Monday, May 9, 2016

“You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.” ― Mary Tyler Moore

Most of you know by now that my son John has Asperger’s Syndrome with a few other things but managed to graduate from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Computer Science and almost finished his Master’s degree in Geography but moved to Africa before he could finish his thesis.  One of the symptoms of Asperger’s is a real fear of change, of things not going the way they were supposed to go.  So, his recent trip to Dar Es Salaam put him under a lot of stress.  He has made this trip before which consists of flying from Musoma to Mwanza and then from Mwanza to Dar Es Salaam, a total trip of about four hours leaving Musoma at three in the afternoon and arriving in Dar Es Salaam around seven at night.  But not this last time.  When they got to the airport a week ago Saturday, their flight had been cancelled and the airline was providing a car to drive the passengers to Mwanza, a five hour drive.  The car turned out to be a dalla-dalla which is a nine-passenger minivan altered to handle seventeen people.  The dalla-dalla ride included two breakdowns, one for a flat tire and one for a bent axle, so they didn’t get to Mwanza in time for the flight.  The airline took them to a hotel, planning to fly them out the next morning, but as they were all sitting down to dinner and the food was arriving, a bus came to take them to the airport where a late plane flew them to Dar Es Salaam getting in at 1:20 A.M the following day.  Thus a four hour trip became a ten and half hour trip with a lot of strange things happening.  John was traveling with a friend, so it wasn’t as bad for him as it might have been.  Then, after working for a week making money to finance his rural solar projects, it was time to come home, which meant another four hour trip arriving back in Musoma around three in the afternoon.  When John got to the airport, alone this time—his friend had gone to another part of Tanzania—his flight had been canceled.  The airline finally decided to fly them late to Mwanza, put them up in a hotel on Saturday night and fly them to Musoma on Sunday morning.  That was the plan anyway.  So after waiting at the airport for hours, the airline said the hotels in Mwanza were all booked so they drove them all to the Blue Pearl hotel in Dar Es Salaam and promised them the regular flights the next day.  Since John didn’t have his friend to keep him calm, he called me about every thirty minutes to keep me up with what was happening—and I was happy he did and happy to help.  He was also calling Shaban as well.  Then Sunday morning came (yesterday) and he had to get up at four in the morning to make it to the airport by six.  This flight actually took off and made it to Mwanza by eight in the morning—nineteen hours later than scheduled.  However, once in Mwanza, the airline told them the flight to Musoma was cancelled and they would be riding a bus to Musoma.  John called us and Shaban and Shaban called the bus driver to have him let John off in Bunda, and he agreed.  So, around noon yesterday, John came walking in our door very haggard but happy to be home.  This time a four-hour trip had become a 23 hour trip with much waiting, changing plans on the fly, and unreliable information from the airline (that John says he will never fly again).  Next time, we will drive him to Mwanza to fly on FastJet (the other airline was propeller planes), a one hour flight.  So, a two-hour drive in our car and then a one hour flight.  Much better.  To hear John tell of his travels reminds me of the Steve Martin/John Candy movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”—quite a challenge for a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome, but he made it home happy, and so are we.  We thank God for our son and his ability to rise above his problems to help the poor.  We are proud of that boy.
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