*I am part of a nine member team from Fairwood Church that is spending two weeks serving the people and missionaries in Swaziland, Africa. The next few posts will be updates on our journey.
Days 1 – 3 (Thursday – Saturday)
The first three days of our Swaziland adventure take place primarily on planes, three of them to be exact. We took off from Seattle at two o’clock and headed for Paris on an Airbus 330, via Air France. It was a nine and a half hour jaunt that went by fairly quickly. There were lots of great movie, TV, and music options to choose from on our personal video players. I read a little, slept a little, and ate a little. We arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in France at around 7 am Friday morning and all I can say is… maybe the French should put a little effort into that horrific place. Seriously, France, please spend some money from your, “Food for Oil” scandal… I mean “campaign” and fix that thing up.
From Paris we got a little taste from home and hopped (walked) aboard a Boeing 777. To my recollection this was the first time I have ridden in a 777. To be honest it felt like every other commercial jetliner that I’ve ever flown in. I think coach has a way of making you feel that way. Everything is small and you feel closed in upon, but all that aside, it sure beat trying to drive from Paris to Nigeria. During this magic carpet ride I met an extremely drunk Scotsman named Dean. It was fun to talk to him, though it was very tough to understand him do to his heavy Scottish accent combined with all red and white wine he had been drinking. It got a little weird toward the end of the flight when he ended up taking my picture so he could post it on his Facebook, but I figured, “All publicity is good publicity.”
Upon our arrival in Nigeria I was so excited to finally meet the prince to whom I’d been sending my credit card and personal banking information to for all these months leading up to our trip. However, much to my shock and dismay I found out that he was tied up and couldn’t meet me at the airport as we had arranged. A nice man on the street told me for $50 USD he would ensure I’d see him when we return home; these people are the best!
After a lovely baby wipe bath in the Lagos, Nigeria Airport, I happily took the chance to chat with my sister Erica online. It was nearing 8 pm local time in Nigeria and our conversation was cut short; it was time for us to board our final aircraft for the flight portion of our journey. At around 10 pm on Friday night the grand daddy of all aircraft (at least for now) the Boeing 747 rumbled down the runway and took off into the Nigerian night sky on its way to Johannesburg. That’s at least what DJ told me happened; I was asleep before take-off. Sitting in a seat for hours at a time watching TV and movies while being served food and drink is tough work!
Although I slept for a few moments at the beginning of that plane ride I wish I could have slept a few more. The first two flights were on board Air France and the programming and service they offered were truly great. South African Air, was adequate I was just tired of being in the air. Not being able to sleep was frustrating, it’s not usually something that’s a problem for me, but for whatever reason this time it was. I walked up and down the spacious (if you’re an ant) aisles of the vessel, stretching and looking at all the other people who were fast asleep in their seats. I was jealous of them and part of me wanted to run up and down the aisles screaming just to be spiteful, but I didn’t, after all I value my record of never going to prison. I knew that had I acted on crazy thought like that the story of the mission trip would include bail money and many tearful conversations with my wife as we waited for our lawyer to help us out.
Finally just after 5 am local time we touched down in Johannesburg, South Africa host of the 2010 World Cup (yawn). We were all just thrilled to be done flying. We could have been in Slovakia and charged with the task of driving the rest of the way and we would have been game as long as it didn’t include another plane ride.
With 12 of our 14 bags in hand (yes, they lost two) we headed towards customs. Doug Myers, the missionary we’re working with met with us after our passports were stamped helped us get our rental car secured. Shock of all shocks, our rental car was not actually there. With the few hours we had to kill we had a tasty breakfast at one of the airport restaurants. The Johannesburg Airport was looking great and ready to handle all the traffic that will surely accompany the World Cup in 2010.
We put a bow on Saturday and our epic air journey by enjoying some time with the Myers family. We had a buffet style dinner together and collectively attempted to figure out where we were and how we got here. It feels good to be in Swaziland, I’m ready to serve and look forward to a couple weeks without a flight.