I don’t want my first post back in the states to be negative, but since my first few experiences back in the states were out of control negative and the culture shock was pretty, well, shocking, I figured I would share.
Ethiopia is an exceptional country. The poverty is abundant, the resources rare and everything in day to day life takes twice as long as it does here. But the people? The people are kind, generous and humble. No one complains that they have to take three taxi’s into work. No one complains that there are 20 people shoved into a minibus made for 12. No one talks about the traffic jams, the sporadic electricity, or the dirty, potholed sidewalks. People don’t even blink and eye when they have to stop in the middle of a highway for a herd of goats or cattle to crass.
So picture, if you will, a large airplane, with about 500 people on it, that sat on the runway for 90 minutes before it started it’s 12 hour flight across the ocean. When we finally land in Chicago, we are over a hour late and anyone making a connecting flight will most likely have to hurry. So all 500 of us are trying to get our luggage and squeeze down two slim isles to merge onto the ramp to get into the airport. Then, one American man, I would say about 30 years old yells on the top of his lungs : “COME ON!!!!! HURRY UP PEOPLE!!!! PEOPLE HAVE FLIGHTS TO CATCH!” Followed by a few swear words.
Everyone looks back at him in shock. Someone says back, “We all have flights to catch buddy, but it takes time to get off the airplane.” As we all make our way to customs, he goes sprinting by everyone, he makes it trough customs and by the time we got through the luggage was just arriving. So there was some poetic justice that despite his rudeness and rushing, we all ended up at the same place at the same time. Not sure if he made his flight. We did not, but we got home, our luggage made it and we did not have to yell, push, shove or offend.
The second incident happened at the Grand Rapids airport. Since we missed our Chicago connection we had to do a lot of running around to get on another flight. We finally got one and had 1 hour to get our luggage checked, take a tram to the other side of the airport, go through security, walk about a 1/2 mile to our gate and get our tickets issued. When we dropped our luggage the attendant said, I will do my best, but it might not make it. “No problem!” We all said, we were just thrilled to be able to make it home.
When we got to Grand Rapids, we waited by the luggage carousel looking for our luggage (and watched a man propose to his girlfriend with a huge line of people wearing tee shirts that spelled out “Will you marry me?” It was pretty cool). The luggage was not there so we went to the counter to fill our claim. The man in front of us (wearing a T-shirt that said “trophy husband” was screaming at the attendant. His luggage did not make it and he was livid. He was yelling and rude and insulting to the poor woman who was just doing her job.
So as he continued to yell and insult, the four of us filled out our forms and were extra polite and sweet to the woman thanking her profusely for all of her help.” And guess what? Our luggage arrived at our homes safe and sound less than 12 hours later.
I know I am that person sometime. And I am glad I can be reminded about how ugly this attitude looks and also how contagious positive attitudes can be.