I love airports, the gate area in particular. It holds a certain oxymoronic feel: ‘resigned anticipation’ or ‘serene excitement’. It is as though the air is filled with the prospect of upcoming experiences, of adventures, or perhaps the joy of reunification, and at the same time, the hard uncomfortable rows of chairs draw me in and instil within me a sense of submissive longanimity, as if one could wait endlessly.
This oxymoronic sense seems in my experience confined to airports. Other transition rooms generally seem to produce a thorough sense of impatience. The entrance room of our house, for instance, where either we as parents fret and urge and coax and beseech the kids (who often seem to develop an unfathomable slowness in this particular room) in order to get them out the door in time (whether it be for school or football practice or visiting grandparents). Alternatively, it is them, the kids, who impatiently trot about in the small room, like racehorses in their boxes eager to be let loose, waiting for us to get ready to leave, and gallop away the instant the door is opened. But not in the gate at the airports. Here they surrender to the waiting despite the obvious excitement and anticipation. And wait we did in airports as eventless and dull as Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam.
Finally, after 26 hours of travel, stepping out onto the runway tarmac at Pemba, Mozambique, as dusk was falling, we were greeted by a warm breeze carrying the smell of saltwater. The first leg of our trip had commenced.