It seems like every hour, the news changes from bad to worse to better to even worse. Thursday morning, I am told that flights have resumed. Then, I hear that only domestic airlines are allowed to fly. British Airways says they will fly an extra plane in. Then, they decide it’s too risky. We are looking into flights from Entembe, Uganda, a 12-hour bus ride or a $167 charter plane ride away from Nairobi. We think about Tanzania or Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya with a heavy Muslim presence.
After JD trips over a statue and shows me his wounded knee, I joke that only a serious injury will get us evacuated. So, I offer to push him from the balcony so that our medical evacuation insurance will kick in and get us a ride home.
We are all heavy-hearted and upset not to be returning to our families. To pass the time, we rest from our week of hard labor, use the state-of-the-art gym, sip tea in the atrium or visit the gift shop. Thank goodness there is Internet connection here. I spend my day communicating with those at home and with staff in Atlanta, trying to find a way out of Kenya.
At the end of the day, there is still no hopeful news. Robert and Noreen come to the hotel to brief us on the situation and deliver what little encouragement they can. Robert spends the evening with us, sharing his life and stories over dinner. My spirits are lifted by this man, this executive who has dropped everything to help us. He is our advocate to British Airways, staying in constant communication with several agents around the clock. He has even authorized Habitat Kenya to pay for us to stay at the Boma for as long as it takes.
Meanwhile, back at home, there is still a media frenzy surrounding our story. Our photos are flashed all over the television. And hundreds of people are praying for our return. At once point, Lizz writes an e-mail to Ellen DeGeneres, hoping she can provide us a plane ride home.
Before dinner on Friday, after another day of waiting with no news, there is a spark of hope. Rose calls from Atlanta to say that British Airways will put us all on different airlines – Kenya Air, KLM, Quatar, Emirates – in smaller groups and at their expense. I tell her to go for it, to put us on the first flights out. She also mentions that our group of seven has been made the top priority. I don’t know how much arm-twisting Robert did to convince them, but I am immensely thankful he is on our side.
Then, moments later, the news we’ve been waiting for. Eldon – our travel agent at home – has booked us all on a Kenyan Airways flight leaving on Sunday night.
We get to go home!