Below are some random observations I have made on flights to and from West Africa. Do you have any to add?
You take a bus to the plane.
The bus ride is 30 seconds long.
A man gets up to give a woman his seat on the bus.
A young man gets up to give an old man his seat on the bus.
The vast majority of people on the bus don’t speak your language and are holding various colored passports.
You understand what some of the people are saying because you speak their language.
You are the foreigner.
The bus takes you to the waiting plane on the tarmac where you carry your carry-on up a huge flight of stairs while wishing you had packed lighter.
The safety demonstration on the plane is done in 2 languages.
The safety demonstration suggests loosening your tie and removing your high-heeled shoes in the event of an emergency. I mean seriously, how many ‘westerners’ still wear ties or high heels when they fly?
Actual food, not just pretzels, is served on the plane.
There’s a good chance the food will be appetizing.
More food is served on the plane.
Nearby passengers have prayer beads.
Nearby passengers pray those prayer beads.
Nearby passengers bow down in the aisle and pray towards Mecca.
Passengers have multiple and massive carry-ons – causing you to wonder how they get them up those stairs.
Passengers argue with flight attendants about what they are allowed to keep in their seat.
‘Carry-ons’ are plastic bags, boxes, cages, suitcases, and anything else you can imagine.
There are a variety of smells-many unpleasant -on the plane.
The bathrooms get really nasty by the end of the flight.
The airlines typically use their ‘older’ planes for these flights.
You often have to go the ‘wrong’ direction to get to your destination i.e. Travel east before you go west.
Most men are wearing suits or long flowing african attire.
Most women are in fancy african dress complete with head tie and scarves long enough to hide several children.
In what seems like a matter of minutes you go from being surrounded by darkness and an amazing blanket of stars to bright sun while zipping through time zones.
You see breathtaking sunrises and sunsets on the same flight.
You ugly sleep – mouth open, drool.
More food is served.
Upon landing, flight attendants walk through the plane spraying some type of ‘safe’ insecticide because you’ve come from a malaria infested country.
Your departure airport is hotter than you know what, but you wish you had a parka upon your arrival.
Your bus ride from plane to terminal upon arrival is much longer and further than the departure bus ride.
You have no idea what time it is where you are, where you came from or where you’re going.
You have a connecting flight to the ‘West’.
Your layover is either very long or very short.
Getting food or drinks in your connecting airport can be difficult because you don’t have their currency.
You learn that you can’t assume that the connecting gate listed on the monitor is correct.
You assume that your listed gate will change.
Sadly you can spot (or rather hear) an American from across the airport with expletives like ‘Oh sh**!’ Etc.
You wonder why people (Americans) are so annoyed with rather than appreciate extra security, particularly in an airport where recent attacks have taken place.
You may not have to take a bus ride from the terminal of your connecting flight to the West.