At 13.00 on the 31st of August I arrived at Heathrow, said goodbye to the parents in café Nero after an uninspiring cappuccino cake and a Wispa and met up with the other members of CDI who were on my flight.
Over 12 hours later we stepped out of the plane to overwhelming heat in Abu Dhabi at about 1 o’clock in the morning. Everyone seemed to be really frantic and stressed which I thought seemed unnecessary. It transpired that this stress was in fact justified, as our flight from London had arrived late, and our transfer flight on to the Seychelles was to leave in only half an hour. This was when panic/hilarity/delirium begun to take hold. After a futile sprint through the airport (which did more for Rhys’ desire for a sense of drama than it did anything actually productive) we resigned ourselves to waiting at the air transfers desk while Georgia and Charlie attempted to salvage the situation. I spent $5 on a bottle of water, proceeded to spill said water, and Aran chatted to a suspicious man from New Jersey who hadn’t been allowed through customs.
About an hour later we were all on our way to the Etihad first class lounge, feeling very smug, particularly in the knowledge that the other flight were still stuck in London after a cancellation (We later found out that they had been put up for free in a 5* hotel.)
We relaxed, exploited the free WiFi and then at 5.30 breakfast opened, which I can only describe as a banquet of majestic proportions. Ate far too many pancakes, had a shower, then went for a massage which essentially constituted an Asian woman hitting me with a pair of large drumsticks. Living the dream. Made our way to departures, reciting a lengthy and confusing edition of ‘I went to the Supermarket and I bought’, but in Swahili, and finally got on the plane at half 8.
Was a pretty bleak flight if I’m honest, desperately trying to actually get some sleep (was too distracted by the novelty of the first class lounge to relax sufficiently for sleep there) while my eyes, nose and ears felt like they were being rendered completely devoid of all moisture by the aeroplane air conditioning. Also we didn’t get food. In general the experience was vastly inferior to both the previous flight and the night of luxury in Abu Dhabi. A harsh reminder not to get carried away. Nairobi airport was an average experience – played some scategories and learnt some more Swahili. Have officially learnt 45 words. Only the rest of the language to go.
Got on the plane, slept a bit, got off the plane. Baggage was waiting for us at the other end which seemed like a miracle after a) the confusing nature of our travel itinerary and b) a general feeling of systemic inefficiency that had been very present since kissing goodbye to Middle Eastern competence in Abu Dhabi. Africa didn’t let us down however, as it turned out that Ewan’s bag had in fact not made it to Dar. Aran helpfully chipped in that ‘1 out of 12 isn’t bad’ before we established that Rhys, Georgia and even Aran’s own bags had all undergone significant damage on the journey. They filled in complaint forms while the rest of us went outside and used the ATM/made stilted Swahili conversation with the waiting taxi driver.
We finally arrived at the house and Amy, Sophie and I decided to take the top room as it was the coolest. We discovered that there was in fact no shower, no light, nor any glass in the windows. There also seems to be a constant call to prayer being perpetually recited from a very, very nearby mosque, but hey, it all adds to the experience.
At about 10pm we sat on spare mattresses in the big room downstairs, ate takeaway pizza then said goodnight to Tanzania for the first time. Tonight at midnight the other main flight will land, so by the morning our room will go from having 4 people sleeping in it to having 10…
Alice, Education Volunteer