Last evening, after I had rested a couple of hours in my berth at the Yotel, it was time to seek out the next gate. At first, I was one of the few waiting at the gate, and then the crowds appeared. For a while, I thought I might be the only native English speaker on board as they were several Kenyans and several Dutch who waited with me.
Upon boarding, my seat was on the aisle of a group of three in the middle – it was a 787, and the first time I had flown one to my knowledge. We were nearly boarded, and the two seats next to me remained empty. I had high hopes that I might be able to stretch out for a while on the flight when the overhead announcement said that a connecting flight from Paris and London would be bringing our remaining passengers. Ah well, at least the couple that sat next to me were enjoyable. They were part of a small group from the UK who have built a school in the slums two hours outside Nairobi. They come at least twice a year to check on things and make improvements as needed. This time they were bringing two of the youth from their church who had raised their own money to come on this trip.
After leveling off, they proceeded with the meal service, and I was famished. I realized that I had not eaten anything all day while in the Amsterdam airport – what with going to church and finding my way around and taking a nap, all thoughts of hunger had dissipated until someone mentioned dinner. The food was surprisingly good, although I’m sure that the spice of starvation added to its tastiness.
Sleep was still elusive for the most part and realizing that I would have a five hour layover in Nairobi, I opted to purchase a one-day pass at their lounge which gave me a comfortable seat and even a shower! Even when sleep-deprived, it is amazing what a shower can do to revive one. I even managed to call home before heading to my final flight of this journey. Walking to the gate, there seemed to be a constant stream of announcements usually starting in Swahili, then in French with occasional English to add spice to the mix. I was starting to get a headache from trying to listen to each one. Of course, the only Swahili I know is hello, so it really didn’t get me very far.
When we finally boarded our flight for Antananarivo, I felt like I was almost comatose. I just wanted to sit in my seat for the next three hours and sink into unconsciousness. I was struggling to get my carry-on into the overhead bin and got it wedged under the seat in front of me when my seat mate sat down and starting talking to me in French. Without thinking, I responded to her in French. She was pleased that I spoke French, and I hastily tried to tell her that it had been a long time, but she took that as encouragement to talk more to me. I desperately scrambled to find words and phrases that sounded coherent, and I thought she would give up on me, but to no avail. I think she felt like she was doing me a favor talking to me, and all I could was try and hang on. After our meal, I lapsed into unconsciousness – I think I was more exhausted from talking in French for two and a half hours than being awake for two days!
We arrived at last in Tanarive (the French version of the capital’s name and easier to spell). There seems to be one runway which requires the plane to turn around at the end and go back up the runway to turn onto the tarmac. There were about thirty workers that came out to meet the plane, but for the life of me, I could only see two of them that actually did more than stand and stare at us as we disembarked.
While waiting in line for passport control, I met another Mercy Ships volunteer – an anesthesia assistant if you can believe it. It was her first time with Mercy Ships, so we chatted in line and found our way out to the main area and met our contact for the guest house. We were told that there was another person coming, so we waited out in the van for over an hour in the hot, humid afternoon, but the person never showed.
We took a scenic route through Tanarive – I will attempt to post some photos, but while I do have wifi(!) at the guest house, I am uncertain as to how things will upload. By Wednesday I should have better connections, but I will do what I can.