At 9pm on May 18th I was anxious and excited to check in for my flight leaving 24 hours later. I logged on to Turkish Airlines, clicked the check in button, and filled in my information. I closed the app and went along with my last day in the United States for a month. I woke up on the 19th with ants in my pants from excitement. I was checking off my packing list and checking it off again. I was changing my outfit at least 4 times trying to find the perfect comfy cute traveling style. I was beyond ready for the journey that lay in front of me. My dad was supposed to arrive home at 4pm and we would leave for the airport at five. When he finally showed up i decided to check one more time on my flight status. It was then I realized i had made a huge mistake. It turned out that at 9pm the previous day i had forgotten a step in the check in process and had actually not checked in at all. There was only two spots left and both were middle seats… It looked like I would not be sleeping for 14 hours….
If that was not bad enough, on the way to the airport I got a message from Tyler saying her flight to Houston from Midland was delayed long enough that she would be missing our flight out. I got very nervous when I realized I would be traveling all my myself. As independent as I am, I have always had a traveling companion with me when going out of the country. I might have felt a little more at ease if the flight was going to a more modernized country that spoke english, but I was flying to Istanbul, Turkey and then Arusha, Tanzania all by my lonesome. However, I had to keep my brave face on because my parents were worried enough for all of us. Surprisingly though, In all of my nervousness I felt anticipation and excitement. Traveling to foreign countries all on my own would be a test to my independence and capabilities as well as proof to my friends and family that I can do such things. Before I knew it I was on board and about to take off. Since it was around 9pm, I figured i would take some melatonin to help me sleep. I have never had trouble sleeping on planes, but this flight made it impossible. My eyelids felt heavy and my brain was shutting off, but no matter what I could not seem to fall asleep. They would not turn the cabin lights off and there was commotion going on all around me. When i gave up on trying to sleep I asked the flight attendant for a cup of coffee only to be told they weren’t serving coffee at this time. I turned on a movie and struggled to fight the drowsiness. Finally, two movies later the passed out eye masks. I was so grateful. I put on my mask and got comfy. The most irritating thing however was they turned off the cabin lights two minutes later and the flight attendant informed me that they were now serving coffee… Despite the darkness, I still could not sleep. I stayed wide awake all the way to Istanbul.
When we landed in Turkey all i wanted was to change clothes, brush my teeth, and wash my face. American airports are good about having spacious bathrooms that allow these things. However, in Turkey I had no such luck. There was ten gates to one bathroom, and the bathroom only had two stalls. There was a line that stretched down the hall and took about 30 minutes. When I finally got into a stall i felt so rushed that I changed my underwear as fast as I could and bolted out without brushing my teeth or even applying a fresh coat of deodorant. I smelt, and my face felt greasy, but the line back into the bathroom had grown. Even if I was willing to to wait again, I didn’t think i had it in me to hold up the line and tend to my personal hygiene through the judgmental impatient stares. The turkish airport showed almost no signs of english. I never heard a person speak english either. I stayed to myself mostly and watched a couple episodes I had downloaded before the trip. When it was time to board, a shuttle drove us about 20 minutes to our plane. I really liked the fact that we had to take a shuttle because it provided me with the opportunity to see Turkey. Istanbul is a beautiful city. There were hills that were covered the houses that were a variety of colors. It made it look like you were looking at the top of a crayon box. We were flying out at the time of sunset in Istanbul. From my window seat, I could see the Black Sea that was a vibrant blue and the white beaches. The coast was absolutely breathtaking. However, the sunset on the coast was something of dreams. The sky was a bright red with hints of pink. I have never seen such colors in the sky. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. I have never given Turkey much thought, but i think i would really like to visit Istanbul one day.
My flight to Kilimanjaro was a little rough. I felt gross and being in a window seat was great until you had to go to the bathroom or get something out of your bag. I got up once on the 14 hour plane ride, but now that I was a window seat on a 6 hour plane ride I seemed to need to get up every hour. In the last hour the man siting next to me started a conversation with me. My inner instinct was screaming ALERT, probably from my father reminding me of the movie Taken so many times before I left, but the man told me he wasn’t getting off at Kilimanjaro and was staying on the airplane to fly to Zanzibar so that made me feel a little better. I had also been on high alert for about 23 hours and was craving some human conversation. He was from Belgium and a group of them were headed to Zanzibar to help build a public library. He told me their trip was relatively short because he had to fly to America for a basketball conference when he returned. His accent made me a little confused but I think he was the equivalent of an NBA player. He told me that they didn’t have anytime to do excursions but he hoped to one day bring his girlfriend here for strictly touristy purposes. It was really cool to talk to him and I wished him luck as I got off the plane. The airport was probably smaller than the size of my house. There was no air-conditioning and customs was awful. I filled out the visa form Neema House had sent me and gave it to them only to be told i had not filed it out correctly. Confused, I filled out the visa form that they provided at stands seat up around the room. By the time I finished filling mine out, the line was about 20 people long. I waited and waited. When i got back to the front, I was told the form I filled out was the wrong form and I was handed the form I had originally filled out incorrectly. I was now extremely tired and exasperated. I filled out the form to the best of my ability and was now that very last person in line. I finally was able to get my visa and my luggage and leave the airport. Being the last out of a one-room airport is advantageous when trying to find your diver. There was only one man standing there with a sign that said ‘Neema Village.’ His name was Julius. He is probably one of the kindest souls i have ever met. His english is excellent, and his general happiness is contagious even after 27 hours of traveling. Neema House is an hour away from the airport and it was about 4am Sunday morning. Looking put of the window I noticed three things: the people, the houses, and the dogs. It surprised me to see so many people walking. It was 4am, and I saw at least 25 people who were walking or running in nice clothes. When I asked Julius about it, he told me that most people here do not own cars and have to start walking very early in the morning in order to get to work on time. The houses were also surprising. If you have ever seen shrek and have seen the outhouse he uses, their homes are about the size of that. Some of the houses or huts were so small it seemed almost impossible that a person could sleep, let alone live, there. Some of the other houses were decently sized, and I saw a ton that were under construction. Julius told me that the family builds the house themselves and Its bad luck to live in it before it is completed. Therefore, i would see nice well made homes under construction with a small hut set up next to it.
When I arrived at Neema Village, it was still dark and I felt as if I was a walking pile of dirt. I entered into the volunteer house and was greeted by Micheal, one of the directors, immediately. He was extremely nice and gave me a quick tour or my room before allowing me to rest. The volunteer house is very modernized so the showers and beds are much like that in America. I was able to finally shower and end my 28 hours of traveling.