Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Next Chapter has Begun....

My journey back to the Africa Mercy was no easy task. As I prepared to leave, I had a bad feeling, but wouldn't let my mind feed into it. I knew something would go wrong, but I just hoped and prayed it'd be a quick journey and I could be back on my floating home as soon as humanly possible. Of course, something went wrong. Anyone who knows me well knows that 9/10 times, things go wrong for me. Fortunately, over the years, I've gotten used to it and normally just let it roll off my back, but it is still quite disheartening and frustrating when these things happen.

The day of my departure was a bit of a whirlwind. My dad and I went to the first service at church, then went out to eat. The first restaurant we went to was packed out and would be an hour wait. The second place was a 25 minute wait- and we were doing fine on time, so we decided to wait. We realized that the restaurants were probably so packed out because the people who normally go out to eat later in the day were coming earlier because the big Ravens game was in the afternoon. It was worth the wait for my last dose of fantastic french toast and eggs overeasy(I dont risk making those on board due to unknown sources of our eggs). It was delicious, but made me nauseous....later I realized that was my nerves talking... and boy were they right for acting up.

After a few minutes at home and throwing things out of my bag because it was too heavy, I said my goodbyes to Jordan and my dad, which to say the least were heartbreaking. Jordan right before I left said, “Where are you going? PLEASE don't go!!” I was fine until that moment.... I held it together and walked out the door. I asked to drive in hopes it'd calm me a bit and keep my mind off of all I was leaving behind. It worked for the moment.

We missed the turn to the parking lot, so my mom dropped me off at the door to my terminal. It was probably better that way. I knew I'd see my mom in a few short weeks- she was the easiest goodbye because she is the only person I knew I'd see within a month of my departure.

I got to my check-in counter and the more I stood there, the more the tears welled up. Thankfully, my beautiful friend Noel was at the gate waiting for me, so I had SOMETHNG to look forward to. My bags ended up weighing in at 50.0lbs and 46.0 lbs... I was soooo happy I just made the weight and I was thankful my attendent at the check in(which is all electronic now minus a few helpers... strange...) was so fantastic to me and loved hearing about where I was going and all of that... he calmed me a bit.

Dulles is a really cool airport.... its huge but cool... I had to take a TRAIN to get to my destination.... crazyyy!! I soaked in what I thought would be my last few American minutes and basked in the beauty of the airport. I finally got to the gate, where I met Noel and got a super huge hug. We traveled home together, and traveled back to the ship together. It was nice to know I had a friend waiting for me:) I was feeling a little hungry by this time, so we went to a cute little restaurant that happened to have space for 2, ate clam po-boys(oh my goodness was it good!) and watched the Ravens game before we had to board our plane.

Finally, our plane was boarding, so we got on and I was really excited about it. It was nice and spaceous, lots of leg room, I was on the aisle so I didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone, we had personal screens that were controlled by us- so I could watch what I wanted when I wanted to... it was great! They even had an episode from where I left off in Dexter, so of course I had to watch that! We taxied, and made it to the runway... and then we sat... and sat... and sat.... I started realizing something was really wrong.... why else would we be sitting there that long?

Not too long after these thoughts rolled in my head, the captain came on and announced that a part of the system that controls the cooling of the engine failed and that we needed to go get it looked at back at our gate. When we got there, he announced we needed to get off the plane to ensure our saftey and they'd let us know by 10pm what was going on... at this point it was about 7:00- an hour and a bit after our departure was supposed to take place.. So... we got off.

We ended up meeting a few ladies who were headed the ship as well, which was great. Looking back, if we hadn't met them and if I was alone, I think the day would've been pretty much unbearable and I would've wanted to go home as soon as I could.

A little while later, we heard an announcement saying if we were going to Togo on flight 251, we'd miss our connection, and to go to Customer Service.... so... we did. We waited quite a while in line. When we finally got to the front, one of the workers realized we weren't in the right line, we needed to get back to our gate- the Togo flight they were talking about wasn't ours and we were going to miss our flight if we didn't run. I dont know how all of this happened... and it was all quite absurd... but it did.... so we booked it back to our gate. We were one of the only African flights allowed to board, as most others would miss their connections... and later everyone did. It was neat meeting people from all over Africa though- people headed to Cameroon and a group of missionaries from PA headed to Sierra Leone- first to Freetown to get materials then to Makeni... funny how small the world can get in one flight.

Some of us had to get new boarding passes, others of us ended up in the same seats. Thankfully Noel and I were still seated together. Now, this plane was NOT as nice... it honestly felt like a retired plane they were going to send out just for us.... the seats were UNCOMFORTABLY close together, still had a screen of my own, but it wasn't controlled by me, and when the person in front of me layed down, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even stand up to go to the restroom. When I had to, I asked the man next to me(I was no longer on the aisle) to move, and I had to shimmy along hoping I didn't smack the seats of those in front of me.

We taxied on this plane, and got to the take-off zone, when the same captain comes back on. His exact words were, “And Our adventure continues...” . Not what you want to hear... everyone started laughing HYSTERICALLY... It was either that or sob... He said our hydraulic system had failed, which controlled our landing gear and lots of our general flight gear and he would not take off without this gear working... thank God we had a great captain... So we went back to our gate. This time they were able to fix it without us getting off of the plane, thankfully. After about an hour, we finally were able to take off after they de-iced our plane and we were off.

At this point, we would have about 40 minutes to get to our connection... it was possible. I was STARVING by now... I've very much learned the lesson of ALWAYS bringing some kind of snacks... oh BOY did I learn that. Thankfully they got our food to us fairly quickly after take off. I dozed on and off the whole flight, never really getting much sleep since I was so uncomfortable the whole time. As we got closer and closer, I guess we were going against the jet stream, because I saw the time of arrival getting higher and higher on my little map, until it exceeded our time limit. I talked with some of the girls from our flight, and they wanted their bags, but me and Noel didn't care- we had stuff on board. If it came down to it, I think ½ of us would've stayed in Brussels and ½ would've gone on if it meant we could get on our Togo flight.... unfortunately we had no choice in the matter.

By the time we landed and taxied, we had missed our connection by 15 minutes. Thankfully United did SOMETHING right that day... well sort of... by pre- printing our boarding passes for our next leg of the race. However, this is where things got REALLY interesting... 5 of the 6 of us got a pass to go to Addis Ababa then to Togo, all in all about 14 hours of flying left. 1 girl's pass sent her to Dakar over night alone to get a hotel and fly out the next day.... we didn't like that plan, so one woman stayed with her in Brussels over night, where they were promised a hotel room, but found out later the hotel was booked out, so they stayed somewhere and argued their way to getting the fee waived. We all got our bags, which took over an hour and ½ to get all of them. I had my moment of pure meltdown around this time because I was just exhausted and overwhelmed. We got our bags, got them checked, then went to use our meal vouchers at a diner in the airport... it was verrry underwhelming, but food nonetheless.

We made our way to the gate, my friend let me text my dad, and we were of on Ethiopian airlines to Addis Ababa. It was hilarious- I was so tired and just crazy that I kept asking people where were going. I had no idea where Addis Ababa was.... finally once we got on the plane, we looked in our little magazine thingy, and found out we were going to none other than ETHIOPIA..... WHHHATTT?!?!

The first part of the trip was a very empty flight, so we spread out a bit and I got some sleep. We stopped in Milan, Italy to pick up passengers, and things changed. Suddenly everyone was hitting me in the head as they passed and my patience was wearing extremely thin. Apparently Italians have a strong presence in Ethiopia.. who knew... but anway... this flight wasn't so great. It was crammed and the stewardess kept smacking me in the face with her butt everytime she bent over to get something... I felt like I was being tortured. Once we finally landed in Addis Ababa, we took a shuttle for our tarmac to our terminal.

It was wild beause we traveled from the MD time zone, to Brussels time zone, which is the same as Togo, to Ethiopia which is 3 hours ahead of Togo, back to togo.... talk about disorienting! When we landed in Addis Ababa, we got to our gate, but didn't really realize there was nothing there- no food, water, or bathroom. We did however have wifi... it was a great find and really cheered us up. At this point there were 4 of us. We realized quickly, we were suddenly the minority. People busted out their cameras and were taking shots of us... slightly amusing. We waited the 3 hours and boarded our plane with no trouble. I was just very thankful my body tolerated the abuse. I'm a little bit hypoglycemic, so when I don't eat properly- especially when I lack protein, I get shaky and dizzy. Thankfully that didn't happen until I had food availible to me. Also, when I don't get proper sleep and I dont eat well/at all, I get migraines, but thankfully my body didn't make that happen either:)

We got on our flight with no trouble, and left the BEAUTIFULLLLL Addis Ababa. Such beautiful mountains and it was breathtaking seeing the sun rise over them:) This flight was MUCH nicer than the previous flight... more leg room, and a bigger plane, which normally means a smoother flight. The men behind us, however, were extremely rude. We were EXHAUSTED by this point, and needed sleep. Noel put her seat back, and the man behind her, who was an African man, started yelling at her to put her seat up, that he had work to do and all of this... so she said, “I'm sorry but these seats are made to go back...” after arguing for a while, she told him he needed to deal with it, or he could move, and he yelled that she was an Arrogant American... honestly that was amusing... if he had the trip we did, he'd feel the same way we did. My seat automatically fell back a bit, and the man behind me, who was with the man behind Noel, started hitting it and kept doing it. I just ignored it as best as I could.

We finally landed in Togo around 12:40 pm Togo time, which was roughly 16 hours after we were supposed to arrive... it was a little bit nice to arrive in the afternoon instead of the night because I was able to unpack a bit and see my friends, but it was difficult because I wanted to go to sleep but had to force myself to stay awake for a while.

And that was my journey back to the AFM...probably the longest 3 days I've ever experienced in my life. I hope to one day actually fly Brussels Airlines.... Ethiopian treated us nice too, but one day...;)

United did try to compensate us, but we had a choice of 10,000 frequent flyer miles, $250 towards any flight in the us to us states, or 10% off economy. The thing is this.... 1) we were flying internationally... I'm pretty sure $250 towards US flights helps me NONE... 2)It expires on January 22, 2013....I'M NOT FLYING HOME UNTIL AFTER THAT....!!!! I might call united and see if there's something else we can work out- maybe see if they can extend the date or something....but I”m VERY unimpressed with that airline right now, and will probably try avoiding them in the future...At first I was like 'well we can't blame them' but really... 2 planes that malfunction in BIG ways, then they don't even compensate us fairly... people who give up their seats for others get MUCH better compensation....

Anyway... I'm just glad I got to the ship. The other 2 ladies, who stayed in Brussels, met up with us at 7pm that night... 1 got her bags 2 days later... 1 still hasnt gotten hers..... what a bummer!

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, it seems like your trip was exhausting (physically and emotionally)! I'm glad that you made it to Togo safely. It looks like I'll be back for July and August, so I hope to see you then! :D