After a day and half of flight delays, airplane cuisine and brushing my teeth in public restrooms, I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at 3:30am. After making my way through the congestion of the visa and customs line, I exited the airport expecting to be greeted by the program coordinator. Given the early hour of the morning, there were very few people outside. I looked across the row of taxi drivers that held signs with the name of their expected passenger, none of which had my name. Surely I was mistaken, there must be someone here to get me, I thought. After carefully examining each driver’s sign it hit me – there was no one present to pick me up. I have ever felt that alone in my life. Here I am, stranded in the airport of a foreign country, with no phone or internet service, no address of where I will be staying and no phone number for the person that was scheduled to pick me up. Yikes!
As I stood outside, brainstorming solutions with taxi-drivers and the luggage assistant, my thoughts were diverted by the buzz of mosquitoes. Remembering I had not begun taking my malaria-preventative medicine as prescribed, I knew the longer I stood outside, the more I was increasing my exposure to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Thankfully, the luggage assistant helped me to convince the airport staff to allow me to wait inside. I waited inside for an hour before remembering I had the phone number for Mama Mbogo, my host mother from 2011. Although I did plan on seeing her during my trip, I did not plan on having to use her in the case of an emergency. But Thank God I kept in touch with her as she proved to be my only line of hope. The luggage assistant allowed me to use his cell phone, she answered, and I secured a place to go. During the taxi ride to Mama Mbogo’s home, I laughed to myself thinking about how differently the situation could have played out if I did not have her. I did not know why Ben, the program coordinator, had not come for me, but I was glad that it happened to me and not the other Americans that had never before been to Tanzania. In moments such as this, I am very grateful for my awkward sense of humor. At no point was I afraid, I was undeniably alone but I somehow knew everything would be fine.