Monday, November 12, 2012

Not going to Africa: Making the decision

I have never been good at making decisions, but I generally go with my gut. Just this Friday I was all packed and ready to take a trip with my charity, a trip I had been looking forward to for more than six months, when I was faced with a decision...

You see, I was supposed to go to Africa to work in the field with Right To Play. The last time I visited Rwanda was 1996, and the country I saw was in the ruins of war and despair.  I was so excited to see how this beautiful country had put itself back together, and to learn about the the role our Right To Play programs were playing as part in its development.  But nothing went right. I spent the night before my flight comforting my son, who was up with a stomach bug. And while I felt bad for him, I was also relieved he got sick while I was home and not at some point during the next few days because I wouldn't have been there, and I would have felt awful.  For my first two trips to Africa with RTP, I wasn't married and I didn't have kids, so it's a whole different emotional ball game now.

The next hurdle was the weather. Over night the weather turned, and was snowing heavily for my departure. Not necessarily dumping, but definitely Salt Lake's first real snow accumulation of the season. And that's when I first got the feeling that this travel schedule of mine was not going to run smoothly. But I said goodbye, all be it through tears, when my husband and son dropped me off at the airport. (I made them drive away while I stood and waved until I couldn't see them anymore.) Then I tried to be proactive.  I asked if I could start looking for alternative flight plans, but everyone assured me I would be ok, that "No plans are delayed yet." And there it was, that feeling again.  You know the one, it's the same one you get as soon as a commentator says, "He hasn't missed a field goal this season inside 40 yards."  But we were, in fact,  early boarding and pushing back from the gate so I chalked it up to nerves. Then the deicer issues began, and tick-tock….after almost 2 hours delayed...we finally took off.  My plane pulled into the Seattle gate as my Amsterdam flight was pushing back.  And that was it.  That was my only way to Africa Friday and it was only 1:48pm PT.  It was completely out of my hands.  

To make matters worse, I wasn't feeling well and was super worried about getting really sick on either of my two remaining 10 hour flights. So the decisions started to pile up. Do I stay over night in the airport or at a close hotel and take the 1:20pm flight tomorrow, getting me into Africa on Nov 11th at 8pm?  I could get on the first leg of my flight, but the KLM leg (my second 10 hour connection) would have to settled at the counter in Amsterdam, and with the way this trip was going, THAT was unsettling.  To top it off, due to the whole day delay, my 4 days on the ground had turned into just 2.5 days.  I wanted to go so badly, wanted to see those kids in Kigali and Kuvoa, but when is too much, too much? And that's where my wise husband brought me back to my own reality.  I love my charity and wanted to be there to support their efforts and be a part of it all, but my main happiness is my family. And 48 hours of flying wasn't worth getting only 60 hours on the ground if it meant my health. My one girlfriend put it best when she said, "I know you must be so disappointed, but it looks like the stars weren't aligned for this trip." And they weren't so my heart still aches a bit.  But I know the amazing Athlete Ambassadors making the trip -- Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly), Heather Petri (@PeteIsAGirl ) and Natalie Coughlin (@NatalieCoughlin) -- will soak up every second of their journey and pour it into my waiting heart when they get back. 

In the meantime, I will consider these 5 unexpected days at home as a gift.  I will snuggle when asked, cheer at every event that I would have missed, and trust that that is exactly what Right To Play is doing for so many kids around the world. Until next time Africa. 


  1. Summer, you did the right thing - you followed your heart. God knows you mean well, that you are a kind soul, he created you that way. The charities and the kids will be there. They thank you, I thank you for what you do... you inspire me.