Dreary rains pour over me in a sea cluster of grey, black, and colorless shirts. Clicks of business shoe heels touch well-traveled floor granite and briefcases are flung around like global economic bibles near security checkpoints. 8 hours and 34 minutes after dipping deep into Kigali’s night sky, we have arrived in Belgium.
Exiting my sparsely populated plane (I was blessed to have a solo row for the long journey), I see a family of 6 – presumably refugees. I have an eye for that kind of thing; it touches a deep corner of my heart, like a tiny pinch on your rib cage from your brother unexpectedly. In this colorless plot of the world, I sense their wonder. Bewilderment. The grandmother, in blue sneakers and a beige scarf, limps along with an untied shoe. She doesn’t speak Kinyarwanda as I had thought; a thick French utterance leaves her lips; she is likely from Congo. Her fabric tells enough of her story to assume as much. I watch and pray as they receive a special UN Belgium escort. Bye. I think about the kind of transition they are going through – from Africa, to who knows where, and I wonder what lies ahead for them. I sigh, and continue my walk through Belgium’s airport at the ungodly hour of 5:34 am.
This is a weird world you enter – airports.
A bit dazed myself, I carry my orange African fabric bag and slowly look around. Belgium Indie tunes resonate the stale hallways – I have over 6 hours to kill while in the density of my travels home. Coffee. It seems like a logical place to start.
As it always does in a multitude of the world’s travel caves, corners, and transit areas, I see a Starbucks. As I meander closer, I have a moment of Aha; when I left Rwanda two years ago, upon completing my Peace Corps service, I had visited this very Starbucks. I imagine, though I am a completely different woman these days, I ordered my usual drink: a grande Americano. Hold the sugar. Hold the milk. I like it black.
When I passed through here in that season, I was resigned to the fact that I didn’t think I would see Rwanda again. That’s funny. And a good reminder – we think we know what we are doing. God always has these incredible plans stored up. We have no clue. Live into life. I am consistently reminded of this, it seems.
The sun has yet to rise and so I am aim for an onset of energy with a simultaneous burst of European sunshine. Two Pellegrino’s later, still no sun. That early equatorial razor-beam of a sun that I am used to may be a distant memory in this overwhelming dreariness. It certainly doesn’t get any more illusionary when I dig into the most recent reports of Belgium craziness; the entire city, shut down! Searching for terrorists! My, oh my.
I shake my head as a young Belgian fellow fills in the gaps; a man-hunt is on, and so the city is up in a tizzy. I’m grateful to be inside, I suppose, but flabbergasted that frankly, this crap, keeps happening. Such is the world.
I watch travelers rush by to drain my blankness and speechlessness; some are still and recluse in the morning’s quietness, while others are already off and blazing. We glide through these intermediary spaces so easily that it feels oh so defiant to time itself. An illusion. Or something.
Time moves exactly the same – whether we pretend to exist outside of it here in places like planes, airports, and waiting rooms. You could be chasing time zones as a persistent globetrotter – or, alternatively, you could be a time-grinder on the daily.
In the tensions of two worlds – none of which I can assure you are European, I feel lost for a bit; as if a giant pause button has been pressed and I am wading through a series of strange commercials. In these transient hours, I am full of memories of what is behind and before me. I am just a random girl, at a random café, in a random city, on this random day.
Or am I?
Nothing is really that arbitrary, I have learned. That’s what traveling, culture, and people have taught me. That’s what God has shown me. So, even in strange existences of time, I will keep the coffee flowing, my eyes peeled, pushing through tensions of time, past, present, and future. Our feet travel exactly to where we need to go. Let them.
Plus, let’s be real. Airports are great for people-watching.
Just hours later, as I prepared for boarding, it would be me that was questioned for suspicious behavior – namely about my bag. In my 6 hour lay-over, I occupied part of that time by emptying, reorganizing, and repacking my large duffle. Oops. Probably not the best idea. I think that I’m the observant one, when really, as it turns out, there are those watching me. What, what, is this place that we live in? One can never be sure.