Sunday, May 23, 2010

Flying to the UK…

Our last night in Uganda, we stayed at the Jane Goodall Institute, which was great! We were the only people there and I was storing my samples in their freezer, so it was convenient to be in the same place as the samples for a quick get-away in the morning. The room we were in had a view of Lake Victoria, so that was really nice. Actually, just to add to all the great things anyone can say about Jane Goodall, I will say that the institute there in Entebbe is a great resource for researchers. So friendly and cozy and convenient!

Our airport taxi was over an hour late to pick us up, so we were freaking out! When he came, his trunk was full of stuff so we had to figure out where to put our luggage and he was full of excuses. Actually, our last car ride in Uganda was full of yelling. Him trying to make excuses for being so bad and Jeff and I yelling “can you please stop talking?!?! Drive, we are late, just drive!!!” It was a mess. For sure, Jeff and I will not miss dealing with drivers or public transportation in Uganda. Public transportation in Uganda really requires you separate your mind from what is actually happening to you at the moment. The vehicles always seem just barely in control of the driver. It is a mess. We also decided, we won’t miss all the bugbites. But everything else, we’ll miss. Anyway, we called the guy who runs the airport taxi service and he said we didn’t have to pay since the driver was so bad. Good customer service, I have to say. Though he said he was going to call and talk to the driver and I asked him to wait 20 mins or so. I didn’t want to be in the car with this crazy man when he got that phone call. But the boss called immediately after I hung up. So the driver started yelling over the phone and flailing his arms so hard and so angrily that I was worried he would either lose control of the car or accidently hit me in the face on one of his backswings. Geez!

We had all sorts of hijinks once we got the airport, as to be expected, but finally got checked in and past the visa check-point, and to the gate just in time. Apparently we weren’t “just in time” because the flight was then delayed waiting for other people who had not yet made it to the gate. Also, as the plane was taxi-ing out onto the runway, a very bratty little girl (this was the worst behaved Ugandan child I had ever seen) was screaming and crying. Her Mom was totally coddling her and coaxing on the crying because of a complete lack of discipline. So then the Mom unbuckled her and put her on her lap!!!!! Two flight attendants immediately rushed up and said, “Ma’am, we are about to take off, she has to be in the seat. Any child over 2 years old has to be buckled in on their own.” And she freaked out. She was like “This is not my first time flying, don’t talk to me like that, stop being rude to me…” (Jeff would like me to note here that this is literally seconds before we take off. That moment that plane pauses on the runway before gunning the engines.) The female flight attendant walked away and the male flight attendant said “Ma’am, we are going to have to call the captain, if you don’t put her in her seat.” And the woman buckled her in and then the man started to walk away, she said “don’t treat me like I’m rubbish”. The man immediately came back and said (in a pissed off/firm voice), “Ma’am, my only concern is for the safety of your daughter and other passengers on this flight, I’m not being rude to you, she needs to be buckled in.” A woman sitting in the next row back tried to intervene and the flight attendant held up his hand to her very firmly and said “don’t touch me” (because she had been grabbing his arm). He walked away and the woman was still complaining under her breath, but the little girl shut up, sat in her seat, and was well-behaved. Literally, all she needed was some discipline. I mean, get it together lady. And then, when we were coming in for our landing, the little girl was screaming at the top of her lungs and her mother was, again, not disciplining her, just petting her head, etc. And the little girl stood up on her seat – as we were coming in for our landing!!!! Then the mom put her on her lap, again. At this point, I leaned up and said “You need to buckle her in!” And the woman smiled and was like “I know, she won’t stay down”. Finally, she strong-armed her into the seat and strapped her in. What a crazy woman! If this kid had been standing in her seat when we hit the ground, she would have been so badly injured. Geez, don’t fly with your kids if you can’t keep them under control! Jeff would also like me to point out that this kid just wanted attention. He went into an indepth analysis of when she cried and why, which I won’t write out here, but his assessment is that her crying had nothing to do with fear of flying and just a need for attention because she was a brat.

Anyway, British Airways was wonderful, as usual. The movie choices were great, the food was great, they were so helpful. We totally forgot to make sure that we had veggie meals, but they have us stored in their system as veggies, so they showed up, as expected. It was great! Unfortunately, they had mushrooms. This has come up before because of my mushroom allergy and they always seem to find some other meal for me (I think they have different veggie options for the different classes, so they just give me a different veggie meal). This time, all the meals had mushrooms, so instead, they took two of their pickle, veggie, and cheese sandwiches that were set aside for the crew and toasted them up for me. They were so delicious and I continue to be amazed at how accommodating BA is!

We landed in Heathrow, went through customs, got our bags, and headed out of the airport. We booked the TravelLodge at the Airport, which we weren’t expecting to be much, but we showed up to an amazing hotel! Big, clean rooms with a modern feel. A nice soft bed, a big red couch, a flatscreen tv up on the wall, free coffee and tea in the room and a great shower with high pressure and hot water. I’m not sure if we would be amazed with any 1st world hotel room at this point, but we were certainly impressed with this. And I was able to store my samples in their freezer overnight, which is why we booked this place. Great! We have been walking around the room in barefeet since we checked in. We got a few appetizers brought up to our room to hold us over until we went out for dinner, but then I fell asleep and slept right through dinner. Apparently, I was tired and even the 2 hour time difference has got me.

So now we are up and ready for our flight back to the US. There was apparently another volcano issue here and flights in Northern UK were canceled yesterday. I guess it has now cleared up, but my fear of flying is worse thinking about flying into a big volcano cloud. So everyone be hoping for a safe flight back to the US and onto Ohio. Thanks!

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