I Am No Stranger To Air Travel

Air Ethiopia

I am no stranger to air travel…

Starting when I was about 10 years old, I flew each summer on my own from Chicago O’Hare to Pittsburg, making the plane transfer to music camp in Williamsport/Muncy, PA. My most distinct memory was watching the ground crew tossing my precious horn about 10 feet from luggage wagon to cargo hold. The instrument was not damaged, but maybe I was moderately scarred, but not scared. To this day, I pack with the assumption my luggage will be airborne in more than one way. Another mishap of my childhood flights was arriving only to find shampoo or some other liquid had burst all over my clothes, so now I put everything in ziplock bags. I can’t tell you how many times that little trick saved the day. Thanks, Heloise.

This excursion was a little different than a simple vacation in that I needed to carry a lot of recording devices in order to capture some of the amazing events about to occur during the Manda Wilderness Choir Festival and then training the winning choir for the studio session. Overhead projector, Digital cameras, mics, tripod, batteries, data cards, power adapters, cables, solar charger, and connectors all had to get there in one piece and arrive as surely as I would, so it was a no-brainer- the media bag would be my carryon in order to ensure the gear would be safe. No acrobatic cameras on this trip, thank you very much! But I love a challenge, and another childhood activity of loading horses onto a trailer for a nice ride in the park prepared me to love the process of preparation. So, for weeks before this trip I had my staging table, laying out the various gadgets to make this project a success. Glen will have about 5 different sources of media to mix and edit for each event. Lucky dude… He is just the guy to pull it all together. I am blessed to have a brother in law with massive skill in this department.Packing clothes and essentials (including gluten free Arbonne Protein mix for sustenance in the bush- no biscuits, pasta, dairy, eggs, or red meat for me) was really not a big deal compared to the equipment I had to organize and haul in one concise backpack. The 15 yard trek from the car to the check in window with all our luggage (not as much as one would think, but heavy!) told me I would pick only luggage with wheels from now on. Duh, minor oversight. Oh well, live and learn!

But flash to present- it seems this trip is all about chasing daylight. Each place we land will be well ahead of our body clocks. It appears sleep might be one of our biggest challenges- not just due to schedule, but also position. Sitting up is just not satisfying rest, you know what I mean?

Gratefully, so far the trip has been relatively uneventful. We slept all the way to DC and landed this morning about 7:30am. A brief walk to the Ethiopian Air Gate was like strolling down the main street of a ghost town- largely vacant and quiet. I’d say we definitely picked the best time to fly! Various colorful country flags hang from the ceiling giving the place a truly international flavor. Soon, people did start to trickle in, and a couple of hours later we boarded the Boeing 777, one of the largest planes I have seen. It’s a packed flight, but folks are pretty friendly, so it’s not so bad. Of course there are the ubiquitous screaming babies. Beth and I give each other that ‚Äúhope we don’t have to sit next to that group‚Äù look. Five hours sleep so far and many more miles to go before we get a bed. Ahh‚Ķ But it is the adventure of a lifetime! Noise is noise and a sign of life, so we laugh and just take in the scene as we wait to board. Standard traveling procedure. You know the drill.

addisabbabaWhile most everyone who knows me is well aware of my love for exotic musics, the muzak blaring just over my head in the plane is just about more than I can stand. The irritation is more about the volume than the style, but the real problem is the mix ain’t great‚Ķ Unless you like to listen with your head inside the saxophone. Sorry, Terrel Eaton- nothing personal, but is it that loud inside your horn? I sure hope not! If the flight attendant hadn’t already scolded me for wearing these nifty Bose noise-cancelling headphones before devices were permitted, I’d be happily in my own personal cone of silence. I am hoping that it goes away once the plane levels off, and gratefully, eventually, it does.

This will be a 14 hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.IMG_2470

Can you imagine what it takes to get a jet this big to fly literally halfway around the world without stopping at 500 plus MPH? The amount of food and refuse alone is staggering to me. It is the definition of a major modern miracle,

From Ethiopia we will fly to Lilongwe, Malawi and spend the night before flying out the next day to take the next leg to Litkoma Island where we will go through Mozambique customs so we can take a boat to Nkwichi Lodge, near Cobue. We might get a chance to see some of the sights in Lilongwe. That should prove to be interesting. Things have been a bit better there for Americans in the last few months from what I read on the US Embassy travel site. Beth is pretty adventurous, so that generally makes things interesting. When we were in Managua, Nicaragua last fall we did get ourselves in a bit of a fix, so I plan to be even more aware this trip. The truth is we could have walked back home from Nicaragua if we had to (in theory- somebody tell me there is a bridge over the Panama Canal!), but not so in this case. It’s a mighty long swim‚Ķ (Isn’t that an old gospel song?) We might have to just take in the sights of Malawi from the back seat of a cab and take video out the window. This time.

Speaking of sight-seeing- I am signing off for now. It is permissible to set the seats back one whole inch, and the only thing I want to look at right now is the inside of my eyelids. Let the pilot chase the daylight all he wants. I am chasing dreams. I’d say goodNIGHT, but I have no idea what time it is right now here or anywhere else in the world. I do know it is time to sleep‚Ķ If I can.


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