I have no real plans to start working on a memoir right now because I’m 31 and have a pretty uninteresting life, but I jumped at the opportunity to learn, to meet people, to write. She did a great job in a very short amount of time. The workshop itself was only two hours and writing time was much less than that. But here was one of the “pearls” that would someday make up the string of a memoir, should I ever get more interesting.
I stepped off the plane in Ethiopia greeted by a thick fog of humidity and screaming chaos. I was certain a plane had just crashed and everyone around me was spinning in the turmoil of the aftermath. Spinning. Everyone and everything was spinning. The engine of the plane I departed and the bodies in motion around me.
“Do you speak English?” I muttered to the first person I spun into. A slight shake of their head and they twirled into the rest of the background. I stopped moving. I was the only thing holding still. A solitary object frozen in a solar system all of my own. From here I could tell this was not in fact an emergency, but just the way their airport functioned. The people screaming all wore matching outfits and gestured wildly toward different runways. They held signs in languages I didn’t know and the sounds their lips formed were all foreign to me.
I wasn’t even inside the building but I could smell the effects of an un-ventilated space in 90 degree weather. It was a heat unfamiliar to me. A heat that bathed you then drained all energy from your pores and left only moisture in return. I was certain I had traveled so far that my new solar system was under a different sun.
“Do you speak English?” I found myself saying again to nobody in particular. This time a little louder but with no added confidence. It was lost in the sea of swirling voices.
“Mombasa!” a man with glowing teeth bellowed and pointed toward a dingy white plane in the distance. I looked back behind me at the steps I had just descended after a 17 hour flight and I longed for nothing more than to rush back up those stairs for a 17 hour trip back home. I had no choice. I stepped toward the plain as the propellers launched into motion and I hoped through tight fists and a clenched jaw that I hadn’t made an enormous mistake.