Sunday, July 31, 2011

Africa: getting there

I am officially in Zambia. It took from Thursday evening in Seattle to Saturday afternoon in Lusaka, via a car, four airplanes, and another car, but here I am. Leslie and I decided to take pictures of ourselves at each leg of the journey. Most of them are self-portraits, so you can't actually tell where we are and really the only difference is the level of tiredness increases throughout, but nonetheless, here is our journey:


We had some issues checking our bags: US Airlines was super confused about the fact that we were continuing on from Charlotte and DC to Ethiopia and then to Lusaka and it took several phone calls to figure out just how to have our bags do the same. My hopes of my bags arriving with us (or at all) dimmed somewhat at this point. Nonetheless, after saying goodbye to the bags (temporarily, I hoped) we made our way through security and to our gate with enough time to spare to have this picture taken and hang out for a bit before getting on our overnight flight to Charlotte. I have to say that this was my least favorite flight of the trip: I should have been able to sleep as it was nightime, Leslie and I had a row to ourselves, and I was up at 4am that day, but it just didn't happen and that was very frustrating.


This picture is us on the airplane we took from Charlotte to DC before we left. I had a bit of an adventure trying, unsuccessfully, to find a bagel at the Charlotte airport (which is massive). Other than that, this stage of our trip was uneventful and the flight to DC was nice and short.

Washington, DC!

In DC Leslie and I scouted for electrical outlets to recharge our laptops and nooks before getting on the insanely long flight to Seattle. That was really the only thing we did while we waited for the flight to Ethiopia.

The plane to Ethiopia was the nicest plane I've ever been on. Jeremy tells me that this particular plane could not have been more than about 7 months old and was possibly much newer. We photographed it extensively: the picture above is us on the plane before take of; this next one is of the headrests, which we were super-thrilled about (as evidenced by Leslie's expression);

this one is of a USB port and random button that we never ascertained the purpose of (so let me know if you know);

this one is of dinner. I've never been on a plane before that served a meal, so this part was kind of fun. The food was reminiscent of college, which is to say that it was certainly passable, but not wonderful. Having the food all in little containers on a tray reminded me of Mike was little and I would cook lunch for him and we'd pretend we were at a cafeteria (he actually called it 'cafaterlia style').

It's amazing just how long 12.75 hours is. I continued not being able to sleep very well, but I did manage to read two books, watch two movies, play angry birds, take the pictures above, and wander the cabin admiring people's cute children and reading over people's shoulders. It actually was kind of fun, but really, really, mind-numbingly long.


This picture is of us in the Addis Ababa airport. We ended up in this terminal for no more than 10 or 15 minutes, but I had to get a photo of my first non-American airport. I also managed to document Leslie's first step outside of a plane in Africa:

The plane we took to Harare and to Lusaka was considerably less nice. It also beeped. A lot. And both times we landed I honestly thought the entire thing was going to shake itself apart. I managed to actually sleep a little on this plane though, however, so that was good.


I've been informed that taking pictures in Zambian airports is a no-go, so this picture is again on the airplane. After this, took us about 9 million years to get through customs and then another 2 million years to figure out how to declare the 4 laptops we brought with us. Our bags did get there though: i have never been so happy to see my purple duffle bag coming towards me on the baggage carriage. When we finally got out, the two researchers from the University of Zambia we will be working with were waiting for us. Evidently they'd been waiting for awhile: there was a miscommunication between IHME and them and they were under the impression we were arriving at 9am, which is actually when our flight left for Lusaka. It was nearly 7 hours later when we actually arrived, so we very much appreciate their patience because we never would have found our way to where we're staying otherwise.

So far we've done very little in Zambia except a meager attempt at grocery shopping yesterday which will need to be repeated today (hint to future travelers: look up the exchange rate before going to the grocery store in a foreign country). Once we do something interesting, I will post again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

v. short interlude from packing

I'm packing for Africa right now. 6 weeks in Zambia + 2 weeks in South Africa + travel time = almost 2 full months away from Seattle. A preview of what (will hopefully) be extensively documented as it happens:

28 July: Leave Seattle
30 July: Arrive in Lusaka, Zambia
31 July - 9 September: Do my research abroad and practicum in Zambia
10 Sep: Fly to Johannesburg to meet Jeremy, and then on to Port Elizabeth
11-18 Sep: Various locations between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town
19-22 Sep: Cape Town
23 Sep: Leave South Africa
24 Sep: Arrive home (via home, actually, since I'm going through Chicago back on the way to Seattle)

Back to packing!