This journey has been an adventure like no other I ever thought I would take. Since I work retail, the busiest day of the year is the Friday following Thanksgiving. Most companies call it Black Friday, ours calls it Navy Blue Friday to even more personalize the message that we are unlike any other retailer. That Friday I received phone call from the district office that I would be going to Djibouti (GEE-BOOTY), Africa for three weeks. This would take me through Christmas and into the New Year. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would spend the holidays in Africa. It has been a challenging month, mentally and physically, and I am just now sitting down to write about it. I have split this into multiple posts for easier reading. This is the first post.
First Leg: Bahrain to Dubai
Bahrain is an island, hour behind Dubai, and three hours ahead of most of Europe. Therefore, most flights that have connections to the rest of the world leave at obnoxious hours of the day. My first flight was from Bahrain to Dubai and would be at 2:45 a.m., meaning I had to be at the airport way early. As I have posted before, nothing really surprises me anymore in this area, and the interanational airport did not disappoint. There were Christmas trees lit up with presents all around, a way over the top duty free section where they were raffling off a Maserati and a Ferrari, and for some reason a full pallet of Tang. They love that stuff here. After checking in I still had some time to kill so of course I went to the Irish pub that was by my check in gate. Exactly what you’d expect, right?
The flight to Dubai is only an hour long, similar to the flight from Burbank to Las Vegas…oh, Vegas how I miss you…but this is different in a HUGE way. The plane we flew out on was a Boeing 777. For those non #avgeek, this is a wide body large plane that sits 10 abreast in coach and is used for long haul flights. Since everyone has to fly out of Bahrain to get somewhere else, the flights are typically done by larger aircraft to cut down on the number of flights they have to schedule. My excitement was that this was my first flight on a 777 so I can mark that off my list too.
Dubai is said to be the Las Vegas for the rest of the world. From what I have heard it is amazing and it really is something great to see. Just the airport is amazing! The Dubai airport is basically a huge mall where they sell everything and anything you want. They have a gold store, an electronics store, numerous restaurants (fancy and inexpensive ones), and too many clothing stores to count. Also, the planes there are awesome. Emirates is the official carrier of the United Arab Emirates and they take pride in their fleet. The new terminal is all large planes with the Airbus A380 all over the place. One day I will get to fly on one of those, but before my next leg of my journey I had a 5-hour layover.
I was able to connect to the Wi-Fi service at my favorite coffee spot, Costa Coffee. I sat down with my cappuccino and opened up my Mac to Facetime with my good friends back home who were having our annual Christmas get together without me. I did send some goodies home that they enjoyed and it was so good to talk to them and see them open my boxes of gifts. I am still not so sure they don’t believe I some type of undercover government agent. Well, maybe I am. 😉 I got on Facetime with my dad as well and got to chat with him for some time as well. I miss him big. Arlo too.
Dubai to Ethiopia
My next flight finally came and I was now flying an Airbus A330 to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Yeah, I haven’t heard of it either. The flight was mostly Ethiopians who spoke French or another language which I could not understand, but it was part of the adventure. I sat next to this elderly woman who tried to speak to me and I couldn’t do anything but shrug my shoulders. I was kind of envious she had the window seat because I wanted to see all the places I was flying over. The elderly woman did not know how to work a seatbelt so with some pointing I was able to help her out. She also tried to figure out the inflight entertainment system, which was amusing for a little bit, after which I did help her out with that as well.
Our flight took us over Saudi Arabia, Somalia, to Ethiopia. From what I could see Africa was a lot of mountains and desolate areas with not much around. A lot of grey and brown with some greens mixed in now and then. Addis Ababa airport is quite interesting. We deplaned into a small empty building where there was not much around as the airport was kind of covered in trash and hay bales. The plane spotting was kind of cool as a few Saudi Arabia airplanes were flying out as well as Learjets marked UN. If you were watching the news at all around December, the area was getting pretty interesting.
Ethiopian Airlines is a Star Alliance member, which means they have certain standards they have met and must uphold, so I was not too worried about the type of airline I was going to be flying. The airport however was quite different. They had us load into a shuttle bus that took us 200 yards to the international terminal where we had I to wait for about 3 hours until our next flight. Now this was the African experience one might expect. Kind of. They had a duty free shop where they sold alcohol and cigarettes and knick-knacks you would expect to see in an airport shop. There was a small deli with a dessert rack and also an espresso machine. Someone was desperate enough to order an espresso and when he or she turned the machine on the electricity in the whole terminal flickered on and off. Not for a second, but a couple of times. The air was stale and the people watching was interesting. They had a TV with the departure information, which was difficult to decipher, but basically the small terminal only let people through the metal detector into the actual waiting area one flight at time.
There were a few other Americans on the flight, but mostly there were people from other countries who definitely did not look like me. It was an adventure for sure.
If you can’t tell, I love planes. I don’t know why, they just always have fascinated me. I never flew until I was 19 years old and flew with my grandmother to Toledo for a week. I was a wreck and didn’t know what to expect. Since then, I have taken a lot flights on various aircraft. When I moved to Washington, my job required me to travel and when Alaska airlines flies to Fresno or Reno they fly in the Bombardier Q400 turbo prop. I was very nervous as I had only flown on a turboprop once before. I say this because I am glad I got that experience in Washington and not in Africa. Because I would have freaked out. Yeah, I’ll admit it. HAHA.
Ethiopia to Djibouti
One does not simply fly into Djibouti International Airport. Your first stop was about 45 minutes away at this small little airstrip in the middle of the African bush called Dire Dawa (DEER-EE DAH-WAH). The guy next to me had some type of illness or something and couldn’t stop shaking or sneezing. He fell asleep and was getting way to comfortable to me, which was unnerving. He would wake himself up by snoring or by shaking out of some type of dream he was having. We arrived in Dire Dawa airport, which had nothing around it, only a small building that they called a terminal. A few people deplaned, and another few people loaded in. Unfortunately the guy next to me stayed put. Some people fueled the plane and we took off again. I was worried people with AK 47s would run out from the bush but nothing like that happened. The trip from Dire Dawa to Djibouti lasted about an hour long and we landed shortly after sunset. It was my first African sunset and it was beautiful. The landing, not so much. It was pretty hard and I was pretty sure we were close to crashing. Sketchy.
My contact picked me up after I cleared through and stamped my passport with Djibouti. I was officially in Africa for a three-week adventure.
More to come!
Thanks for reading!