I have traveled quite a bit within this past two years, and after stopping and passing through so many airports, you can’t help, but begin to notice these places that seem transient to your travels, but yet, carries such significance!
You carry with you the impression of the airport, as your first impression of the country, whether you are passing through or stopping and nothing wipes away that very first impression.
Airports actually say a lot about the people that live in the country. Is it a small or big country? Do they have a rich culture or not? Are they friendly? Corrupt? Progressive or retrogressive? Innovative? Rich or poor? Clean or Dirty?
I began to take notice, and realized, I could actually say I have visited a country even after just transiting through the airport! I there say, all travelers can say this.
I couldn’t help, but exclaim on my face book after stopping through Wisconsin that lo, it seems I had been wrong in this assumption though! – Beautiful airport, massive, high tech: only for me to enter the city and drive for miles without coming across any houses! The few were far between. Snowy and messy as it was though, it was clean. My friend and I stopped at their CV pharmacy; I bet it was more stocked than the whole of our mall in Ghana put together. Further down 3miles and coming across only a couple of houses, we enter the guest house my friend is staying at and boy oh boy – comfort, elegance and beauty at its best. The airport after all, did say a lot about its people. Hmmm…
South Africa gives me hope. There was a beautiful advert on one of their stations talking about the expectations of the visitors to the last world cup (a couple of years back). The advert featured ‘Hugh Masekela ’ saying ‘they came expecting lions in the streets!’ at the World Forum in Cape Town, ‘Archbishop Desmond Tutu’ jokingly said to the crowd ‘make sure you come here again soon and we will arrange a couple of lions in the streets!’
Whether the visitor visited Cape Town, Durban, just stopped in Joburg or whatever, one cannot fail to notice that this is truly a first class country, with a people that are determined to succeed. I carried that impression with me even unto the plane. The only planes I’ve sat on that parallels theirs is a couple of Emirate Planes!
Contrary to this Icon of Africa, most African countries have dirty, smelly, shabbily decorated, stuffy, small, ill equipped (should I go on?) airports. The first thing that hits you is the heat, which we cannot do anything about, but then, the smell follows fast on its heels!(one French country in particular comes to mind!), That we can do something about! And then, the stuffiness as you enter – the other things follow in that order, and true to it, when you enter the various countries, the corruption that hits you from the airport and the disorganization follows you at even greater force.
My thoughts go deep. ‘Can one hide what is on the inside? Somehow, it always shows its ugly head on the outside, no matter how hard one tries. With our quest to change, should we start from the outside? From our first impressions, or should we go much deeper and change the inside of the people, and then maybe, our airports will change?
Our politicians, ‘alias taking joy in travels’ must notice the difference in airports! (Did I see our president at the Ghana/Brazil match? A penny for his thoughts has he entered the airport). For crying out loud, even the smallest airport in South Africa is bigger and nicer than our National or should I say ‘International’ airport. Surely guys!
To say for Ghana though, our officials are clean and they smell nice. I wonder to the heavens, their thoughts as they stood on football fields that were coming apart! Whose idea was it to put that makeshift football field at the airport? Interesting concept maybe, but if you must do it, do it well! With the tapes sticking up, the poor quality looking football carpet, is saying more to our visitors than we can