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Aug 8th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Last Day / Returning Home (Day 10)

Baggage call time:  8am.  I woke up this morning to a list of to-dos from my business partner/team manager for the 50th.  Stuff they needed me to do before I went incommunicado.  Good thing I packed last night!  Before I knew it, the butler was at my door to collect my luggage (I am so loving this butler thing!)  and I was completely not ready.  Fortunately, he was patient — I’m sure he’d seen my kind before — so he stood there while I threw the last few items in the suitcase.

Took a long look around my lovely suite.  And you know I collected all the little soaps and toiletries and threw those in my bag.  I didn’t take the big bottles of lotion and soap — I thought that would be more than slightly tacky.  But you know I wanted to!  This is defintely a place I want to come back to …

Last delegation breakfast … what a spread … everything you think you could want for breakfast.  Well, except for waffles.  And bacon.  Good conversation with my table mates about the trip, politics, and Africa.  I’m still processing my own thoughts about the trip so I didn’t make too many comments on that subject.  Plus I love and respect Bill Clinton and the work he is doing around the world, so be it far from me to have anything negative to say about any aspect of this trip.  Plus — I was a guest of the foundation (they paid for everything), so best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  Any comments I have I will share directly and privately with the staff.  But in public, this is THE VERY BEST TRIP I have even been on, and it absolutely could not have been better, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  She said with a smile, holding her cheerleader pompoms in her hands.  Cue cartwheels and marching band.

IMG_0390I am so ready to go home.  I don’t want to see another project.  but yep, there are two more to see.  First up, a visit to a Clinton Global Initiative project sponsored by Coca-Cola Company.  Coke made a CGI commitment to launch and lead a program called Five by Twenty (5×20).  The goal:  to support the creation of five million new women entrepreneurs by the year 2020.  Their support includes leadership training, business practices, marketing assistance, and discounted pricing on everything in the Coke supply chain (which includes, surprisingly, fruits and vegetables).  So far, they’ve enrolled 300,000 women in this program, with 230,000 of them being in Africa.

Some of the program participants were on hand to share their stories and tell us about their business.  All of them were older black African women, who’d begun their businesses later in life, but were determined to be successful.  It was very inspiring.

Then to stop 2:  A City Year project in Johannesburg.  I would love to tell you what the project was about, but I was on information overload and was simply couldn’t process anything else.  The highlight for me was chatting with a 10 year old named Diego.  He’s a soccer player and a big movie fan.  Well, one of my tripmates is married to Hugh Jackman (whom you may know as Wolverine from the X-Men movies), so she dialed her husband and put him on the phone with Diego.  It was a priceless moment.

IMG_0404Then as Dawn and I stood talking to Diego, we asked him if he’d ever met President Clinton.  He said no.  We said, that’s him over there.  Diego:  where?  Us:  Over there, the guy with the white hair.  Diego:  The white man?  Us:  yes.  Diego:  A white man is president?  Us:  yes, he was president.  Diego (with look of confusion):  A white man can be president?  Another priceless moment.  It occurred to me that in his lifetime, Diego had only ever known black South African presidents;  he’d never lived under apartheid.  And the only US president he knows is Barack Obama.  So in his ten-year-old experience, asking whether a white man could be president was a very legitimate question.

Next and final stop:  SHOPPING!  Oh yes, Bill Clinton was not leaving without doing some shopping.  And I was completely on that program.  He took us to his favorite store:  Amatuli in Johnannesburg.  It was a shoppers delight.  Normally a wholesale place, they opened their doors  — three floors of stuff — to Clinton and his guests.  They made serious money today.  I did some damage myself, and bought more than I normally would — after all, somebody else was going to be handling the luggage.  More than a few of us walked away with big boxes, all of which would eventually be loaded into the belly of our plane.

We left Amatuli and headed for the airport.  The first indication that our trip was coming to an end:  no police escort.  The traffic was terrible and it took nearly an hour to get to our destination.  But it’s not over yet … no customs, no bag check.  We were led right onto the tarmac, where our carry-on bags were waiting planeside.  Boarded the plane, found a seat — there are only twenty of us on this 737, so we actually have whole rows to ourselves.  Coming over, I was assigned a first class seat, but I skipped that for the return, opting for the whole row so I could lay out flat.

Staff handed us back our passports, which we hadn’t seen since Malawi;  they were full of the stamps from all the countries we’d visited.  Lovely!  I settle into my row, and get ready for the long flight home.  I reflect briefly  and give thanks to my God for allowing me this unexpected and indescribable opportunity, for the new friends I’ve met, for all that I’ve seen and learned, and for traveling mercies as I head home.