The Journey Begins

The Journey begins.

Just getting to the airport this time around was an event in and of itself. Normally in the past, I would get a ride from one of my parents to the airport. My first time around it was my father driving, with my mother and girlfriend that dropped me off. This time, however, my father couldn’t make it due to a doctors appointment, and my mother was still recovering from eye surgery. The girlfriend currently only has her drivers permit, and couldn’t make the drive home alone. So I asked my friend Brandon (Brandon couldn’t get off work), so I called Lee. Lee agreed to it.

I also didn’t have a baby last time. So, after waking up and double checking everything; I said goodbye to my dad and started the journey. We dropped The girlfriends daughter off to be watched by her grandfather, and then the half hour drive to pick up Lee. Soon we were in Chicago and trying to find a place to park in the hell that is O’hare.  I said a very heartfelt goodbye to my baby girl, my girlfriend, and Lee.

(Haley the Bebe and I)

(Bebe and I)

(Heading off!)

I have a theory about airports, and it goes like this:

IF you are one of the few citizens of the world without citizenship to a particular nation, you can live in the terminal of an international airport. It’s one of the safe zones that exist to allow people to travel around the world – similar to international waters. So it exists as a sort of no mans land; a gap in the normally rigid borders of the world. Since it’s not really a place in space, one can assume that it does not exist in time, either. Which is why I find it perfectly acceptable to drink in airport terminals regardless of the time. Actually, I make it a point to drink when I fly.


There’s the 8 dollar bud light I had at the airport in O’hare. But, I never drink on Domestic flights; it costs way too much and I normally spend most of the flight passed out with my mouth open anyway.

My flight path was rather convoluted and confusing. I flew in the following order:
From O-hare
to Dullus in Washington DC
to Brussels in Belgium
to Belgium to Liberia

I don’t know why It wasn’t just from O’hare to Belgium, since O’hare is an international airport, but I digress.

I get to Dullus and my ticket is through United, but it doesn’t have a terminal.

Crap.

When you leave a flight, normally there’s a gentlemen as you walk out whose some sort of wizard. He knows where every flight is and when it heads out. I imagine this man as some sort of idiot savant, who’s dressed by his Uncle (who’s obviously tired of doing this every day), while muttering gate numbers and air carriers to himself.

“You’re going to have a good day today right, Alfred?” The Uncle straightens the mans tie, as he’s done 1,000 times in the past.
“Flight 9049 from Terminal C7 to Tel Aviv.”
“Good, good.” Uncle Charles knew that Terminal C was was used when Alfred was in a better mood; terminal B when in a foul mood, and you never, ever wanted to hear him mention terminal T.

I ask him where United to Brussels is and he spits out, “D-12. It’s on D-12, and leaves at 5:00.” I look at my watch and its 4:45. I do the reasonable thing and panic. I grab my bag and start running towards the gate. I’m in C something, and Dullis is pretty damn big. I’m shouldering babies and leaping over old men in strollers – I can’t miss this flight. I’ll have to end up staying in D.C and wait a few days to fly out again.

Somehow, I make it to the gate and It’s 4:54. I take my printed ticket up to the counter while dodging a woman’s Danish Volleyball team in the process. (Hmm, maybe I should have tried to take that flight). The woman – who looked like she was ready for her shift to be over – took my ticket and scanned it.

“Yeah, this flight is with United through Brussels airway. That’s terminal B”

Damn you wizard flight savant, you were wrong!

So, I hustle to find the B Terminal. Part of this involves traversing the tarmac in what appears to be a Star Wars sand crawler (minus the blaster marks), and hopping a shuttle train. I make it to the terminal and its 5:30. The flight leaves in 20 minutes. Luckily, I have my ticket at this point and manage to board.

An airbus can hold 338,  but there were only 66 people on my flight to Brussels. Maybe some of them had been confused by the terminal wizard and ended up missing the other flight. Either way, it was glorious, I had an entire row to myself, and no one behind me. I watched “The Judge” with Robert Downy Jr, had three Beglian beers, two meals, and passed out for a good six hours of the flight

It was an amazing flight.

This is my third time in the Brussels airport, as seemingly all roads lead through Belgium (Can ask the Germans about that). So I remember my way around.  I go through security and head up to the “Diamond Lounge”.

Now the Diamond Lounge is not, and I say again not, what its name suggests, and that is a strip club that straddles the boarder between Portage and Lake county in Indiana.

It’s a “rest and have some drinks while you wait for your next flight” sorta lounge. Now, when you’re in most airports you see these lounges as you head towards your flight.
“Lufthansa Business class”
“Brussels Airways Bourgeoisie lounge”
“Air Singapore, don’t even think of looking in here you filthy pleb lounge.”

All the while you walk by, carrying your backpack, or rolling around your hand-me-down luggage and you know, you just know that they’re in there, drinking their fancy machiatos with soy(extra wet of course) and laughing at you. Well, maybe that’s what I imagine.
However, for the low, low price of 26 Euro’s you can enjoy the same.  They have a buffet, water, soda, beer, hard liquor and a place to sleep. Remember that beer I paid for in O’hare? That one was 8 dollars. A sandwich? You have another 8-10 bucks, not counting a drink and a side. Throw in trying to pay for wifi and you’re looking at an easy 30-40 dollars just waiting for your flight.

I had around 6 hours before my flight left to Monrovia, so I paid the 28 bucks, enjoyed my food and beer and enjoyed some Wifi.

And for awhile, all was right in the universe.

I stretched, took a look in the mirror and headed to find my next flight – Brussels to Monrovia.

The only reason I remember my flight Terminal is because it was T-72, and for those that don’t know the T-72 is an old Russian tank model. So I start  following the signs for terminal T. Terminal B goes from B-1 to B-98, terminal T is about half way through that.

(This Tank did not get me to Monrovia)

I find the sign and head towards it – my overly full backpack digging into my shoulders with each additional step. The sign directs me down a ramp, which winds down, and down, and down to what appears to be a non functioning part of the airport. There are painters everywhere, tarps on the ground, and people working on lights. It’s like I went from the first world European airport to the Developing nations airport in one ramp. The ramp going to Africa.

I turn left, and to my surprise there is a gate marked “T” and an attendant there. He takes my ticket and tells me to wait for the next shuttle over to T terminal. A short shuttle ride over and I’m there, which is pretty much where every flight to Africa is. I’m still about an hour early, so I wander back and forth aimlessly down the short terminally, wander into the duty free stores and look at the overpriced jewelry and sunglasses.

When I manage to get back to the Terminal, an hour long queue has formed in front of the gate. Unlike my last flight, this one was packed.  No one really knew what the queue was for, was it to board? To get our tickets checked? Maybe Kim Kardashian had been spotted. I, like a good old Army Vet, fell right in because if eight years of serving taught me anything, it’s how to stand in a line for a really long time without knowing why.

One of my co-workers was also on the flight, so we stood and talked about what I had missed, which was apparently a lot. The old medical director is gone, and replaced by a new one. Several of the staff had resigned or were terminated. The general shuffle you expect you from an organization building its first Ebola Treatment unit. Only two people I met when I left Liberia were still there.

This flight was a little more on the rough side; packed to the brim with people, crying babies, and a kid behind me who kept kicking my seat.

He actually managed to pull out and inflate his life jacket mid flight. The flight attendant was visibly upset at this, as the kids father was next to him and just let it happen.

Had we not had an extra flight jacket on board, they would have had to do an emergency landing to restock another one. Yes, this is a real thing.

The flight dragged on forever and the only highlight was watching the dunes of the Sahara as we passed over them quickly. I briefly wondered if I had a life jacket at this point, then quickly remembered I’m flying over a desert..so then I slept to Monrovia.

Remember the little boy with the life jacket? As we landed, he kept asking his father if this was New York, since he was told that he would be visiting New York? Was this kid getting kidnapped? Or was he simply being a jerk? One answer we may never know.

A quick stamp on the passport and another 45 minutes was spent waiting for my luggage to arrive. With the packed flight, and one baggage terminal in the airport, things got a little chaotic.

(Anarchy)

Yeah, even the baggage inspectors just waved me through. Following the 16 hours of flying was another hour of driving to the capital itself and to the guesthouse. The same guesthouse I stayed in the last time I was in Monrovia.

The only difference being that I was the only one there this time. Which made it seriously creepy. In the past I had stayed in the back bedroom with Davis as my roommate. This time I took the one bed bedroom a little further into the house. Getting ready for bed.

I close my bedroom door (for whatever reason, despite no one else being there). I turn around and then hear footsteps in the hallway, quickly I open the door and find no one there.

Okay, hmmm. Weird, but I am tired after a long flight. The mind does have a way of playing tricks on you when you’re exhausted. I head into the bathroom to brush my teeth and take a shower. The bathroom door slowly creeks open as I brush, and the shower mount collapses with a loud clatter at the same time.

…Nope
….Nope
…..Nope
I like to say that I’m not a superstitious man, however that event was some scooby doo level trickery and I don’t have shaggy around to protect me. I retreated to the back bed room and stayed there, confident in my ability to defend myself from the ghosts of past guests.

I was told I would be leaving for Tappita on Thursday, and would attend a meeting with USAID on Wednesday, so I unpacked a few things. However, that meeting was cancelled and the drive to Tappita was to begin in urnest the next day.

Uploading photo’s here is rather difficult, so blog posts might either be more wordy or more sparse as it takes significantly longer to put the photos up.

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