“I just wanna fly.”

24 06 2011

-title from Sugar Ray’s “Fly”

By Joy Ogunmuyiwa

June 14, 2011
9:39 pm
Nairobi, Kenya

The highway in Addis to the airport.

I arrived at the Nairobi International Airport at 1 a.m. with my next flight not being until 9p.m. that night. I didn’t have anything planned to do except maybe wander around the airport trying to pick up as much culture as I could from duty-free shops and money exchange counters.

However, because I was in the international terminal in Kenya‘s biggest airport, I had the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world. I passed the time talking to many of the college students there waiting anxiously for their flights. Like Eliza, a global health student at UC Berkeley, who was planning to teach new farming techniques to a small village outside Mombassa. Or these two graduate students from Spain who, because of their quick Spanish, heavy accent, and use of engineering terms, I hazily gathered were designing bridges (or maybe irrigation pipes?) outside Kisumu for a few months.

It wasn’t until 15 minutes before my flight, I was told that my bags had not made it though customs and I would have to go and check them through again. So, I ran out of the domestic terminal and went as fast as I could out the door to the international terminal to grab my unclaimed bags. One of the flight attendants ran out with me as I flew past security. All the bags for the days flights had long been locked up, so we went to a huge cage where the abandoned bags are locked. I was extremely thankful that one of the attendants had come with me, making the process a whole lot quicker.

We ran back just in time to see an empty terminal. The attendant told me to wait while she made a call. I had already made peace with the fact that I was probably going to miss this flight and calmly took my seat, and pulling out my ipod. A man rushed in with the all too familiar look of someone who knows they’ve missed their flight and asked me if the Nairobi to Kisumu flight had already left. We both looked out the window and unfortunately saw the Kenya Airways plane slowing backing out.

However, the nice attendant rushed in and said she had good news. She had called the on-flight crew and they were going to stall the plane. I was extremely grateful and surprised at the same time. I was about to ask her how we would actually get on the flight, since all three of us clearly saw the airplane leave.

She grabbed my bags and told the man and me to follow her outside. We quickly walked outside and it was then that I knew why you always see the airline personnel wearing earphones. It was so loud! She screamed something and pointed to our plane that had actually gone a considerable distance since the last time we had seen it. And as if Steven Spielberg himself were directing this scene, it started to pour and thunder. I didn’t think I understood what she was saying so I yelled for her to repeat herself again. But I had understood. “Run!” She wanted me to run towards a moving plane.

The flags outside the intenational airport in Nairobi, Kenya

Now, this wasn’t even a small airport. This was Nairobi airport. Nairobi, as in one of the busiest airports in the world, Nairobi. And she wanted me to run past all these 747s to catch one–that was already moving. I was about to turn and ask her to book the nearest hotel, when I saw the man run towards the plane.

I wouldn’t call myself a competitive person, but against my better judgment, I tucked my tripod under my arm, tightened my backpack and ran. I figured if he could do it, so could I. We ran passed British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Delta, and Air India. All the while I was thinking how in the world are we going to get on this plane if it was moving! We were running along side our plane when out of nowhere, one of the luggage carriers caught up to us and made a call on his walkie-talkie which seemed to stop the plane.

A stairs came down and we slowly climbed up. We made our way past the incredulous stares and took our seats. The flight attendant offered both of us a towel as we were both soaking wet. I took it graciously and pulled out the in flight magazine all the while trying to make myself as invisible as possible.

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2 responses

24 06 2011
Lysa MacKeen

I’m not sure I could have scripted a better scene. I’m glad you made it through your particular warrior run and caught the flight. I’ll be wishing you a less dramatic departure for your next leg of the trip!

24 06 2011
Geelea

Amazing story! So glad you’re safe. We can’t wait to hear about
your next adventure.

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