Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Long Road Home

I love the way airports in third world countries like Zambia and Ethiopia have us walk out to the plane to board. There is something more exciting about walking out onto the tarmac with the sounds and smells of large planes coming and going and approaching a giant machine that is about to take us up to 40,000 feet and fly at close to mach 1. That never gets old:-). It was also one last chance to soak up some Zambian sunshine and perfect 80 degree air.

Once boarded on our 787 we left Lusaka for the 4 hour flight to Addis Ababa. We landed in warm and muggy Ethiopia about 8pm local time and went through another security line and then another line to get color coded sticker dots on our boarding passes because Ethiopian boards by sticker color. They hold up paddles with the colors so people know when they can board. I guess that is their way to cope with the miriad of different languages spoken by their passengers. Besides there is nothing to do or to eat once you get through security so standing in lines complaining about standing in lines for a sticker gives fliers something to do during the wait.

We only had about an hour after getting our stickers before boarding our second 787 for the 14 hour flight to Washington Dulles, but Don, Jillian, Mike and Kenny still found time to get in another game or two of Rook while we waited. The conversation amongst the team was about hoping we can sleep through the night. The flight will be almost entirely in the dark as we were scheduled to take off at 9pm from Ethiopia and arrive about 8 am in Washington DC. The catch in this return flight was the stop in Rome. We flew northwest from Addis Ababa to Rome in about 5 hours. Then we stayed on the plane while we refueled and changed flight and cabin crews. After about an hour on the ground we were off again for the 9 hour hop across France, the Atlantic, and Nova Scotia to get back to the USA.

We watched the sunset last night as we approached Ethiopia. The line from day to night was just ahead of us as the world turns in Ethiopia, but as the flight progressed through the night the night to day line was now creeping up on us from behind by the time we reached the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The effect of this was a very long and gradual sunrise as we raced to the west just a little slower than the approaching sunrise. Most of our team got a few hours of sleep here and there throughout the night, but only Tim Sharrock has the God given ability to sleep well almost the entirety of every flight no matter the time of day or night. As for the rest of us, as we watched day break Saturday on the east coast of the US, we were already looking forward to being in our own beds, in our home time zone Saturday night.

Once on the ground at Washington Dulles we de-planed after over 15 hours of being in this one 787. We went through customs and re-entry into the US. That meant collecting all our luggage from our international flight and reloading it for our domestic United flight to Columbus. Once through the luggage lines and immigration procedures we walked to the gate and settled in for a couple hours of waiting before the final short flight home. Everyone is in great spirits and excited about these past two weeks and now excited to be just a few hours from being all the way home.

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