February 4, 2014

Three Nights on a Nairobi Runway

Prompt: It started at the airport.

One time many many years ago, I spent three nights on a Nairobi runway with hundreds of other people. And it all started at the airport...

We were crazy in love, Jacob and I. The kind of in love that makes your cheeks sore from smiling, the kind of love that really does make you feel like you can fly.

We had enjoyed two weeks together in Uganda and were engaged (minus the elephant ring that was to come some months later on my next visit to the equator).

Saying good bye was excruciating. How much longer could my cheeks endure this ache of happiness?  Good bye was hard.

We hugged, cried and tried to look like a million dollars through it all.

I had scheduled my flight to get me back home a day or two before I had to report back to work.  What could go wrong, I had wondered?

Rookie mistake.

I rushed to catch my first flight on a small plane from Uganda to Kenya, and in Kenya had to run dramatically through the airport to get to my next connection on time.

Unbeknownst to me I had left my passport in the seat back pocket of the chair in front of me. My heart dropped and I pictured myself stranded in an airport for months, cheeks aching from happiness, fired from my job for not showing up. I sprinted through the airport and was at last reunited with my passport.

Back at my gate I finally relaxed. All of the drama was over! Or so I thought.

Little did I know what was in store. We boarded our plane well after dark and waited...  every thirty minutes an announcement came on that we would be leaving shortly. Time moved slowly.

Three hours passed on a hot night in Nairobi while we sat on the tarmac. Hundreds of people fidgety, minding toddlers (this is in a whole new light for me now), people calculating missed flights, missed weddings etc.

People got angry. Fanned themselves. At last they opened the door and put up a barrier so no one would fall off the plane.

We had technically "left the country" and couldn't be released back to the airport without visas etc. Crazy right?

We had boarded around 9 pm. At 5 am they at last released us back to the airport.. We walked, bewildered, sweaty and tired up to the long lines to get visitor's visas and then to wait in line for the free shuttles to free hotels.

The hotel is a blur. I  remember the people I sat with on the bus, the stories they had to tell.. I  remember looking down from a high hotel room at people passing busily below.. and before I knew it, it was time for the shuttle to come back to get us at two in the afternoon.

Back through long lines collapsing in on themselves as now there were two full British airway carreers headed to London that night.


We boarded at the same time. Same announcements. Mounting frustrations. We had exhausted the inflight entertainment. Something about a cracked engine.. And yet again, almost seven hours later- they let us off of the airplane after sitting in overwhelming heat on the runway all night long.

Back on shuttles, back to hotels, and back again the next day.

It was surreal.

I missed the start of work.

The next night we boarded at the same time again. Deja vu! The same people for three nights in a row! This time the buzz was that they gave us the new plane that had come in the night before and left the crack engined plane for the "new flight" people.  This time... We boarded.. waited.. and flew...

What sweet relief to leave at last!

And all I got was a small voucher for my troubles equaling about $60 USD after I complained because I had missed my connecting flight to Prague and had to buy a new ticket. But with that voucher I got to meet my by-then fiancee  for a few hours-date on his layover in London that next spring.

So in the end, it was worth it.
Note: I'm hijacking the Expat Blogger prompt. I just had to! I read this prompt and it resonated with me.


The Teacher said...

This is great, I hope there are other prompts that you are able to participate in throughout the month! I've always enjoyed your stories from you travels.

The Reeds said...

Thanks D! I love your stories too!

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