Flight To Africa Adventure

March 25, 2010

in Odds & Ends Stories

I was traveling to Africa with my husband and friends to volunteer in a refugee camp one summer. We figured our adventures would start as we arrived in Africa, but we were sure wrong.

We arrived in LAX for our flight to JFK. We had a 6 hour layover there which we already weren’t looking forward to. We arrive and discover our flight is delayed another several hours. We had nowhere to put our things, so we had to wait until the small airline’s desk opened to receive passengers. So we camped out there for a few hours until they opened. We checked in and took off to Central Park for a few hours until our flight time got closer. We enjoyed the sun and took naps in the park.

When we got back to JFK we discovered we were delayed again. The total delay (not including our original layover time) was 12 hours! We were shocked at how relaxed people were, but we just figured that it was an indication of the relaxed perception of time people in Africa have (even though we were in NYC!).

Finally, our flight was boarding. We sat back awaiting for our row to be called, but instead we heard “Flight # XXX is now boarding.” Every single person waiting rushed to the gate entrance and we were left near the back of the mob. As we got on the nearly full plane, there were people in our seats. We notified the flight attendant and we were informed that there was “open seating” despite the fact that we had assigned seats on our plane. Apparently one of the emergency doors was not working so they could not seat people in that row. (WHAT!!!???) Somehow there were 2 seats together and we took them. Only then did I realize that my seat tilted to the side. So, I had to spend the entire flight to Africa bracing myself.

After everyone was seated, an airline staff person boarded the plane and asked the man in front of me “are you Mr. so-and-so?” Of course, the man replied “no.” The staff person proceeded to explain to the man that he must sit in his assigned seat. The passengers nearby got restless and started to loudly inform him of the situation. After a 12 hour delay, we were finally all seated and ready to go and now this man shows up and says everyone must move!!! People were yelling and I think the guy realized that he had better back down or he might be tied up and thrown into the lavatory. So, he left and we all stayed in our seats.

We took off and all was calm until the drink cart came by and as it passed my husband who was on the aisle, the flight attendant knocked over a bottle of water onto my husband’s head! He ended up with the entire bottle over his head and in his lap. At this point, we were so tired and had already dealt with so much he started laughing uncontrollably. I also have to mention that one of the lavatories was taped shut. Apparently it wasn’t working.

We calmed down and finally managed to get some sleep. Then we heard gun shots! Lots of them! As I struggled to comprehend what was happening, I finally realized that the Dirty Harry movie that was playing on the screen was being broadcast across the plane for all to hear! I had slept through the regular parts, but awoke to a loud gun battle!

We finally landed in Africa, a bit frazzled but alive and well. We awaited our luggage at the carousel and looked for the bright bows that we had tied to our bags to make them easy to find (and easy for someone to realize it wasn’t theirs). Our friend’s guitar was missing after all the other bags were found. So, I decided to do a quick check of the area to see if it had been removed by someone. I discovered the guitar case with the tell-tale bright bow on the cart of a man about to leave the airport! Thinking quickly, I went up to him and thanked him loud and long for finding our lost guitar. I was sooo appreciative that he found it for us! Then I took it from his cart and walked away. He had a slightly embarrassed smile, but what else could he say?

We were in Africa a week and then returned home. A week after our return, I read in the paper that this particular airline was banned from flying to the US due to “flying unsafe aircraft.” Surprise, surprise. I’m just happy we got home.

– Katie

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Peace Lover March 26, 2010 at 1:30 am

Sorry about you're bad flight but it's people like you that really make a difference. I admire people like you that are willing to fly to the other side of the globe to help others. Just for that you deserved to have flown back first class. I hope it went well for you and you're troop.


Increasedosologist March 31, 2010 at 2:48 am

You both have your heart in the right place, but your mind is on some luggage carousel at some unknown airport. Do you realize that the money each and every one of you has paid for their round trip ticket, could support an average african family for several years, since typically they live on less than $1 a day. You went for a week? Even a health care or construction professional could not accomplish anything meaningful in a week, unless it was a part of an ongoing project and they had a very specific pre-planned task to perform. What did you do? Help them eat what little food they already have? Fold napkins at an orphanage for a week? Take pictures with suffering people, so you have stories to tell back home? The one good thing you could have done – let the poor man keep the stupid guitar – you had to mess that up. Men who have no trouble taking care of their families do not risk stealing guitars from the luggage carousel. And more importantly everyone would have been saved from your friend's whiny, tax-raising songs that I'm sure he sings flat and off-key to one cord that took him 3 years to learn and he still doesn't always get right. You can of course travel to Africa with your friends and enjoy your trip, but pretending that this is a volunteering enterprise meant to help people of Africa, is just dishonest. Africans may be poor and live in countries with disorganized governments, but they are not stupid. They are well aware of how much a round trip ticket to the US costs, and when they see you there to help do some rudimentary non-professional tasks, that millions of unemployed africans could do themselves, the only question on their mind is "If you really wanted to help, why didn't you give the money you spent on this trip to some poor family, that could use it to live for several years". It really insults their, and everyone else's for that matter, intelligence.


xxx April 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

you are an insult to intelligence,

my wife was in Iran visiting her family, bought a bag of rice in a local shop, inside that bag? a picture of a family and a note about how they hoped this rice would help to feed the earthquake victims (Bam 2003). So aid was diverted and was being sold at a profit to the upper/middle class (in a resort city no where near Bam).

When you give money / aid to corrupt countries/governments, it only aids them to profit from misery and you will make more difference traveling there and contributing directly as the OP was doing


rerere March 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm

What airline?


Tony April 1, 2010 at 4:43 am

Increasedosologist your comment is cool !


Evan2 April 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

He's too cool for school. I bet he's a big hit at parties. Just think, Increasedosologist could save a starving family today if he canceled his internet service and sent that money to Africa; furthermore, save all of us from having to scroll through his useless comments.


Increasedosologist April 8, 2010 at 2:00 am

Evan, evan2 whoever you are. You are trolling. This is website has a bunch of interesting reads, and you show up here, post a b.s. story about sailing with sores, and then post a bunch of useless trolling flaming replies, while pretending to be 2 people cleverly disguised as evan and evan2, to make sure that no one can ever guess. I was debating for a while whether to tell people about your disorder made obvious by that sailing with sores post, but I really did not want to do it from work since it would be very politically incorrect, and would have to do it from my home computer. I may go ahead and do it after all. And nowhere I am saying that people should send money anywhere, just that when you try to do something you should do it in a way that achieves results and not just make a meaningless useless gesture to shove in everyones face to say:look, I'm helping and you're not therefore I'm a better person than you are. Stay tuned for reply to sailing with sores post later today. You're gonna like it.


Karl April 3, 2010 at 3:46 am

There are many places here at home you could vounteer: Hospitals, Nursinghomes, Soupkitchen etc. But no, you went on a third world airline probably dirtcheap only to brag back home"We did some volunteer work in Africa " We still have a lot of black people here who need help.


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