I was about 5 when we got on the plane to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. I had flown before but I was a baby then so to me this was the first time I had been in a plane. We got a few planes, but the last one to Ouaga (as we ended up calling it) was a massive plane that seemed to just go on and on and on. People at the back of the plane were smoking, the air was hazy and dry.
We were flying during the day and at one point the scene below just turned red. We were flying over a dry place, with dark sunburnt earth, with dotted vegetation and small, occasional groupings of dwellings. I remember noticing how blue the sky was compared to the red earth and how it looked so vast, so daunting. It was a sign of things to come.
The flight was long, very long and we stopped off somewhere before finally arriving at Ouagadougou. It was dark outside, so I wasn’t able to see my new home but instead it hit me as I stepped out of the plane onto the stairs. The heat. It was night but the heat was incredible. I had never experienced heat like this, even when we lived in France or during the summer, the only comparison was the heat that gushed from the oven when my mum was cooking. My new home was like an oven. My parents had told me it would be warm but I wasn’t able to picture it or to imagine feeling it.
We walked across the runway unto the crowded terminal building. The building was small, nothing like the airports we had been through up until now. It was late and my memory of it was blurry other than I remember my dad acting like a shield for us as we collected our bags and made our way through the terminal to be greeted by some missionaries that were expecting us. My dad shielded us from all the people trying to help us with bags, asking us if we wanted a taxi and asking us for money. We were surrounded. I had been to busy events and meetings before, and church was pretty busy, but this was just something else! The people got very close, they spoke so loudly, they acted like we owed them something, like we had an obligation to accept their offer to help with bags and to give them money.
I do not remember meeting the people who were there to collect us, all I remember is being surrounded by unfamiliar faces and feeling quite scared. Everybody looked at us. Most approached. It wasn’t until a few days later that I found out this would be normal, this would be my life for a while, for the next four years I would be permanently different, permanently on show as one of “the missionaries”, permanently on show because of the colour of my skin and permanently in an oven of heat.
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