It's 3:30 p.m. on July 4th, and it's raining. A thunderstorm! Just like Niger. Though it's cold (only in the 60's), I try never to complain when there's clouds and rain. We see so little of either in Niger that I've come to appreciate both very much, even when it feels like winter to me. iIve got on a t-shirt and a sweatshirt. Our last day in Tera it was 111 F in the shade with about 40% humidity, a heat index of nearly 140 F. Unfortunately, we haven't heard that Niger has had much rain yet, and that's not good. They should have had rains starting before the end of June.
We're back in the US for a vacation. Our trip here was another adventure. We were supposed to leave from Niamey at 2:45 a.m. on June 18 (local time). We dutifully went out to the airport at midnight after not getting any sleep since 6:30 a.m. the previous day, when we got up to have church and travel down to Niamey from Tera. We quickly got through baggage check-in with our loaded suitcases, then proceeded to passport control. That took a while, and then we had to get in a line for security. It wasn't long before we were in the single waiting lounge in the departure section of the airport. We waited and waited and waited..... Our plane didn't even arrive until 3:30 a.m, and we weren't in take-off position on the single runway until 4:30, nearly 24 hours after we had gotten up the day before.
The big surprise of the trip was that we had a scheduled layover in Ougadougou (try that mouthful on for size), the capital of Burkina Faso, only a 45 minute journey from Niamey. We thought we were on a direct flight to Casablanca, Morocco. The layover was supposed to be 45 minutes, but it turned out to be triple that. First they asked Nancy and Suzanne, another family we were traveling with, and several others to move from the back of the plane. Then they unscrewed some of the back seats and lowered them to install a frame for a stretcher. Then they installed the stretcher and a curtain and carried a sick patient onto the plane, escorted by his daughter and doctor. I had never been on a plane with a medivac before. It was quite dramatic. It was well after sunrise before we took off around 6:30, and we had burned up over three hours of a scheduled 3 hour, 40 minute layover in Casablanca. We were afraid we would miss our flight to New York, but when we landed in Casa at 9:40, we had hope we might make it to the 10:45 flight.
We had to go through security into a waiting lounge, and then we were bused to a secondary terminal, past our waiting plane sitting on the tarmac. At the new terminal, our plane was already boarding. We had to go through secondary security: a thorough check of our hand luggaged and a frisk down. I was wearing cargo trousers with a lot of pockets, and they were full of travel stuff. I dutifully pulled everything out of my trousers. One thing I was carryin in a side pocket was a bee-sting kit. I'm allergic to bee strings and have to carry this kit wherever I go. The policemen looked at it, promplty popped the 1/2-inch needle out of it and reprimanded me for trying to take a needle on the plane. I tried to explain that I'm allergic to bee stings, and the medicine in the kit could save my life. He glared at me, seeming not to comprehend a word I was saying (all in French) and not happy with the needle sticking out of it. I don't think he'd ever seen or heard of such a thing. He said he'd have to confiscate it. I said he might as well because he'd exposed the medicine to the air, and it would lose its potency quickly as a result. We got on a bus that took us halfway back to the other terminal, where our plane waited. We boarded our flight and took off only a half hour late (11:15 a.m. local time). We made up the time in the air, and arrived exactly on time at JFK in New York at 2:45 p.m. NY time. We breezed through passport control, baggage claim, and customs, and found ourselves out in the lobby of the international building arrivals area. We had decided to take the "Connecticut Limo," a fancy name for a comfortable van, to Hartford, CT to meet my parents. It was an expensive, but easy way to leave the New York driving to someone else. We were picked up at 4: 30 p.m., but it took another hour to pick up other riders at other terminals, and we had to switch vans at one point to accomodate even more passengers. So it was after 5:30 before we left the airport, and you know what that means on a Monday afternoon. It was bumper to bumper on the Van Wyck "Expressway" until we got to the bridges going over the East River to the mainland. Then we had to drop passengers off in three different places in CT before we got to Hartford. My brother, his son, and my mom were waiting there with a van to pick us up with our large assortment of baggage and take us home. We went home, had a delicious supper of subs, and then crashed at about 10:30 p.m., EDT, nearly 24 hours after we had taken off from Niamey, and about 45 hours since we had had any real sleep. This is the stuff of international travel, and I begin to wonder why I thought traveling was so much fun when I was younger.
Next blog I'll detail some of the things we've been doing on vacation.
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8 months ago