Frustrations and Gifts

I’m frustrated.

My flight was cancelled this morning. I’ve wasted a day. And now I’m sitting here in a completely drenched airport watching people scooping the water out. Feeling really frustrated. Somewhere inside of me a real sense of arrogance has arisen.

“This isn’t good enough”

“I expect more than this”

“If only they would use their brains”.

It’s embarrassing.

I watched staff at the check-in area grab everything from their desks and head to the nearest corridor for protection from the rain. I simultaneously watched my bag head out the back door – Lord knows if i’ll ever see that again.

Its after days like today that the novelty of travelling wears off. I forget that I’m supposed to be compassionate and all I keep thinking is “this wouldn’t happen in England.” (forgetting of course my numerous cancelled flights around Europe recently!!) But seriously, who builds an airport with open walls in a place that has consistent rainy seasons?? So I’m annoyed. And I shouldn’t be. But I am. Because things haven’t gone my way and I’ve been put out.

Its like a battle in my mind. The frustration that things here just don’t operate very efficiently (and I’m not just talking about the airports. You make plans, they fall apart. You have an agenda? Forget it.) and then the real question of “why am I so annoyed by this? Why does a little disruption annoy me so much?”

I’m trying to work out if my frustration is justified or if I should just shut up, sit down and not cling so tightly to my expectations of what is acceptable and what isn’t. We are after all, far too wedded to the way of life we are used to and would do well to ease up a bit and get some perspective.

I’ve travelled Africa for years now, but this is the first time I’ve had a real agenda and things I really needed to achieve before I leave – that’s why I care more on this trip than I have in the past about things not going to plan. Usually I’m more laid back…I think. I hope.

So I’m sitting here and it’s still raining – no, pouring. I can hear the thunder, I can see the lightning. Its close by. I’m wondering if anyone has thought through whether or not they should cancel the flight in this weather. I figure if they do they’ll tell us a few minutes before we’re due to leave.

Seriously, would you check out my bad attitude?! I really am embarrassed. But I’ll write it anyway.

– – –

So, I arrive in Kigali. They forgot to pick me up. They also forgot to arrange for somewhere to stay. They also didn’t notify the people I was supposed to meet with today that I wouldn’t be able to come because my flight was cancelled. Great.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to get my head around which is better: a society that is so productive and efficient it has no time for each other, or a society that gives so much time to each other it it isn’t very productive or efficient. I really don’t know. I suppose somewhere in the middle is preferable. I’ve seen people turn up 2 or 3 hours late to an appointment simply because they met some people they wanted to to talk to on the way. I have seen people with no time for others because what they need to do is more important.

It’s interesting observing people here; the time they take to engage with each other and greet each other, the way they ask how you are and actually mean it. They are people people. But how much gets done?

I was tempted to delve into the complex issue of African work ethics and productivity, but the truth is I am far too ignorant and would speak foolishly and naively. So I should leave it there.

I will however leave you with one other gem today…

Below is a picture, which was given to me by a lady in one of the groups as a thank you for visiting them. It’s about A3 size and mounted on wood (suffice to say I will not be bringing it back with me as much as I cherish the gesture).

Martini glass + Magic wand = Dove/Peace.

Well ok then. :)

So maybe it is the generosity of others and the love and kindness they show that I should focus on and think about. For all the frustrations I feel when I’m in Africa, there is something far more real that I experience here and something far more valuable that I treasure. It is the warmth, the welcome, the care and the time that they give so freely. Its their sense of community. Its something we could learn from.

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