May 19, 2022
Somewhere over Khartoum
First of all, I should say that I’m sending this to anyone who I think might be interested—but if you’d rather not get these emails, let me know and I’ll take you off the list. And for Pete’s sake, please don’t press reply all!
As I write this, I’m 4 hours and 46 minutes away from landing in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A group of ten of us—almost all are students at Andrews University—set out from JFK about 5:45 pm Wednesday.
Well—my day started a lot earlier than everyone else’s. I gave up trying to sleep about 3:45 and was out the door by 5:20, on the way to Groome Transportation in Chattanooga. I slept almost the entire trip to Atlanta where I grabbed an early morning flight to JFK. I was efficiently through security within just a few minutes, and was whisked halfway across the airport to find my gate within just a few minutes.
My arrival at JFK was met with frustration, however, because they couldn’t find someone to open the door and send out the jetway. We waited on the plane for an extra 15 or 20 minutes before they could even begin to let us off. I finally got myself, my bag, and my backpack off the plane and began to look for the next gate. Surely, I thought, it would just be a few minutes of walking.
Oh no it wasn’t! After walking about 32 miles, I encountered a subway car. I’m used to riding on a train in the airport, but I’m not used to it sending me OUT of security along the way! I walked right past the baggage carousel for my flight (I was told not to check a bag because I wouldn’t have time to get it) before finally making it to the Air France baggage claim.
I had taken a Covid test the day before (it was negative), but they didn’t like my test. They had to call someone over before realizing that I was right all along (this will be a theme on this trip). We slowly began to meet up as a group upstairs in the food court. A couple hamburgers later and I felt slightly revived and ready to go back through security.
Remember how I said I was through Atlanta security in just a few minutes? To get to the front of the line at JFK took close to 45 minutes. Then their security procedures proved to be much less efficient. Finally, however, we all made it to security. Then it was just a few minutes to our gate.
Part way through security my suitcase handle broke. I went to price a new one in one of the shops along the breezeway--$299! So I’m working with a broken suitcase. But it’s been a good and faithful servant since my first Madagascar trip eleven years ago, so after this trip (or maybe during), it will be allowed to retire.
Daniel bought a neck pillow for $21 and managed to break it as he was showing it to us. That gave me several hours of good material for picking on him. I went to the little market by the gate looking for gummy bears. Two bags cost $17. I’ve been rationing them.
The boarding process was uneventful. I wound up sitting next to Raleigh on the flight. Daniel was right behind me, Jason behind him, and Cyril behind him. Elsie sat next to Cyril (with an empty seat between them). It was at this point that I got word that Allen—our guitar teacher for the trip—hadn’t been allowed to board due to not having his Covid results yet. He was able to get a later flight and met up with us in Paris. Daniel’s hair is starting to gray at the temples and his small bald spot is beginning to grow.
The food on the flight was quite good (pasta and a brownie for supper, bread and a muffin for breakfast), but I couldn’t get comfortable. It was a seven hour flight that felt like 18. Every time I looked up to see how much longer, it felt like the number was getting bigger instead of smaller! I did manage to doze a little, but not much. Cyril didn’t seem to try at all—he watched movie after movie. Raleigh slept all night (though he’d argue and say that he was awake. Daniel also managed to sleep some. I was very jealous. I didn’t actually start falling asleep until they started the descent.
We landed in Paris between midnight and one o’clock EDT, which was about 6:00. We traveled about 19 miles from our gate looking for our connecting flight—which somehow was on the other side of security again! We waited longer in Paris than in New York before I had my toothpaste and deodorant confiscated by an angry AST agent. We FINALLY made it to our gate and I was able to lay down on the floor. So far the group travels well together, though I’m constantly doing a head count. I told them the story of Joel being arrested in Berlin and they laughed at the punchline.
As soon as I found my seat on the flight to Madagascar, I fell asleep. We waited about half an hour on the ground, but then were up, up, and away (as they say). I for several hours before needing to do some paperwork and make concert programs. We land about 11 pm Malagasy time and stay in some guest rooms owned by the Union. I hope there will be hot water. I really need a shower!
Much love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.