**Disclaimer: These days were not written down; however, they were deeply imprinted on my mind**
May 23rd- Departure Day... it's here, it is FINALLY here! The day I had been waiting for... the day I was leaving for AFRICA! Color this girl excited. I made sure my bags were packed and ready to go the night before, and I headed into work for a few hours before my friend Jordan picked me up to take me to the church. I wasn't nervous... I wasn't scared.... I was EXCITED! We talked. We prayed. We loaded the van. We left for the airport. Simple. Upon arrival to the ticket booth a few of us were saying small prayers that are our bags would be underweight. I came in just under 50lbs, which I think is great for this natural over-packer who also had to make sure her bag had some camping necessities! (Don't worry, I will pat myself on the back for that feat!)
Before we loading the plane, we met up with Keith, Byron, Dalton, and Adam who were also going on the trip. It made me feel a little at home, since all these guys were from Alabama. Our first flight was a quick one from Atlanta to Miami, which gave us some time to get to laugh and talk about our travel. We were advised to sleep as much as possible on our next two flights, so we would be game when we got to Tanzania (This is where the foreshadowing part of the story comes into play. You know how the superman says "I never die" and dies a few scenes later? Still confused... keep reading!) Upon arriving in Miami we get our things situated and head to find food and a place to sit, which ended up being by the terminal doors. We talked and laughed, again. Boarded the plane. The big plane at that! It was what I like to call a "2-5-2 seater". Want to guess where we were sitting? When I say "we" I am referring to Elaina and myself, as we were on the same itinerary so we had the pleasure of knowing at least one person we would be sitting next to throughout the flights. We were sitting in seats 3 and 4 of the 5... yep, right smack dab in the middle of people we didn't know. Well, we didn't know right away. Yep, right smack dab in the middle of people we would be sitting with for the next 8 hours!! So we briefly introduced ourselves to the people around us... hippies to the left and young girl to the right, and the plane took off. I watched a movie or two and started to make my way to sleeping land... With Elaina asleep on my tray table, I quickly fell asleep. Peaceful, right? Well, it was until I woke in pure panic mode. The young girl next to me was asleep; however, invading my space and Elaina was on my tray table...and I was feeling as though what little space I had before had gotten even smaller. After that small panic, I was unable to go back to sleep... not to mention I was fearful that I would freeze to death as the plane was the coldest place I have every been in my ENTIRE life! Okay... fast forward 6 hours and we make it to London, YAY! We planned to get our boarding pass for Kenya Airways and jump out of the airport for a few hours, since we had a long layover. Well, you can't always get what you want! Kenya Airways would not give us our boarding passes that far in advance, and to top it off the line to get through customs was RIDICULOUS! So we spent 9 sweet, sweet hours in the London airport. I played on Facebook. I ate some Flakes.... Side story: Flakes are a magical chocolate candy bar that's made in England, and since my family is from England (mom's side), we have grown up on these delicious treats. It is also a joke when my mom would get them growing up that she would give us like 1; however, my brothers and I were always able to find where she hid them and have another (Top dresser drawer). It was nice to be in a different country and eat a flake (or two) without fear of having to share, so I got a few extra. (Side side story: At the hotel we were at the first week, I slowly discovered that my flake candy bar was getting smaller and smaller; however, I was never the one eating it. I am pretty sure the lady spraying down my room with mosquito spray was paying herself in Flakes. It did become quite a fun experiment, because I didn't do anything with the candy bar. I would just see how much was left each day I got back from working with the church. Needless to say, I left the lady the rest of what she had already eaten before I left for the second week.)
And back to the real story at hand.... 9 hours pass and we board our plane for Nairobi. A big plane; however, it has the name of "3-3-3 seater". We were fortunate this time to know the person who shared the other 3 with us, Byron. I was the lucky one who got the middle seat, Yipee! So we talk. We fall asleep....for 30 minutes. We eat. And everyone around us falls asleep, but we are wide awake. We watch movies. We listen to music. This takes up about 2 1/2 hours of the 8 hour flight. So we watch another movie.... talk... listen to music, and finally just look at each other with pure sadness as we know we can't sleep. We try. We really do, but get nothing. Needless to say this was the part of the travel that started to go downhill. We make it to Nairobi. Wait about 45 minutes and board our next plane to Mwanza, Tanzania. By this point, I am fading... fast. Fortunately, the flight was a quick one (45 minutes) and we had room to wiggle. We make it to the Mwanza airport, which looks a lot like an airport you see in movies where the people land in the middle of nowhere, there's a makeshift building for the "airport", and sketchy feel to the air. The next step is to go through "customs", which was nothing like I expected. At the same time we are getting through the customs paperwork, I am a hawk on my bag. We were told before we left that when we got to Mwanza there would be guys at the airport wanting to carry our bags for us...and would then expect money or would steal it. With those thoughts in my mind, I wasn't going to lose sight of my bag; however, a few guys seemed very persistent on taking our bags. We tried to say no thanks, but it wasn't working. It wasn't until we got through customs that we were informed that the guys were with us (and we would grow to love these guys as great brothers in Christ). So we have made it! We are in Africa! We can now get to business, right? WRONG! We now load a bus to take an 8 hour drive to Mugumu, which is outside of the Serengeti National Park.
Things are cool for the first hour, but then I start to fade even more. My happy go lucky spirit has left me and I am just... MISERABLE. Our driver was perfecting his Nascar skills on unpaved, uneven, holey roads. We stopped for a bathroom break (You are probably wondering why this is even relevant... keep reading). When you are in the middle of Tanzania there aren't those gas stations to pull over and use the restroom; however, they do have an over abundance of squatty potties... you know the ones where you drop your pants, squat, and water the garden. The perfect hidden location was picked out (hidden doesn't mean we had our personal spaces; hidden just means we were apart from the guys and general public). We drop, we squat, and we were discovered by a random man walking the road. We laughed, we finished, and we left. Lunch was our stopping point and halfway point for the ride. This is where we started our first jump into a Tanzanian meal... chicken and lots of starches! Sounds exciting, at first! Fast forward several more hours and we make it to our hotel for the week. Don't get too excited. Yes, I was in a hotel, but get out the American image you have dancing in your head right now. It did have a bed, a toilet, and a shower (per se), so it was a luxury for the week.... and I am thankful.
So we all made it! We left on Thursday in America and it was now Saturday in Africa, but we made it! I showered, had dinner, and quickly tucked myself into bed. I needed sleep for the real adventure to begin!
What I learned about being 28 these days: Traveling sucks when you are in the middle seat!
**I did NOT think this post was going to be this long, especially since I didn't journal about it. It seems as I started to go through the course of the travel days things started flooding back.**
Also, I will come back and add pictures, as it is not cooperating right now.