Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What a travel “day”…Dakar, Senegal to JFK-New York, New York to Chicago O’Hare, Illinois to Cleveland, Ohio

Bright lights everywhere. Excessive advertising (that is not out-dated). Modern artwork on the walls. Huge panes of glass. Christmas music. Winter coats, gloves, hats. Shockingly cold winter conditions. Choices of food at the food court. Expensive things (comparatively speaking to what I was spending in Senegal). Too many difference.

Well, I have arrived stateside, and what an adventure it has been. I have never traveled around the holidays—going through two of America’s busiest airports (JFK and O’Hare)—nor have I been put up in a hotel by an airline.

My story begins with complete culture shock as I landed stateside in JFK with Myra after a nine-hour flight from Dakar. We weren’t ready to leave, but we had to. We had to leave family and friends behind. We had to realize that four months of memory making was coming to a halt, as we would be entering a new reality. We had to say goodbye to carrapides, goodbye to cebujen, goodbye to beautiful 80-degree weather, goodbye to so many things that would have to wait for our return in the future.

JFK was filled with toubabs, too many to be exact. I was looking around for all the boubous and wax print outfits—there were none. We made out way to immigration, then baggage claim, then customs. We took in all the different things, questioning the need of so many of the tangible things that we were seeing. It was wonderful to be able to travel back with a friend; it made it a little easier to enter the states—to go through the same things with someone else.

We arrived at about 7:35AM and after going through customs and the start of culture shock together, struggling with all of our heavy bags and random souvenirs in hand, we had to head our separate ways—Myra to terminal one, myself to terminal eight.

My flight was scheduled to leave JFK at 5:25PM…I had a ten-hour layover (or what I thought was going to be that short). I bought a double espresso (3.75 USD), a cranberry muffin (2.99 USD), and The Sunday New York Times (4.00 USD), and then just sat for a while in the terminal, talking with friends and family on the phone, reading The Times, and watching some CNN and an NFL game. I tried to take everything in, appreciating everything a little more than when I had I left; I walked around with a calabash lamp in hand and waited patiently for what was going to be an exciting departure. Well, I didn’t exactly depart on time from JFK; the cold weather conditions in O’Hare had caused problems for many departing flights to and from the city. At first, the flight was delayed 15 minutes—not a problem…then the flight was delayed until 6:35, then 6:50PM, the 7:15PM. At this point, I was extremely exhausted after a very long day of traveling…they traveling day that I thought was going to be about 24-hours…was becoming longer and longer.

My connecting flight in O’Hare for Cleveland was to leave at 8:30PM…there was no way that I would be making that flight, so I frantically called the American Airlines customer service line, my mother, father, and sister, and spoke with a representative at JFK. I explained my situation and I was told that I would most likely have to spend the night in Chicago, not exactly what I wanted to do after leaving Dakar at 3:05AM the day before. All I wanted to do was get home and see my family and friends…I now know how so many people feel around the holidays and traveling with delays and cancellations. Not enjoyable!


I was on the plane by 7:20PM…we finally took off from JFK at about 8:30PM because of so many planes on the runway. There was even a point where the engine was turned off, we were told we could use our cell phones, and drinks were served—they knew we would be waiting sometime. I slept and tried to relax after only 2-3 hours of sleep during my entire travel day.

During the landing we were all notified of our connecting flights and whether they had already departed or not. I was in luck, my flight to Cleveland had also been delayed because of weather. I had a slight chance that I would be returning home that evening…just a little bit later than expected. I got off the plane and immediately asked where the gate was and if my flight for Cleveland had left already…I was informed I had just missed my flight by 5-10 minutes.

I waited patiently in line to be helped, so that I could have a ticket booked for the following day. American Airlines was going to put up all the people that missed their connecting flights (about 15-20 people) in hotels for the night. I spent the night in a hotel and was going to fly out the next day at 6:50AM for Cleveland!

We sat on the runway for 30 minutes to warm up the oil because it was too cold to take off. I was still freezing in my light sweater and button down—no winter coat! The flight was about 50 minutes and when I arrived in Cleveland I was so excited. I waited paitently to get off the plane then head straight for baggage claim to see my mom and sister! They were holding signs that said WELCOME HOME ALEX!

Happy to be home…but definitely missing the warmth of all my friends and family from this past semester and of course the weather! Signing off for some time! ALEX 



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