Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“Welcome Home!”

I love those two little words.  Any time I am travelling overseas that is what I look forward to hearing when I return.  I’ve looked forward to hearing those two words for the past twelve months.  Last week I flew back to Washington, D.C. where I heard those two little words from Officer Baker at Passport Control.  I practically jumped over the desk and hugged him.  That is my favorite part about coming home, hearing the Passport Control Officer tell me, “Welcome Home!”

Let me back track a little bit about my trip.  The flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt was horrific, dreadful, abysmal, practically the worst plane ride of my life.  I will NEVER, and I mean NEVER fly Lufthansa EVER again.  First of all, there was no good entertainment- the movies were horrible.  Case in point: On a 12 hour flight you would expect there to be at least one recent (as in filmed sometime in the past decade) movie.  Nope, not one.  I watched the pilot episode of 90210.  I was 10 when that was first aired- no really, I looked it up to be sure.  And the food was equally disappointing.  Bad food + bad movies= unhappy Kelly.

In Frankfurt I was fortunate enough to locate free wifi so I Skyped with my friend Shaun (a TTU alum) who, upon hearing my dilemma about the bad onboard entertainment, recommended several new Bravo TV shows for me to gorge myself on.  And yes, in the last five days since I’ve been back I have watched all Ladies of London and Real Housewives of the OC episodes in the current season.

As I was sitting at my gate in Frankfurt waiting for my flight to board I noticed two things, well, three things: 1. There are so many WHITE PEOPLE HERE!, 2. Wow, so many tattoos.  I haven’t seen any of those in… forever.  Twelve months to be exact. And 3. Why is everyone cursing?  There are other, more creative words you could use to get your point across.  Let me get you a thesaurus or maybe just a dictionary.

The three observations from the Frankfurt airport did come as a shock to me because all three have been largely absent from my life in Africa.  I know I’ve mentioned before that there have been many times where I haven’t seen any other white people for days or even weeks on end.  I have to admit that I’m perfectly fine with that because it does give me a better appreciation for what it must be like to be a minority.  But the other two observations (the tattoos and the cursing) were both subconsciously missing while I was in Africa and I didn’t realize it until I experienced them again for the first time.

First of all, the tattoos.  People in Africa do not get tattoos (or piercings for that matter). At least, not the kind of tattoos and piercings in what we consider the traditional sense.  Many African tribes practice scarification where they actually cut individuals with a small razor blade in order to draw blood, resulting in a scar.  Scarification may be done to celebrate a military victory, coming of age or marriage, among many other things.  Scarification is practiced most frequently in rural areas in West Africa and Ethiopia.  In case you are unsure what I am talking about here are a few pictures:

Same thing goes for piercings.  In the U.S. the most common piercings are likely the ears, with nose and navel also relatively common.  In Africa you seldom if ever see a professional man, or any urban male with a piercing.  Women often have their ears pierced, but not multiple holes like in the U.S.  However, many of the tribes use piercings to signal social status or tribal affiliation.  Here is a Mursi woman from Ethiopia with large holes in her earlobes and lips:
With regard to my third observation, cursing, that was something I learned about quickly when I was in Africa.  And I have to say that is one lesson I wish I could teach my American students.  None of my students would ever dream of using foul language in front of me or directed towards me because they wouldn’t want to suffer the consequences.  But it isn’t uncommon for me to round a corner of one of the buildings on campus back home and hear someone exclaim, “G* D* Son of a B*! This is horsesh*t! Who the F* does that Mother F*er think he is?!... Blah, Blah, Blah,” you get the picture.  In Africa that is absolutely unacceptable.  If you are caught cursing you will likely be reported to the police constable and taken to jail.  NO JOKE!

The 10 hour Frankfurt to DC flight was equally dreadful, but at least at the end of the ride there were two positives:  1. I got to watch the “Welcome to America” video over and over again about 20 times while waiting in line at Passport Control.  After about the 10th time of watching the video I realized why it seemed vaguely familiar: The soundtrack to the video was the same song used at the (Walt Disney World) EPCOT Center Illuminations/Fireworks show.  This meant two of my favorite things: Disney and America; had teamed up to welcome me home.  Now if only Disney and America could team up and start offering Fastpasses at Passport Control I would REALLY be in love. And 2. Officer Baker said those two magic words to me, “Welcome Home!”

P.S.- My luggage made it!  I think the curse has been lifted (knock on wood).


  1. WDW-here we come!!!!!

  2. Welcome home Kelly! I can't wait to catch up in person in Lubbock!

  3. Thanks Bryce! See you in a few weeks.