Bryan worked Friday before we left, while I spent the day getting things ready- as well as doing a last minute touch up to my new hair cut- a purple mohawk.
I had wanted to do the mohawk for my 40th, but my hairdresser accidentally messed up the date, so I didn’t get it then. I was a bit bummed about it and the moment seemed to have passed, so I put it on hold for a while…but 100 degree weather in Africa certainly made getting it done seem like a good idea again! So I celebrated 41 with the one hairstyle I had never had, but always wanted.
We left for the airport around 3pm…we could barely contain ourselves! Neither of us could believe it was really time- so much anticipation culminating finally. Both anxiety and excitement made me a bit queasy and antsy at the same time- I kept tapping my leg and could hardly sit down in the seat. Once we got on the plane it would be real- but until then anything could happen (and usually does)!
We got to the airport, thanks to Carol, who we left in charge of the house and our many animals (3 dogs, 2 cats). We said a quick goodbye, still in shock that this was it!? At the ticket counter the girl seemed excited that we were going somewhere far away- and shocked that a backpack each was all we were checking for a 5-week trip! We were pretty worried to check anything, never knowing if we’d really see our bags again (through 5 airports it seems highly likely they will not make it)- but we figured we’d survive somehow 😉
Security was a bit insane, especially because there’s a new rule about food. Apparently, ANY food you are taking with you on the plane (in the US) needs to be taken out, along with electronics and the usual baggies of liquids and gels. How inconvenient for us that at least 1/3 of our stuff was every one of those items, as we proceeded to spill our guts on the floor of the airport.
The people behind Bryan just watched in awe (and I am sure horror, at his severely slowing down the line) as he removed protein bars, peanut butter and a variety of other food items people normally do not carry- along with 2 cameras, batteries, solar powered charges and so on. The ladies behind him said, “Where are you going that you need all this”? and he said, “Africa for 5 weeks and we’re vegetarians, so…”. They nodded in agreement- but still in awe.
After looking at Bryan and watching his chaos, I decided to remove the tablet and my phone, but nothing else. My bag is a new one, designed specifically for laptops and electronics, with a cut proof exterior and no visible pockets or zippers. It’s packed very precariously- one wrong move, and everything would go spilling out- so I wasn’t about to bother with the ridiculous guidelines unless absolutely necessary. I figured they’d flag something of his anyway, making his earnest effort moot, so I would not even bother! Naturally, they flagged us both, but at least I just moved my bags without dragging a pile of items with me. Poor Bryan.
They pulled my bag aside and the guy had to swab the protein bars with whatever chemical testing they do. He tried to poke around in my bag a bit but realized very quickly the precarious nature of the packing. He too determined it was fruitless to bother, so when the bar came up free of whatever, the TSA guy was satisfied- though he too remarked about the amount of food we had and asked what we were doing. Although there was a crazy amount of food items, the common consensus from onlookers (once they knew the whole story), was that this seemed like very little sustenance, for such a long trip!
Going through security is always the annoying part, but at least now, the stressful part was over…so when we got to the gate, then it became real: we were about to spend more than 30 hours travelling to a very foreign land…just the travel seemed a very daunting event in and of itself, never mind the magical destination of Madagascar!
Our flight left around 7pm so we had a bit of time. We got some food and wine and just tried to conceive of the adevnture ahead. Although we flew through LAX, the gate agent had only been able to print our boarding passes to there and not beyond- so it meant when we arrived we had to get more passes, maybe a few times at each airport? I don’t like not knowing these things, it gives me a bit of anxiety, but eventually you will get there, so just going with the flow is the way to go!
The flight to LA went by fast and we landed at the same gate we were to leave on, which I don’t think has ever happened to me in my entire life! We wanted to get our boarding passes right away, but there was no one there at the gate. We had to wait for a flight to come in in between and board and then we saw some guy moving the stanchions around as though he were making a line for us…however he indicated that we had to wait in this other, longer, very disorganized line where it seemed no one understood there was even a line at all.
People just walked past those of us waiting as if we did not exist, and this is when I realized too, the cultural differences had already begun. It is strange how lines are so different in different cultures- and you may think they are not great in the US, but honestly I think they are the most organized there…
While we waited we were amused by the guy moving the stanchions around- he continued to do this for more than an hour, back and forth. It was like watching a little inset build something. Just when it seemed like he was done, he’d find more and moved them to. He seemed to like this busy job, even if there were no real point…because no one ended up waiting in the line of stanchions he created…
Finally, we had our boarding passes- but only through Dublin and to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia- a city I had never really heard of before. Once in Ethiopia we had to get another boarding pass to Madagascar…but that was a long way off and I didn’t want to think about how that might go!
Let’s just hope we could rest a little bit on the plane…the good thing about international flights is free wine and such if you want it- and I did!