How do you make a really long, multiple flight trip to Africa just a little more interesting? Bring a subway sandwich. It's probably not my story to tell, but I was involved, so I think I'll tell you a little about the saga of the sandwich, mixed in with my own trip from Winnipeg to Lome.
I woke up at 4am after about 3 hours of sleep, showered and threw my pajamas into my bags, and set off for the airport with my lovely parents. At the airport, the lines were long and slow, especially the US customs line (seriously? I was only going through a few US airports, did I really have to go through customs for that?). And found out the international side of the Winnipeg airport is sadly lacking in amenities. Oh well. I had a Tim Hortons cookie and a bottle of orange juice for breakfast. I sat on the flight half awake, occasionally glancing out the window, wondering why it was taking so long for us to take off. As I noticed the sun was rising, I looked down at my watch and saw the time was 7:30 (my flight was supposed to leave at 6:30). My foggy brain was just starting to worry about the long delay on the runway, when I opened my eyes further and realized that I wasn't seeing the long flat expanse of the prairies, but rather those were clouds sitting just below the rising sun. We were already flying. I had slept through takeoff without noticing. And then I promptly went back to sleep.
First stop, Chicago airport. They had a sushi place, I almost stopped there. But then I realized it was 9am and I hadn't had a proper breakfast. So I had a wrap with ham, eggs and cheese instead. Later I wished I had tried sushi for breakfast because it wasn't in any of the other airports.
Next flight also involved some dozing. No in-flight movies. Fairly uneventful. Landed in Washington, DC. Took a stroll through the terminal and found it had a few basic restaurants, but travel belly had set in. I find when travelling, I'm mildly nauseated and don't want heavy food. Chocolate, of course, is always acceptable. I sat around reading for an hour, then decided it was time to stretch my legs and maybe buy a soft pretzel. On my stroll I discovered Laura. Laura is one of the girls I knew I'd be meeting up with along the way and travelling the rest of the way to Togo with. After much smiling and hugs, she showed me her amazing find. At the request of a friend on ship, she had tracked down a Subway in the airport and bought a sandwich (sauce on the side) to bring along as a special treat for our friend. The sandwich was lovingly tucked into her big bag, just under her pillow.
Two hours later, two more friends had joined us to wait for our flight to Brussels. Right about the time that we were supposed to be boarding, they told us the mechanics were working on something and we would be delayed about 15 mins until they knew how bad the problem was. Stacia, one of the girls traveling with us, had been praying that she could watch the Giants game. We were delayed 3 hours, exactly the length of the Giants game. She's certain it was divine intervention. Luckily our layover in Brussels was 6 hours, so no worries about missing our next flight.
Long flight, watched a movie, barely slept. Wandered through Brussels airport in a group, took a couple of tries for the two of us without boarding passes to get them, but relatively easy to get them printed off when we were directed to the correct booth. After a little time walking to stretch our legs, we stopped for a snack and lounged. Laura dug through her big bag... and discovered the flat Subway sandwich. Well, maybe a little bent too. Still intact though. Apparently she forgot she had it and had stuffed her pillow in nice and tight while flying. Ooops. I laughed, and since the handles on her bag had recently broken, I joked that it would really top it off if she dropped it. Ten minutes later as we were walking to our next gate it fell out of her bag. We laughed. Hard.
I picked it up and added it to my purse. I couldn't squish it much more than it already was, and my purse could at least zip shut so we wouldn't loose it. We took the shuttle bus to the "African" terminal, and met one more person who was going to be on our next flight with us. We sat there people watching, trying to guess how many of the people on this last flight were going to be on the ship with us. Seth figured all the white people. But there were a lot of white people. I'd say about half actually ended up joining us, maybe less.
This last flight went from Brussels to Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and then Lome (Togo). I got a window seat on the opposite side of the plane from my friends. The guy beside me was from Abidjan, and was very talkative. Sometimes I forget the rules for white girls in Africa. I was honest with him. Instead of pretending I was married, I stuck with the pure, honest truth. The conversation was mostly in french... I suppose I could have pretended I don't speak french. But I wasn't awake/alert enough to fake it. The conversation started with where was I going, where was I from. It ended with him offended that I wouldn't get off the plane with him in Abidjan, multiple offers of places to stay and going to see him at his job and "anytime I want to visit" he would plan my stay etc. Very nice man, seemed to be doing really good business. Oh, and at one point when he asked me if I had any kids and I said "no", he responded with, "we're getting old." Sigh. Needless to say... I was very thankful to be going to Lome. At least he let me sleep. I conked out for approximately 5 hours straight.
Customs in Lome was interesting. The ship has special agreements to do with visas etc in the country we're serving. As the ship hasn't been in Lome long, they're not used to processing our passports so it took them a little while. They kept them all in a little pile for no discernible reason, so we all took turns waiting on passports while we collected our luggage. Happily we all got them back. Then we had to go through the customs section where they check all our luggage tags to make sure we don't steal luggage (I didn't mind that). Then they x-rayed our bags and we moved on pretty fast after that. Through the doors... and there were our other friends, waiting to pick us up!!!!
Hugs and happy chatter and more waiting for everyone to get through, then off to the landrovers to return to the ship. The drive was a blur. Apparently I was tired. Up the gangway with our luggage, check back into the ship and we're HOME!!!!
Drop my bags in my room and back up to the dining room for food. Leftover salmon. I couldn't do it. Not leftover. Not with a travel belly (remember, the mild nausea? Ya.) So I had rice and an apple. Except, my first bite into the apple... was mostly bruise. Apparently the face I made was priceless!
After eating, my tired brain finally remembered something. I have a Subway sandwich in my purse. I should get it back to Laura or to the friend that had asked for it. (Ali) So I head back to the area where the cabins are in hopes of finding one of them. Sure enough, they've both just headed down the hall to find the sandwich. Softly calling "Laura" and holding the sandwich aloft, they both turned.
Ali reverently took the sandwich, giggling and saying "shhh" over and over. Grinning from ear to ear. Opening the ziplock bag, she took a deeeeeep whiff and sighed, declaring it perfect, heavenly, exactly what she wanted. I have never seen someone so happy to have a Subway sandwich. It was epic. Honestly. It was the best moment, to see the joy on her face. The fact that it was squished, battered, and about 26hours old made no difference. It was what she had been dreaming of, and she had it in her hands.
I'd do the whole trip again just to get a reaction like that at the end!