Saturday, July 12, 2014

“I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again”



So I left today for Madagascar.  Well it won’t actually be “today” when I am finally able to post this so that you can read it.  But on Tuesday, June 10, at 2:30 am I left the Hampton Hotel in Downtown Philadelphia for what would be no less than a tiny, but long, adventure to get to Madagascar.  Leaving the hotel at 2:30 am with no sleep the night before would begin the longest session of travel, including the longest airplane flight, which I have yet accomplished and ever want to do again.  We all loaded into a greyhound bus outside the hotel and began on our way to JFK airport where we were to catch our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, at 11:15.  Knowing it was just shy of a nine hour
time frame our Peace Corps leader, who would not be joining us on this travel, told us that they did this to allow for traffic, break downs, and luggage claims/security.  It is still a lot of time, I know.  So having no traffic or incidents on our way to JFK we arrive there about 4:15 and attempt to unload the bus.  You can imagine 32 people, all with four bags, trying to unload from a Greyhound bus onto the entrance way of the airport was like watching a game of human Tetris.  We then find out from an airport employee that check-in for us would not be until 6 am, which would end up turning out to be 8.  Peace Corps had us showing up to the airport before the airline employees even showed up for work!!!  So finding this out we all carried in and dumped our bags, joining them ourselves, on the floor inside the entrance way.  Some laid out and slept on the floor, others lounged on the floor and talked, and all of us at some point scavenged the airport for food; creating a scene that undoubtedly looked like an unorganized cluster of mayhem.  When it finally came time to check our baggage, it and security went by quickly with no real incidents and allowed us ample time to charge electronics and wander the terminal for something to do or eat. 
            Leaving JFK on South African Airlines on a non-stop flight to Johannesburg at 11:15 am would be the longest flight I have ever encountered, taking just over fifteen hours.  This is a long time; I mean a really long time to be on a plane! There are only so many movies you can watch, times you can try to read but fall asleep instead, or crappy airplane meals you can eat.  Not to mention only so many times you can get up and walk to the bathroom and back, just to stretch and get some exercise.  We finally arrived in Johannesburg at 8 am Wednesday morning, there time.  Yes, you read that right, a whole day later!  I felt like I lost a day of my life in a time portal!  This gave us two hours to go through security again, because we were going on another international flight from there, and then make out way through the airport to our terminal.  Being the last to arrive at our terminal, which was shared with ten other international flights, I had no problem finding our group.  Coming down the escalator I could easily see the mass of bags and people sprawled out in the far corner, laying claim to a huge portion of the floor space. 
            At 10 am we took a bus out to our plane.  This was a new experience for me.  All 32 of us, plus about 6 or so other people, who undoubtedly were wondering what they had gotten themselves into, climbed in to a small plane traveling to Antananarivo, Madagascar.  Although this went by without real incident I would like to mention two things.  One being that I was really happy in getting a window seat just to find out that my window seat did not have a window.  And two that the stewardess said something, which all of us only heard ended with “so you may want to hold your nose or your breath,” and then started walking down the isle spraying something.  This only ended up being Off to kill any potentially malaria infested mosquitoes, but it certainly had us all very confused.  We finally arrived in Madagascar at 2:30 pm, Malagasy time, and were meet by a bunch of Peace Corps workers as we entered the airport.

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