Monday, June 18, 2012

A 49 Hour Travel Log

Hour 0 (10:30am Central Time Zone)
Our African contingent loads our caravan, snaps a few pictures, sings, and waves goodbye to our well-wishers. Now we go!

Hour 1 (11:30am Central Time Zone)
After a scenic drive through Northeast Iowa, our African group accomplishes our first goal. Invade Wisconsin. 

Hour 2 (12:30pm Central Time Zone)
Clearly, we’re hungry already. Nom nom nom at Einstein Bagels. (You’re welcome for the free publicity Einstein people!)

Hour 3 (1:30pm Central Time Zone)
Approaching our first toll. Illinois is going to make bank on us.

Hour 4 (2:30pm Central Time Zone)
Who’s getting tired of driving? This guy.

Hour 5 (3:30pm Central Time Zone)
Our African group reaches O’Hare International Airport, and unloads a borderline obscene amount of luggage. Apparently 25 laptops, 50 graphing calculators, 12 soccer balls, 40 Braille books, a bunch of pre-school toys, a library filing system, Luther college memorabilia, and three weeks of personal stuff for 12 people takes 41 pieces of luggage. Who knew?

Hour 6 (4:30pm Central Time Zone)
We get the vehicles parked, and check-in with British Airways. For some reason I’ve always found checking bags and getting boarding passes with large groups to be intimidating even though they end up being fairly smooth. So, after I’ve unnecessarily raised my blood pressure…its time for a cocktail. J

Hour 7 (5:30pm Central Time Zone)
Our group found a nice corner in an airport bar, and I can already tell we’re all going to get along just fine. Cheers everyone!

Hour 8 (6:30pm Central Time Zone)
Its airport security time, and I’ll need to do a bit of explaining here. A vast majority of all the materials we were toting went into our checked bags, except for those bulky laptop computers and calculators. To ensure those more expensive items made the journey safely we decided they needed to go into our carry on luggage. If you’ve ever taken a laptop through airport security before you’ll know that each laptop needs to be in a separate bin when sending it through the scanner. Well…I brought 5 laptops through security. Is that a record?

It ended up that Ann (carrying 4 laptops) my mom (also carrying 4 laptops) and myself were all in succession in the same line. That’s 13 bins for computers alone. The people behind us deserve medals.
I also experienced my first body scan (they don’t give you a copy) and pat down. Apparently sending 5 computers through security looks suspicious.

Hour 9 (7:30pm Central Time Zone)
This was our last hour on the ground in America. Everyone took time for final phone calls to friends and loved ones, and going to the bathroom as much as possible.

Hour 10 (8:30pm Central Time Zone)
We board. We go.

Hour 11 (No idea of the time anymore, my watch broke)
The kind British Airways flight attendant brought me a whiskey along with a nice pasta dinner. God save the Queen.

Hour 12 (Approaching the Atlantic Ocean)
Attempted sleep. It didn’t go well.

Hour 13 (Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean)
I chatted with a pleasant British businessman while the rest of the plane seemed to be sleeping. He worked for an electronic company, and was great to talk to. He was very intrigued about our project!

Hour 14 (Somewhere farther over the Atlantic)
Attempted sleep again. Same result. Humans just aren’t meant to sleep in an upright position.

Hour 15 and 16 (Still over the Atlantic, but an island appears in the distance)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows occupies my time. I’m definitely getting fatigued with lack of sleep and being uncomfortable.

Hour 17 (9:00am GMT)
We made it to the last leg of our 7-hour flight across the pond. A spot of tea helps me get going a little, but I am dragging. This could get rough.

Hour 18 (10:00am GMT)
We hit the tarmac, and prepare to disembark. As I’m getting my carry-on luggage from the over-head compartment, a flight attendant saw me struggling with the weight (5 computers gets pretty heavy). She asked how my bag got so heavy, and I told her that I was transporting computers (among other things) to Namibia. I then discovered that she works at an orphanage in Uganda every year. People are so cool. J

Hour 19 (11:00am GMT)
Its London time! We have about a 10-hour layover, and the plan is to take London by storm for a few hours. We quickly find a place to store our luggage, and then purchase tickets for the Underground Tube.

Hour 20 (12:00pm GMT)
At first I tried to take as much of London in as I could through the window on the train. However, the constant motion and warm temperature soon reminded me how tired I was. I’m not meant to operate on an hour of sleep. Wake me up when we hit downtown.

Hour 21 (1:00pm GMT)
Its lunch time when we step off the train, and seeing as I’ve never been in London (other than the airport) I feel like I need to have some fish and chips with a beer. So, that’s exactly what I do. J It was so much fun to sit outside a pub on some patio furniture and watch all sorts of people walk by.

Hour 22 (2:00pm GMT)
We had a little more than an hour until we needed to take the Tube back to Heathrow terminal, so with camera in hand I went nuts. Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, House of Commons, and the Tower of London all had to be captured. I got to as much as I could, but I obviously need to spend some time here later in life.

Hour 23 (3:00pm GMT)
Back on the train. Back asleep. Somebody wake me up when we get there. Apparently sleeping upright is no longer an obstacle for me. I’m so adaptable!

Hour 24 (4:00pm GMT)
We all made it back to the airport, and it was time to gear up for another run at getting through airport security. I had far less people behind me as I went through. However, the agent did say, “You sure do have a lot of computers, mate.” J Cheers England.

Hours 25 and 26 (5:00-7:00pm GMT)
The only eventful item I did while waiting for our flight to depart was replace my “new” watch that broke during my first flight (thanks Wal-Mart). I ended up deciding on a $30 silver Sekonda watch, which seems to be doing its job well enough so far.
I also brushed my teeth for the first time. Gross. Are we there yet?

Hour 27 (7:00pm GMT)
Peace out England. Next stop, Johannesburg, South Africa. (In 12 hours, woof).

Hour 28 (I’m not aware of time when flying anymore. I'm just aware of the countdown until I can leave the plane. 11 hours left).
The flight attendants come around with the first round of liquid refreshments. They’re being very generous with the adult beverages. I’m assuming they’ve had experience with passengers on these long flights. Well-played British Airways.

Hour 29 (10 hours left)
Now when it comes to airline food, I really think British Airways does a nice job. However, when I’m on my 3rd airline meal in less than 24 hours, I can only get so excited.

Hour 30-36 (9-4 hours left)
Tylenol PM is brilliant. Tylenol PM coupled with an adult beverage is double the brilliance. I slept for just under 6 solid hours. It was glorious until I woke up with a neck stiffer than a giraffe in a cave. Let this end soon please?

Hour 37-38 (4-2 hours left)
I watched the movie Safe House on the entertainment screen in front of me. I do love me some Denzel, but not so much Chris Reynolds. I’d give it a solid 3 stars (out of 5).

Hour 39 (2 hours left)
Its time for my fourth airline meal, which is probably 3 more than any person, should have in 39 hours. It was still fairly good given the standards I have for airline food, but everyone once in a while I need something cooked over an open flame. I’m just saying.

Hour 40 (1 hour left) (with this flight at least)
I learned from my captain that it was 5:45am Standard South African Time as we began our gradual descent. I was lucky enough to be sitting in a window seat facing East. It was truly one of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen. The horizon just seemed to go on forever with a soft golden glow. It made up for the 12-hour flight (for the most part).

Hour 41-46 (7:00am-12:00pm Standard South African Time)
These five hours included customs, our final security check, coffee, and finishing up this blog post while sitting in Johannesburg’s airport. Thanks for even making it this far! I know its long one.

Hour 47-48 (12:00pm Standard South African Time)
We board our last plane. Thankfully its only a two hour flight from Johannesburg, SA to Windhoek, Namibia. Seeing as this flight is over the lunch hour I had my 5th airline meal in 48 hours. That’s more than enough for a while.

Hour 49 (1:00pm GMT)
Walking off that final plane and seeing my surroundings made the past 50 hours all worth it. Africa (Namibia is particular) is a gorgeous country. We were greeted by such warm smiles, and I couldn’t have felt any more welcome. After months of planning this was all real, and really happening. J
It took another two hours to get through customs and to reach our hotel. Time for a shower! I really smell.

Happy Monday Everybody! 


  1. Karen Martin-SchrammJune 18, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Ethan this is a riot! Thanks for the update. Hugs from Decorah.

  2. AW! so excited for you, Eth!!! im looking forward to reading more from you!

  3. The Peters are so glad everyone is in Namibia---safe and sound! We will be checking the blog everyday....passing the Iowa summertime hours wishing we were with you!
    I know you will enjoy the most gracious people (Namibians) on the planet.
    Tim Peter