Sunday, January 19, 2014

Round Trip From Hell

Happy New Year everyone!

I finally made it back to Botswana, and would like to apologize profusely for not being more in touch when I was in the states. My trip was wonderful, I got to spend lots of time with my family, my friends, my sweatheart, and the new puppy! His name is Zeus and he is adorable. I watched hockey (boo Toronto Maple Leafs!) and football, and went ballistic when my Spartans clenched the Rose Bowl title for the first time since 1988. I went to my favorite bars and had my favorite beers, went to my favorite restaurants and had my favorite foods, went on walks around my neighborhood, and went out at night (which is not something I ever do in my village.)

On top of all this wonderfulness I also got an extra 5 day at home because the state was taken over by a polar vortex that canceled my flights four times, and froze my luggage into the plane resulting in an additional night with my Aunt Martha in Chicago. I was really thankful for this extra time seeing as it was 5 days of unscheduled, do-whatever-I-want kind of time, instead of the hectic planned out portion of the trip that the holidays had been. Which brings me to the next chapter of the story; never in my life, have I had a more hellish round trip flight experience.

I started off in Gabs by boarding a combi that would take me down to Joburg. Usually I am pretty good about picking seats, but this time around I had one in the back bench, by the window, which ultimately made for a stupidly sun burnt arm by the end of the ride. This was fishsticks compared to what was to come next.

Generally I really enjoy flying and in Peace Corps it is an extra treat because you know all the in flight movies are going to be completely new to you. I was on the 747, we had gone through the safety talk and I was about 4 minutes into watching the movie Turbo, and settling in for the take off. Suddenly the entire plane is shaking and breaking incredibly hard. It stops for a moment only to start up again, to the point where my headphones fell off my head. The first thing I hear is from a woman to my right is "The wing fell off!"

In my brain this does not seem logical, since last I checked wings don't just "fall off" of planes. I'm in the side seat of the middle section so I try and get a glimpse out of the window to see what is going on and all I can see is rising dust and a ton of bricks.

This was me:
British Airways Plane Wing Crashes Into Building

I was in a plane crash! So everyone is rushing to the side where we have crashed and taking pictures of the wing, the stewards are rushing up and down the aisles looking panicked, while wearing neon green reflector vests, the pilot keeps coming on the system and saying things like "ladies and gentlemen we have had a minor incident and we need you to remain in your seats while the crew handle the situation" and "please turn off all electrical devices" which we all knew meant they didn't want us taking pictures.

An older lady in the back of the plane (she told me about this afterwards) started shouting at an attendant that they needed to "let us all off or we are going to burn!" You know...because its important to be helpful in the face of an emergency. I didn't realize until the captain came on and said "we are now reverting all of the fuel in that wing to the center of the plane, there is no need to panic" that fires may have actually been a bit of an issue. The woman in front of me kept asking the people around her if they thought this would delay the flight much...


So there are a ton of police and fire trucks surrounding us at this point, and they attempt to roll a set of stairs up to the front of the plane, unfortunately the stairs got stuck in the mud, and so they have to take them to the back of the plane, which was kind of disappointing for me because I was really gunning for the idea of making an emergency exit on those inflatable slides. What was nice about this is that cattle class was able to exit first, which means I got on the first shuttle back to the terminal, which means I was first in line to get my hotel and food vouchers.

In line for getting those vouchers a young woman my age, with awesome tattoos, comes up and asked about the Peace Corps patch on my backpack, and come to find out she is in Peace Corps too! Steph and I were disaster buddies for the remainder of our time at the hotel and flight to London, which was nice because people all kinda grouped up and I would have been the only kid in the cafeteria without a lunch table otherwise. The next day British Airways set up a table in the lobby, with two phones, two laptops, and two reps and lined us all up to rebook flights out. I was able to get on one that left around 9pm, so I hung around the hotel and then bopped over to the airport around 6pm after eating dinner.

Steph and I get to the gate and see lots of familiar faces (there were 182 of us so we all kinda got to know one another.) They open the gate and begin boarding, I hand in my new ticket and then wait in line to get on the plane. 20mins later they tell us to go back out into the waiting area because there have been maintenance issues. The usual groan from the passengers who were originally booked on the flight goes up, but those of us on the crash flight pretty much just start screaming and pulling our hair out.

We finally get on the flight and by my calculation I will still have an hour and a half to grab my connecting flight in Heathrow, no biggy, its all good. NOPE!

We get to London and I see that my flight to Chicago has been delayed by two hours, this is a huge problem since my layover from Chicago to Detroit was only going to be about an hour. I show my ticket to the lady at the counter and she points me in the direction of the lounge. It is at this point that I realize I have been booked in business class, which is awesome, but I am too worried about getting home in time for Christmas to give it much thought. I get to the lounge desk and practically break down in tears in front of her...maybe "practically" isn't quite right.

"My flight is delayed...*sniff*...and I was on the plane that crashed yesterday...*sniff sniff*...and I just want to get home in time for Christmas and I'm exhausted and can you please just put me on the next flight to America so I can hitch hike home and hug my parents? *sob*"

She was a bit shocked and told me they had been hearing about the crash on the news all day. She calls a dude, who calls another dude, and at some point asks me if its okay that my luggage probably won't make it, to which I respond that I don't give a hell. She puts the phone down and tells me there is a flight to Dallas that is leaving in 20mins, and that I'm still in business (score!) and that I should grab a complimentary muffin, use the computer to inform my family, and get my ass over to the gate.

I do just that, and can almost see the plane, when I get pulled aside for a search through my entire 65 liter backpack. Why, you ask? Because I don't have any checked luggage... I tell them the story about the plane (which gets you all kinds of perk, go figure) and they end up having me open stuff up instead of taking stuff out, before sending me down the fairway to the plane.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, and prior to that point a broke college student, I have never in my life flown business class. I had the sense to change into a cute sweater before boarding and quickly stowed my giant hiking pack, which at this point is covered in dirt and looking a bit worse for wear, in our GIANT OVERHEAD BINS, before plopping down in my own little cubicle chair and acquainting myself with my surroundings. Out of no where and friendly chap with a British accent asks me if I would like any water, juice or champagne, and my eyes bug out a bit before I say that champagne sounds wonderful.

It takes me all of five seconds to rip off my hiking boots and socks and slip on the fluffy slippers provided. I also take note of the duvet that has replaced the standard scratchy blanket, the large flat screen tv that folds out in front of my seat, and the noise canceling Bose headphones that are tucked inside what appears to be a vanity mirror next to my own little table. Awesome British guy brings back my champagne along with a menu which I am told I should look over before he comes around to take orders...because we have steak or salmon. While feeling like the black sheep of business class I settle in, and peruse the drink menu.

The flight was amazing and wonderful. I ate good food (ice cream sundae anyone?), watched a few good movies (Godfather Part II), ordered a scotch and soda before realizing that I am 24, and WAY too young for that drink, and ordering a whiskey and ginger ale and slept like a baby.

We landed in Dallas and I had a two hour layover before getting on the flight to Detroit. Not a huge fan of the Dallas airport, going to just leave it at that. The flight gets delayed on the tarmac for about and hour and a half and finally we take off. By the time we touch down in Detroit it is 10:00pm, Christmas Eve, and my usually emotional self is just too damn exhausted to do anything but hug the crap out of my Dad, do the same to my Aunt Martha and sorta just fall into the arms of my darling.

This post is all kinds of long so I will finish up by saying that on the way back my flights were canceled 4 times, and I missed a connection because of frozen luggage and staid in Chicago for a night, which ended up being cool because I was able to fly back on the same flights as my friend Kate. Also my baggage went missing again in South Africa, but got sent to Bots two days later.

It was a crazy journey, and I'm finally back to finish up the next 5 months, and getting settled back into Rams. I can't say I would want flights like that to happen again, but as an older, wiser RPCV once told me: "If it's not a good time, it's probably a good story."

Hugs and smooches,


  1. Hahahaha I like that one, not a good time = prolly a good story. I didn't have that much problems with my international flight debacle, and 9 years later I can tell the story and laugh, but I know at the time it doesn't seem that amusing. Glad you're back safe, and so happy I got time with you while you were back visiting, wish it coulda been more time but work is pooey. D: <3

  2. Hey, I have a quick question I wanted to ask you about your blog, do you think you could send me an email when you get this? Thanks! Tiffany