By Melissa Chea-Annan
It was a wet day on Monday, June 11, 2012 when I received a call from the Public Affairs Department of the United States Embassy in Monrovia. I was requested to report to the Embassy immediately since it was urgent. Though I was busy doing some work at my office, I had no choice, but to pause my work and report to the Embassy.
Upon my arrival at the Embassy, I was briefed by the Public Affairs boss, Dehab Gabreab on what to expect during my study tour. She handed over to me a ‘special package’ that contained my social security number, health insurance, and a booklet for the entire program. Though I didn’t show it to her, deep down within me; I was more than excited; I just couldn’t stop praising God for that glorious opportunity.
By then, I was a bit worried because with just two days to departure, the time was so short and it was impossible to share the news with all of my good friends. Though I didn’t know the time of my departure, I had earlier informed my boss, Mr. Philip N. Wesseh, my Pastor, Rev. Edwin A. Gbelly as well as my Choir Coordinator, Mrs. Ruth N. W. kwabo and my president, Peter Quaqua of the Press Union of Liberia, that I had a program that was pending.
Since I couldn’t give them the exact date of my departure, the fact that I didn’t know; my pastor called me during the worship service on June 10, 2012 and offered a word of prayer for me. He informed the church that I would be leaving the country any moment. I am sure it was that prayer that provoked God, because I was called to the Embassy the very next day for briefing. Thank God for my Pastor!
After my briefing, I extended thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Government, through the Embassy and then left. I returned to my office to inform my boss but he was out. I called his number, but it rang endlessly without any response. I thought on something else and it helped me a whole lot. I got on the computer and did a story on the program. I felt that the story would have reached out to all of my friends and to have them informed on my absence from the country. I went through the normal procedure by sending communications to all of my bosses, including the Inquirer, PUL, Female Journalist Association of Liberia and the First A.G Church. At least I was at ease.
Let me just pause and extend my apology to all of my friends for the abrupt manner in which I departed the country without having you informed. Let me also quickly say that my husband was with me through it all.
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, I departed the country onboard the SN Brussels Flight at about 5:30 p.m. It was a painful departure because I didn’t have the time to say goodbye to my kids who had left for school early that morning. Like the song writer says, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye,’ I left with a mindset that everything would be alright and that that journey was intended to shift my destiny.
That journey was one of the longest I had ever experienced in years. Thank God it was a smooth flight, but it was boring siting in one position for hours. The flight from Liberia to Brussels lasted for seven hours and we landed in Brussels at 7:00 a.m. We transited in Brussels for three hours and at 10:00 am, it was boarding time onboard the United Airlines for Philadelphia International Airport and it was just another tiring flight which lasted for seven hours.
That was just the beginning of my flight to California. After we landed in Philly, I had to continue my journey to California onboard the Delta Airline. The flight took off from Philadelphia to Chicago; I transited in Chicago for two hours and boarded the next Delta connecting Airline for Minnesota. At that time, I was really exhausted because the different airports that I had passed through were in no way compared to our ‘pitiful’ Roberts International Airport (RIA), where a passenger would take just 5 minutes to complete the entire boarding process. In fact, Liberia has just one boarding gate, which makes traveling deceitful. I am saying deceitful because if one is traveling for the first time from Liberia, such person wouldn’t understand that traveling is frustrating in advanced countries. Unlike Liberia that has one boarding gate, the airports that I passed through have several boarding gates ranging alphabetically (A-G) or more and not just A-G, it goes on to sessions like Gate A-1, A-15 and so forth before moving on to the next alphabet. One has to be careful to avoid missing a flight. Only those who have travelled outside Liberia would understand this aspect.
Being so exhausted from the long flight to Minnesota, I still had another trip to make before reaching my destination. I boarded the next connecting Delta Airline that was heading for Sacramento, California; my final destination.
This time I said to myself, it is time to sleep; the flights from Philadelphia to California should have been five hours, but there were too many transits which extended the hours, being so exhausted, I had no interest in counting the journey time anymore so, I politely put down my pen and notepad.
Dressed in blue jeans trousers, a red and white stripped T-shirt and a red and white pair of Nike sneakers, I boarded the Delta Airline, and took my assigned seat. I was feeling uncomfortable so, I took off my sneakers and put it in front or under my seat. The airline hostess went through the normal formalities of educating passengers on what and what not to do on the flight. I was not really paying any attention because I was used to hearing one thing over and over and my main focus was to reach my final destination.After the announcement, I dozed off to sleep and I was in wonderland. As a normal routine, the flight took off and the pilot added his voice by informing the passengers of the duration of the flight.
Hours later, the passenger seated next to me, touched me and said we had arrived in Sacramento, California.While on board that flight after we landed; there was one thing that drew my attention, something that I admired and cherished so much. Half of the passengers on board that flight were USA military personnel. Shortly after we landed, the air hostess gave special recognition to the soldiers and commended them for sacrificing their time and risking their lives to protect the country. She said the country was so proud of them and that they would always be cherished by the citizens. The rest of the passengers on board started clapping for the soldiers. I was also touched and so I clapped for them too with a hope that my country would do the same in the future, not on the flight or on Armed Forces Day but on a day that would be set aside to just honor our gallant men and women in the military.
When I unfastened my seat belt to get off the plane, something strange happened. I realized that my sneakers were not under or in front of my seat. I asked the air hostess about my sneakers and I was shocked by what that lady told me. Her response was “are you talking about that beautiful red and white pair of sneakers?” I said yes with the hope that she would have said here is it, but the answer was even more frustrating. She said “Oh My God! We thought it belonged to a passenger that had left it on the plane and so we sent it back to Minnesota before taking off.”
Can you imagine that answer? Her answer drew the attention of other passengers who came closer to me. How did I leave the airport and what became of my beautiful pair of sneakers is another story. Watch out for Part III.
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