The first leg of our flight to Madagascar departed from Daytona Beach for Atlanta at 11:30 am Friday, October 9. We checked six large rolling duffle so of supplies and carried on all our own personal items. The duffle so weighed less than forty pounds each, much less than I expected. No line at the ticket counter and no line at security, so we had plenty of time to wait before boarding. Time for a little snack and some people watching. While I prefer to travel comfortably, some opt for tight skinny jeans, stiletto heels and revealing tops. To each his own.
We had a two hour layover in Atlanta, enough time to grab a Greek salad with chicken in the terminal E courtyard listening to a live alto sax player accompanied by his iPad. Sweet gig. A salad on the way out is pretty important since we probably won’t be eating many vegetables in Madagascar. Anything irrigated with or washed in the local water would be off limits for the next week.
Our next flight, from Atlanta to Paris, would take 8-1/2 hours aboard a full 767. We took off on time at 3:30 pm. The in-flight food of chicken or pasta was average. The complimentary wine was very good. I slept a little, did some reading, and watched the the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug. Wifi on board? Though every advertisement said yes, the reality was no. I did catch a glimpse of the business class section, with its little pods where you could lay flat and sleep. Maybe someday.
We landed in Paris about 5:45 am and found ourselves in a mostly empty airport. We would eventual rendezvous with the other members of our team, but their flights didn’t begin arriving until 8 am. We walked to what we thought was our connecting gate, and then took a little shuttle to our actual connecting gate. A little coffee shop was open. We had some so-so coffee and croissant, and dozed a little in the gate area.
About 9 am, other people began showing up at the gate, including the members of our team:
- Pastor Jeff Kuddes, team leader from MO, who had been to Madagascar several times
- Diane, a nurse from Napa, CA
- Molly, a nurse from Iowa
- Tammi, Molly’s mom from Iowa
- Jane, a nurse practitioner from Wisconsin
- Samantha, a hopeful mad school student from Wisconsin
- Christie, a forensic science teacher from Glendale, AZ
- Jeanelle, a pharmacist fro Phoenix, AZ
- Peter and Donna fro Oregon. Donna is a nurse and Peter’s a pastor
- Lydia, a nurse from the Washington DC area
We all had a chance to chat while waiting to board the 777 to Madagascar. (Who knew so many people wanted to travel to Madagascar?) while chatting, we learned that the government had changed some laws, which might prevent some of our nurse practitioners from acting as providers in Madagascar. One rule of trips like this is that you must be flexible.
We departed at 11:30 am and the flight was uneventful. Flying with Delta (Atlanta to Paris) was much nicer than Air France (Paris to Madagascar). Upon reaching 10,000 ft, the flight attendants immediately brought out some iffy-looking food. Then they disappeared and we didn’t see them again until we we began our descent into Antananarivo, when they brought out some iffy-looking breakfast. I do not like them in a plane…I do not like them in the rain…I do not like green eggs and ham.
We touched down in Antananarivo, Madagascar about 11:30 am local time. We had been warned about the long wait at immigration, which indeed took about two hours. All of the three hundred passengers on the plane were funneled to a small glass cubicle containing eight government immigration workers. One took your passport, handed it to one of four people working at computers, who scanned your information and handed it to a third, who stamped it and handed it off to a fourth who signed it and called your name to pick it up. Not efficient, but it provided jobs for eight people.
The blessing of the night: all of our bags arrived with us. As you know, that’s a victory no matter where you are traveling. We loaded up in three vans and drove about 10 minutes to the hotel where we spent the night. It was easy to fall asleep at 2:30 am after about thirty hours of travel.