I prefer avoid international incidents when I travel. However, on a previous trip to Africa the New York City Police surrounded our plane at JFK because of passengers behaving badly. I was not guilty. The plane to Ghana was delayed for a day and a half waiting for a mechanical problem to be fixed. Travelers get surly after a day and borderline psychotic after a day and a half. We finally loaded on the plane only to have a near-riot break out because they changed the flight plan. A melee ensued and, even though I wanted off the plane, they wouldn’t let me.
Then New York City’s finest came barreling onto the tarmac with lights and sirens surrounding the plane. Once they boarded, the crowd suddenly grew still. They unloaded us and I jumped the next flight back to Kansas. I went back to Ghana later.
This flight to Africa was less eventful and I arrived in Kilimanjaro Airport at 11:30 at night. If you ever travel to Africa, throw your watch away as soon as you land and give yourself with direct IV of patience because no one pays attention to time. In the U.S., I am Mr. Always-A-Few-Minutes-Early. My Dad taught me that if you’re not 20 minutes early, you’re late. I played a trick on myself and married Mrs. I’m-Running-A-Bit-Late. I could very easily helped Brad Paisley write the song, “Waiting on a Woman.”
In Africa, if you’re supposed to leave at 9, you’ll do good to be on the road by 10. If the meeting starts at 8, you’ll be just fine if you show up at 9. I have experienced this in Africa, Central and South America, and have surmised that the main reason they run late is because their busy talking to someone else. Ergo, they value relationship more than productivity. That is so un-American.
Sure enough, as soon as I landed, I was given the opportunity for my patience to be tested. The hole-in-the-wall airport out in the middle of nowhere had one person at a window providing visas. Only one person processed the 300 passengers that debarked. Moo.
Being married to Mrs. I’m Running-A-Bit-Late has taught me how to adjust to a culture with different expectations. When you love someone, you adjust. If I think of Africa as a woman I love, then it helps me to:
- Anticipate in advance that delays are just a part of the package
- Remember that “love is patient and is kind” not “grouchy and obstinate”
- Realize I might not get done every thing I planned to do – that actually helps reframe my priorities
- Be prepared to occupy the waiting time with productive or enjoyable activities – I’m like a little kid; give me a coloring book and I’ll be happy
- Put relationships before agendas
I’ve learned, with my wife, that if I’ll adjust to her instead of demanding she adjust to me, it pays off handsomely. Surprisingly, we find compromise and adjust to each other. Amazing what a little respect can do.
Well, I have to go. The truck is loading up and I’d hate to be late.
And, just in case, I have my coloring book with me.
Here’s a few photos on the trip: