Friday, 16 September 2016

The Journey Home

Bryan and I waited in the small departure area of the Blantyre airport. He directed me to the sitting area under the air conditioning. 100 feet and he was already going soft and wanting the creature comforts of the Western world life.
It was an uneventful short flight from there to Johanessburg. We landed with a 5 hour wait for the transfer to our flights from London. This is when we started to hit some glitches. We hadn't been able to check-in online in advance so we had to go get our boarding passes. Doing that we notice that my seat was in the worst possible position right by an engine and my medical restriction weren't noted on my file. Fanstastic. It took calls to supervisors and staff and they still weren't going to be able to move me to a better seating area. We even tried to switch my flight to the one Bryan was on and that wasn't any better. I was just going to have to drug up and pray that I was functional when I landed in London. My Ontario travel booking agent was going to be hearing about this. Bryan checks in and the agent confirms that his 2 bags are already checked all the way through to Toronto. His inside voice goes off and he only had one bag but he responds yes not to cause any problems. After we leave the counter, we check our baggage tags and realise that Blantyre had assigned my bags to Bryan and Bryan's to mine. We pray that they all arrive and that this works out at customs. In the meantime it's back through a security check where I get stopped for having liquids in my bag. WHAT? Both myself and the security guy have to go through the knapsack 3 times to finally find a mini can of Coke that was in a pocket by the padding. I'm not even sure when it was put there and how many security checks it had passed through already. Geesh.
We still had time so we checked out a beautiful shop called Out Of Africa for some last minute gift and mementos. I think I spent more there in 30mins than I did in 2.5 weeks in Malawi. When I went to pay, I was going to us USD. I asked what exchange rate they gave and it was less than the money exchange place just around the corner. I asked if they would match them and they said no. OK well hold my purchase, I'll go do an exchange and come back. I had the clerk write down exactly the amount of South African Rands and off I went. I know this may sound like a waste of time but it was going to save me close to $21USD and that is a big amount of money just to pay in fees. I was thankful that there was no line and that this wouldn't take much time. The women at the counter was very friendly and helpful and just as she was about to finish the transaction her computer crashed. Of course, it did! It took a few minutes for that to come back up and then I was back to the store to finish my purchses. Bryan was patiently waiting for me, although I was feeling a little flustered. We headed up to find our gates. My flight would be leaving first, his 2 hrs later. As we chatted and walked along we came up to those moving sidewalks and I saw Bryan step on and I stepped on to the one beside him. Something, immediately felt WRONG and I saw Bryan moving faster away from me and I felt like I was on a treadmill. WHOA! I had walked on the one going the opposite way. It was a miracle that I hadn't fallen flat on my face but was able to get myself oriented, turned around walked off and got on the right one. Bryan was laughing in disbelief. I think we should all just be proud I didn't end up sprawled all over the place with my luggage.
I boarded my flight and had a chance to speak to the flight crew about my condition and concerns about the flight. They were all very supportive and just open to help in any way they could. Also sitting in the aisle seat of my row was John. Turns out he is a physician from Hull, UK returning home. I fell calmer knowing I was surrounded by people watching out for me and who knew what to do. I basically waited for the meal to be served, drugged myself up, inserted my headphone and passed out for the flight. Landing in Heathrow at 4:45am, I was still kinda dopey with the meds but able to get through security and to the departure waiting area. I sent a message to Bryan explaining where to find me and found a comfortable spot to relax for the morning. I caught up on my blog, Facebook and strolled around stretching out my legs after sitting so long. 
Bryan arrived and we had scones with marmalade in a toast to Cathy who thinks that's just wrong. I have to agree with her, jam is better.
We had a long wait until our after flight to Toronto and it was going to be a long day as we gained back  the 6hours of time we lost a few weeks ago. On our flight back to Canada, we unfortunately had a group of young men from Finland who had too much to drink and were causing a rukus. The crew did their best to keep control of the situation but we were all ready to say good bye to them on landing.
Finally on the ground in Toronto, I immediately noticed how green everything was. It seemed so fresh and alive.
It was a smooth trip through customs and then the challenge of retrieving our luggage. I was over joyed when all 3 of our suitcases arrived. I have purposely not purchased common coloured luggage so that it is easy to find on these kind of trips. No black, tan, brown, green, blue or red. I like patterns but the last few have been purple. Apparently, purple has become the new black of luggage because there were over 15 purple suitcases that weren't mine.......bother.
As soon as I turned on my phone, there was a text from my friend Mike saying he was close and ready to pick me up. Text him when I had my luggage.
I did and I was so happy to see him pull up in Felix. Again, I am grateful to have a distinctive car that is easy to spot. It was funny that I automatically checked to find my keys when I saw my car!
Great friends know you well, and Mike greeted me with a welcome hug and said I have a cold Coke for you.
PERFECT! We loaded and hit the road, knowing that we needed patience for the rush hour traffic. It was wonderful to have the time to talk about the trip and debrief a bit and the drive didn't take that long. By 7pm, I was home again. I decided to unpack as I wanted to try to get switched over to Canada time. My clever packing had worked and all my lovely purchases had made it in one piece. The apartment feels a little quiet and empty without the ferrets but I will wait until Sunday to go and retrieve them. That will give me time to unpack, get organized and readjusted to life and to visit with the Vanderkooys when I do go. I really love that Geoff too the time to send me email updates on the fuzzies adventures while I was away. It assures me that they have been well loved in my absence.
Now that I am home, I have a lot to think about and process. There will be one more post in the next 2 days to wrap up this adventure.

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