When I looked at my ticket from home to New York’s LaGuardia airport, I saw the arrival time as the departure time. So, when I went to the airport that fateful morning, my plane had already left. The airline I had booked with didn’t have another flight until the afternoon, which would have caused me to miss my 12:00 flight to Africa. I began canvassing the other airlines to see what options they had. Eventually, good old Delta had a flight that would get me to NY in time. The downside was that it cost over $500 plus $25 for my suitcase. That was painful, but unavoidable. With all that, I didn’t even get a TSA Precheck status, so had to go through the regular security line, taking off my shoes, computer out of the bag, etc. Even so, I made it.
I picked up some breakfast and ate it while waiting for the plane to arrive at the terminal. Apparently, the ground crew was not doing stellar work that day, and two other planes had to move away from the terminal before our plane could actually park. That made us more than 30 minutes late, and I’m about to sweat bullets. Aside from that, I was wearing a good number of layers of clothing as I expected NY to be rather chilly. We were finally allowed to board, and I gratefully sank into my seat. At least I didn’t have to gate check my hand luggage, which might have taken more time to collect.
About 90 minutes later, we landed at LaGuardia, but the crew held us on the plane until the gate checked bags were available – about a 20 minute delay. I headed to the baggage claim since the airline does not take responsibility for my suitcase changing airports. My purple bag was one of three that I saw, but it was still more distinctive than black. It came relatively quickly and I began to contact Uber for a lift to JFK airport. I went to the pickup point, and the driver said he was there, but it turned out he was actually at Newark Airport, which is in New Jersey. I canceled that as it is more than an hour drive between the two, and still didn’t get me to JFK. I was charged $5.00 for what I consider THEIR mistake.
Finally I contacted Lyft and the driver arrived in about 20 minutes. He managed to get me to JFK by 10:15, which I thought was pretty good. We had a nice chat about how difficult it was for him to find a woman to marry. There is a dating site for Muslims trying to find each other. I didn’t envy him that challenge.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I headed to the check in for Kenya Airways. There was quite a queue, but it seemed to be moving, at least until I got in it. There was a tour group there who seemed to be purchasing their tickets on the spot. Then there was a family who had some kind of problem. When I finally reached the desk, it was nearly 11:00. They checked me in quite quickly, and I moved on to security.
The line at security wrapped around three times and seemed to be half the length of the building. It did move, but I decided to take a much needed pit stop before joining it. It was 11:40 before I got through security and got my shoes, computer, and all back where they belonged and headed for the gate. I knew there were several others in the queue who were traveling on the same flight, so I wasn’t panicking, at least not yet.
Once I reached the gate, they were beginning to board. I managed to get a few sips of water from a nearby water fountain before my section was called to board. Thankfully, I had managed to get an aisle seat and my hand luggage fit nicely in the overhead bin. I pulled out my computer, as I needed to do a bit of work as we flew. The flight from NY to Nairobi is about 13 hours long. I did get a few hours of sleep and watched several movies and did get a bit of work done.
Once, I was back in the kitchen of the plane getting some juice. I was just about to pour it into my plastic cup when someone spoke to me. As I looked around, there was a Maasai chief in his Maasai outfit! I knocked over my glass spilling juice all over the tray. I recovered quickly and asked if he would like some as well. We then had a long conversation about language development and whether I could get jobs in Nairobi for several orphan girls he knew.
Something on my e-ticket said that I had only an hour before my next flight, so I was a bit concerned when the ground crew in Nairobi couldn’t get the steps to the plane to attach correctly, so we had to wait another 20 minutes for the doors to be opened. At least this time, I didn’t have to collect my luggage, just find the departure gate. Of course, that involved going through security yet again.
At long last, I rushed up to the gate to ask if I could still get on the plane, but they hadn’t even started boarding yet. In fact, most of the passengers were not yet present. As I waited, I remembered that I wasn’t expected in Entebbe until 3:00, but it was 11:30. The flight is only about an hour long, so I texted the course director to alert him that I might be early. That sent him into a panic. It was good I had done that, for I was indeed very early. Nevertheless, I was through immigration and baggage claim and customs quite quickly. I got some local currency from the ATM and within another five minutes, was met and taken to the car.
We headed for the office, where a driver would collect me and take me to the Guest House. Even though I felt like something that cat dragged in, it was nice to greet the folks in the office. I was able to check some things for the library and find out a bit more of the schedule. About 2:00 p.m. the driver collected me and we headed off to find the Training and Conference Centre where I would stay for the next three weeks.
The GPS was not much help in finding this location. We turned up one road that was seriously washed out. With great care, the driver navigated his way up this dirt road and on to others that were smaller and in even worse condition. Finally, we ended up at a complex of gates, one of which was guarded by army personnel. I assume some important officer lived there. They gave us some directions, saying the Centre we wanted was behind that house. This was not the first time someone had turned up there looking for the same place. We navigated a number of challenging dirt roads, but after half an hour of searching, found the right place.
After checking in, I was taken to my room which was very clean and nicely furnished, complete with mosquito net. Malaria is quite serious here, so one doesn’t need to take chances. I unpacked and got myself sorted. I longed to go to bed, but felt it wiser to try to stay up until I had eaten supper. So, about 5:30 I went for a walk around the compound, enjoying the green grass, the palm trees, the gardens and even a couple of cows. I found a ripe guava on the ground, and took it back to the room with me. I took a shower and washed my hair, then headed to the dining hall at 7:00 only to find that supper wasn’t ready. After about 30 minutes, they brought out the food. I ate quickly and headed to bed. I think I slept for 11 hours, after which I felt almost human.
And that was my trip to Entebbe. Let’s hope the return goes more smoothly.