Yup – I guess that's one of the gifts of age: having a better grip on the owner's manual of that mysterious device called "your body". Curled up as best I could in the dim seclusion of 12A, head balanced on the pads of my knapsack to prop it up above tray-level. Closed my eyes and let my mind drift away to the rhythm of irregular seatback concussions as the guy ahead of me loudly lost a game of inflight trivia. My neck may never be the same, but when I woke a few hours later, I was clearly on my way.
Atlanta layover was mercifully uneventful. Kim – I'll explain who Kim is in a minute – and I snuck into the Delta "Sky Lounge" to stock up on nibbles and free internet. Nibbles were pathetic – crackers, Nutella and a bowl of assorted olives – but the internet, power sockets and comfy chairs made it a good place to pass the time.
Kim is young philanthropist, economist and fellow traveler. Great traveler. Got to know her on our first trip to Liberia, and she was a constant ray of sunshine when the rest of us got cranky. You can probably pick her out of the picasaweb photos from that trip. She also got tapped by the Carter Center for an election monitoring slot, so we'll be traveling companions until we get sent to our respective posts. This is now her third trip, which makes her a bit of a veteran.
Part of what is remarkable about Liberia for me is what a small world it is. As I was settling into my seat for the second leg of this flight, I thought I recognized a voice ahead of me. It was Minister Gwenigale, the Liberian minister Health and Human Services. I think I wrote a bit about meeting him on our last trip (no, not *that* one – Gwenigale is an amazing guy; soft-spoken, genial and startlingly efficient. Rumor last time was that he was getting some grief from other ministers for being *too* efficient, and making them look bad. His response was one of wide-eyed innocence: "Hey, I'm just doing my job." You've gotta love Gwenigale).
I leaned over to introduce myself, just to say "hi" and he gave every gracious impression of having remembered me. I protested that I didn't want to interrupt too long and settled back to discover that my seatmate was the Liberian High Commissioner for Telecommunications. Climbing out eastbound over the darkened Atlantic sea coast, the possibilities for conversation are endless.