Archive for August 15th, 2015

August 15, 2015

Elisabeth and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Air Travel Experience

So I have to share this story because after the fact I can’t help but laugh about it and want to remember what happened. It all started when I was packing my carry-on suitcase at my parents house before leaving for Nepal. They both warned me that my suitcase might be too heavy. I shrugged them off because I had flown many times, and no one ever weighed my carry-on. Off I went on my journey from Toronto to Chicago, to Abu Dhabi, and finally Kathmandu. Everything went smoothly until I got to Chicago. Yup, all of my problems occurred in the US. I arrived very early to my gate because I had a five hour layover. They were asking everyone to go up to the desk to verify peoples’ passports. This is where I made my only mistake…. I went up to the desk…. early. I should have known that the clerks would be bored and would target me. They weighed my bag and low and behold it was almost double the meager 7kg limit. They told me I would have to check it for an additional fee. Luckily I knew I was allowed two checked bags (I’m sure they wouldn’t have informed me of this if I didn’t know). I asked them to please please reconsider because I was going to be doing disaster response and could not afford to loose the bag. The male clerk responded by saying that it would not get lost. I asked how he could be so sure. I transferred a few necessities from the suitcase into my purse, and grudgingly let them take it. Then I got to sit back down and watch bitterly as the gate got busier and they didn’t weigh anyone else’s bags that were certainly just as heavy as mine. Then I got on the plane to discover that the flight was far from full!

Fast-forward to Kathmandu. There we were waiting at the baggage carousel and, low and behold, my carry-on suitcase was nowhere to be found! The following week was a lesson in patience and willingness to ask others for help and accept their generosity. Since the baggage claim folks in Kathmandu weren’t being very helpful, I called Abu Dhabi and, after a half hour of listening to the “sparkly” Etihad theme song, I finally got through and located my bag, which for some reason had not been loaded in Abu Dhabi. Even though it arrived in three days, I didn’t get it until a week later since we were away in Makwanpur for the field research. I borrowed shampoo, soap, hiking boots, a rain coat, a notebook, phone charger, and some drafting stuff!

The rest of the trip went smoothly but on the journey home I had another, far worse experience. I think that I had food poisoning from something I ate on the first flight from Kathmandu to Abu Dhabi. In Abu Dhabi I was feeling queasy, but since we were flying to the US, instead of having time to rest we had to go through US customs and then a long line of security (if I had been flying to Toronto I would have avoided all of that). What made it worse was that there was no washroom near the customs and security queue. I had to walk 300 meters to get to a bathroom and then by the time I was back at the line I needed to go again. I’m glad that my colleague Dan had gone ahead of me in line at that point. I knew I was going to be sick soon and so I asked a nearby attendant if I could fast track through security some how. She said I had to go back to the far washroom. I didn’t have that much time. A few minutes later I puked on the ground in the customs line. I felt better for a little while and so kept going, but then puked again right before putting my suitcase on the security conveyor belt. It was so embarrassing! An attendant at security wanted to direct me back to the far washroom but I put my foot down and told him I had come all this way and I was going to go through security and go to the washroom that was immediately on the other side! After that I felt okay again. I didn’t feel bad at all about the mess because they deserved it for the poor airport design! Luckily I had some water tablets so that I could rehydrate myself. They wanted me to wait until a medical team came and checked me out, but no one came and so I left for the gate. Later at the gate the same attendant was there and he held my passport because he wanted me checked out before getting on the plane! The medical team was apparently too busy (I think there were other cases of people being sick) and so eventually they let me go after I told them it had been two hours since I was sick and I was able to hold down water. I’m so thankful they let me on the plane; I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise!

I stuck to bread and crackers on the following flight and was fine. The next problem that arose was that I had a bout of restless leg syndrome that I get on rare occasions, usually because of low iron levels. I had never had it on a plane before though and it was horrible. I could not sit still for the life of me and so for the next sixteen hours I was shifting positions, doing stretches in my seat, standing up and walking up and down the aisle, and going to the lavatory for the sole purpose of doing squats. I am usually a big fan of window seats, but I am so thankful that I was on the aisle and had no one sitting next to me! Because of my restless legs I couldn’t sleep even though I was completely exhausted. It was the worst flight and longest 16 hours I have ever experienced!

Finally we arrived in Chicago, and upon exiting the plane, who was giving directions for transfers but the same attendant who made me check my carry-on thirteen days prior. I wasn’t going to say anything, but he recognized me and asked how the trip went. I told him that my carry-on did not arrive and he said he was so sorry. As we walked away, Dan and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Dan commented on how this was the moment of closure for the whole saga. I am thankful that despite the terrible air travel experience, I made it to and from Nepal safely. This experience gets to be added to my suite of memorable travel stories!

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