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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fly the friendly skies

I love flying. My dad has piloted various small planes since some time in the 70's. Cessnas, Piper Dakotas, Cirrus SR's, and more have carried his aviator glasses and flight logs around most of the US. A regular Saturday ritual would be a brunch flight with my brothers to ports around southern California. We'd pile in the Piper Dakota and take off, and take turns holding the yoke before Dad would land us in some remote outpost that was probably barely more than a hangar and a grease joint. We'd get a meal there, then return to Van Nuys airport then do whatever for the rest of the weekend before going back to my mom's. I've carried the ease of getting into a plane and enjoying the ride with me on my post-college career - I've logged commercial flights to over 40 cities in most states (a good number of 'em being in the great state of California). However, for my trip to Kenya, this would be a marathon of a trip - 17 hours of flying over 24 hours of traveling. I would leave my home airport on a jet plane and land in a 3rd plane almost 24 hours later. I'd better get comfortable. August 17 rolls around. My girlfriend's parents are awesome to give me a ride to the airport (thank you, guys!) and so I start the trip with no way to contact anyone once I got there. Let me back up - in all the packing and all the planning, one thing was apparent - either I'd have to get an international phone or just do without a phone for the trip. Heck, I'm going somewhere rather unconventional, so let's do the unconventional thing - do without! So I took off with only a few devices that needed electronics - my cochlear implant, and a brand new Motorola Android tablet filled with movies, music and eBooks. My entertainment center, if you will. The rest of my pack was clothes and things to give to my girlfriend when I arrived. Special things, actually. Picking mid-August to fly out was not a mere coincidence. International flying is no straightforward matter. When I landed in Chicago to change planes, I was also changing airlines from American Airlines to British Airlines. That necessitated changing airport terminals - going from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 - and trying to find out if I need to take my bags with me. Luckily, I had a pretty good amount of time reserved for the layover, so after straightening things out, I hopped over to the International Terminal and went through security... again. At every airport I switched planes, I had to go through another layer of security. I won't get up on my soapbox this time, but really this needs to be changed. While waiting for the British Airlines flight to arrive and board, I figured out a way to get internet access for my tablet while I'm traveling, and for a fairly reasonable rate. BOINGO internet access has WiFi at many many airports internationally so I could get on the 'net and send messages and travel status updates without having to go to a insecure internet cafe (more on this later). British Airways is FABOO. Blows the pants off of any airline experience I've ever had. Even flying coach, the food was fantastic, the seating was comfortable for me, the in-seat entertainment satisfactory (no captioned movies, but I had a lot of choices and ended up watching some English subtitled foreign films). I slept most of the flight from Chicago to London, pretty uneventful. I requested the gluten-free meal in adavance of my flight, and they served me first - so nice to be able to eat, finish, get it out of the way and onward to sleeping. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that I hadn't slept the night before so I could avoid jet lag on this trip? I highly recommend it if you can swing it! In London, I got to see a GOREGEOUS sunrise as we descended over the city to Heathrow. London Tower bridges? Check. The London Eye? Check. The 2012 London Olympic stadiums? Check! After bustling from the plane and through security (again!!) I found out that they don't announce which gate your plane will be at until about 40 minutes before departure. Yikes. I got on the tablet and BOINGO and found out even in London I'm still some 5 hours behind Kenya time. With yet another 8 hour flight ahead of me, I made the most of my time in the airport by checking out the 2012 Olympics souvenirs - the Olympics closing ceremony had been just a few days ago and the Paraolympics were ramping up in a few days - nice timing to be between events! Next up, arriving in Kenya.....

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