16 January 2014

7,910 miles later...

Here it is! The post you've all been waiting for, documenting our infamous trip from Naperville, Illinois, U.S. of A. to Mwanza, Tanzania. Now, I know it's easy to look at the number in the title of this post (7,910) and think, "Okay, cool." But that's a loooong way to travel. For example, you'd have to go from Los Angeles to New York City back to Los Angeles back to New York City and then, maybe to St. Louis, Missouri. And that, my friends, would be the distance we traveled. Big world, huh?


And remember that time, when I was all optimistic about our travel?

I. Was. Wrong.

yep, that's pretty much how it went.

Instead of 30 hours and 30 minutes, it took us 57 hours and 0 minutes. Yes. This means Michael and I wore the same clothes, underwear and all, for over two days straight.

Now that I've made everyone sufficiently uncomfortable, let's talk about the timeline and what went down.

Hours Spent Traveling: Zero

Michael and I left Naperthrill, Illinois at about 3:30PM on January 3rd, 2013 for the Chicago-O'Hare International Airport. (This starts the time clock.) We were incredibly sad, leaving friends and family, and were somewhat relieved to just get on a plane and start this whole ordeal. Our first flight, on Qatar Airways, which I will now affectionately refer to as The Airline Spawned by the Devil, took off at 8:10PM for Doha, Qatar. We were in somewhat comfortable outfits. We had just had a big meal to tide us over and help us fall asleep. We were ready.

no amount of tips could have saved us.

But The Airline Spawned by the Devil (now shortened to TASD) was not. The time to board quickly came and went. Our emotions gradually changed from sad to leave our families to annoyed at the delay. At around this time, employees of TASD decided maybe customers would want to know what was going on, since no change had been made on the flight board. We were informed that there was a "slight mechanical issue" on the plane, mechanics were working on it, and they hoped to delay the flight no more than twenty minutes. Then, that same announcement took place four more times.

The Airline That Spawned the Devil.

Although irritated, we knew we had an eight hour layover in Doha, meaning being an hour or two late wouldn't hurt us at all. We decided to keep in good spirits and roll with it. We're moving to Africa, right? The land of being perpetually late? We chalked it up to good cultural training.

An hour and a half later, nothing had changed. There had been no movement from employees of TASD. And come to think of it, we had seen NO CREW MEMBERS anywhere. No pilots. No flight attendants with funny hats. Nothing.

see what i mean about the funny hats?

Hours Spent Traveling (Even Though We Hadn't Gone Anywhere): 4

We should have known. By this point, Michael and I had been standing for over an hour, waiting to board and trying to "stretch our legs" before the 13+ hour flight. Michael pointed out to me that now, the gate attendants were in a team huddle behind the flight board and… oh, look! The flight board had been completely erased. Seriously, it changed to some kind of scrolling commercial for American Airlines or something. Not a good sign.

Sure enough, the next announcement we heard: TASD decided to delay the flight… indefinitely. All passengers were issued hotel vouchers and were told that the hotel (?) would inform passengers when the flight would leave the following day, Saturday. Oh, and by the way, we couldn't pick up our bags so we got to sleep in the same clothes all over again. OH, and because of this, our whole itinerary was ruined but don't worry. TASD employees in Qatar will fix everything for us and we will have a bright, shiny, new itinerary in the morning. Right.

riiiiiight, we believe you.

Although we debated for a moment, Michael and I ultimately decided to call his parents and stay another evening back in the 'Ville. We could easily call TASD on our own, without relying on the hotel, and it would be nice to eat and sleep in a familiar place for one more night. Poor John, Michael's dad, clocked another three hours (round trip) in the car to come back and pick us up. We got to the house, shoved down a bowl of cereal (because that big meal's effects were long gone), and got to sleep.

Hours Spent Traveling (Even Though We Hadn't Gone Anywhere): Seven

Thankfully, Michael set an alarm to call TASD's Customer Service Line as soon as they opened the following morning. (Yeah, unlike a regular airline, TASD isn't open 24/7. Because, you know, people only travel from 9AM-5PM, Monday through Friday.) On the phone at 8AM, Michael received instructions to get back to the airport immediately because in order to re-book our itinerary, we needed to be there in person. (Whaaaaaaa?) And it was first come, first serve. Since Michael's family lives about an hour and a half from the airport, we got ready in about 22.5 minutes (so much for being clean at the beginning of our long journey…we were still wearing all of our same clothes) and booked it out of Naperville. For the second time.

the best part of waking up...

Hours Spent Traveling (Even Though We Hadn't Gone Anywhere): Seventeen

Once we reached the airport, a line started to form to re-book itineraries. We weren't too far back, considering our drive, so we were trying to get that good attitude back again. That attitude quickly disappeared as we waited for two hours before the gate agents started to re-book anyone, let alone us. (Why did we rush again?) Once we got to the front of the line, it took one hour and about three different agents before we had a new itinerary. That we didn't even like. This time, we'd have TWO eight hour layovers - one in Doha during the day, one in Nairobi overnight. When we asked for a hotel in either place, we were told that "Doha" would take care of that.

We said good-bye once again to Michael's family and headed to the gate area. Since there were about 353 people behind us in line to also get their itineraries re-booked, the flight could not take off as scheduled. We were delayed another two hours before we angrily stomped onto the flight to Doha. Sadly, instead of looking down on our home country with fondness as we flew away, it was more of a "good riddance" kind of feeling.

finally!

Hours Spent Traveling (Yay! National Boundaries Now Crossed!): Thirty One

Thirteen and a half hours later, we arrived in Qatar and where did we head? Yep, you got it. Straight back into a long line of people waiting to get their itineraries booked with TASD. Although we already had our flights set up, it was bad, so we were hoping they would change it. If not, we were just hoping a hotel or lounge pass might be in our future once we got to Nairobi. After waiting another hour in line, we finally got to a TASD agent, quite possibly 17-years-old (no offense to my youngah brothers and sisters, but seriously), who informed us that no, never in a million years could she offer us any kind of assistance in changing our flights. And another flat out "no" regarding Nairobi, and our hopes for a hotel or lounge. She assured us, however, that someone with TASD would be "waiting" in Nairobi to assist us. Michael and I pressed her on this. "So you're telling us that when we arrive in Nairobi at 12:30AM, someone with TASD will be at our gate waiting to assist us?" "Yes," she replied. Right. Our sole win from that conversation: A ticket into TASD's second class lounge for the next six hours. Score one for Ashley & Michael, and about 112 for TASD.

yep, that about covers our experience.

We were so tired at this point, being that it was about 5AM or so in the American Midwest, that we took turns sleeping ON A TABLE. Yes, there were no comfortable chairs/lounges/chaises to be found so one of us would put our head on the table to sleep and the other would stand guard over our things. We reached a new low, folks. On the upside, we were able to brush our teeth and use the relatively dirty restrooms. (You know, the kind of restroom where every inch, floor to ceiling, is soaking wet.)

Hours Spent Traveling: Thirty Nine

With our first eight hour layover complete, we boarded another TASD flight to Nairobi. I don't remember much of this leg of the trip, as I think my brain officially started to shut down. We had about three hours of sleep, collectively, and slept another one hour before arrival in Kenya. I should have been excited to see the continent of Africa for the first time, but I can assure you that I was not. I felt like a zombie. I just wanted to crawl into a dark corner and zone out.

well, we tried to find it...

Hours Spent Traveling: Forty Seven

Welcome to the Nairobi International Airport! You now have eight hours to check it out! Oh, did I mention it was after midnight? So we checked in with yet another transfer agent about our next flight. Thankfully, he did NOT work for TASD and was actually somewhat useful to us. He assured us our next flight, to Mwanza, would be on time. Yet, this still meant we had eight hours to hang around. We pushed two hard plastic sets of chairs together in the hopes of convincing ourselves it was just like a soft, dreamy hotel bed. Not so much.

looks comfy, right? side note: the clock on the wall in the background is london time, not nairobi.

We didn't sleep a wink, especially not after I spotted that mouse about a foot and a half from where I was sitting.

exactly.

Hours Spent Traveling: Fifty Five

Somehow, after a lot of reading, card playing, and successfully avoiding poking our eyeballs out, we were ready to board our final flight. Kenyan security made me pour out the water in my water bottle - very lame, seeing as I was already inside the terminal and hadn't left the airport! - and we were on our way with Precision Air. Thank God Almighty, we were free at last from TASD!

because that makes sense.

saying goodbye to nairobi airport.

During the last leg of our journey, I began to appreciate Africa more and more. The flight was beautiful, as we watched the landscape change across the Great Rift Valley and parts of the Sergengheti.

Hours Spent Traveling: Fifty Seven

When we finally landed, we couldn't believe that we had actually arrived. Seven of our fellow MKLMers were at the airport to greet us and help shoo away the porters that manhandled our luggage. (Note: It's common in Africa to have porters, even legitimate ones, "help" you with your bags, without asking, only to demand money once you get to your car.)

We were so thankful to see familiar faces, who at that point, gracefully acted as our guides from then on. We definitely weren't planning on such a long and harrowing travel experience, but we learned the value of keeping a good attitude and more importantly, to avoid TASD at all costs.

Here's hoping your travel journeys to visit us in Tanzania are nowhere near as difficult! We're sure this won't be the last of our African travel adventures.

3 comments:

  1. Oh My Gosh. I guess I can share the trophy with you. Sending you love and hoping you have had time to catch up on sleep!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen! We know you feel us on the long journey. But share the trophy? Uh uh, you best hand that thing over!

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  2. oh my dear ones :) makes my trip to Bolivia seem a lot less crazy! I'm so glad you got there safe and sound! LOVE the blog posts! Miss both of you tons!

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