Day 2

I'm guessing you were duly impressed by last entry's airline shenanigans, as were Kathy, Alezah and I. Not to worry... it gets even better from here!

Our flight from DC to Addis (we found out when they announced it over the PA system) was to be 12 hours and 50 minutes. Somehow in all our rush, none of the three of us had actually confirmed the flight length, and were all making an "educated guess" of 8-10 hours. Nope. Thirteen hours it is, and with leaving DC at 10:15am, that's a good solid full day of 4 kids awake on a plane.

The flight itself was actually pretty uneventful. I passed around lollipops and when the first meal came out (my kids' first ever airline meal) the boys in particular were extremely excited. In fact one of them loudly declared this to be the best airplane ride ever in his entire life. There were a few minor teary melt-downs (after 11 hours I was feeling pretty stir-crazy myself) but thanks to a few dozen movies and bathroom breaks, all in all we made it just fine. We arrived in Addis around 6am local time, prepared for a few hours' layover before our flight to Entebbe/ Kigali.

We exited security to the main waiting area. Hallie had just fallen asleep on the plane, and fell asleep again as soon as she sat down. About a half hour later we were called to go through security again, and made it to another waiting area where Kathy and Will joined Hallie in sleep. After more than an hour of waiting in the stuffy room, we decided to poke around a bit.... we found the main hallway to be much cooler than the waiting area and set up camp there. Alezah, using a backpack for a pillow, declared as she laid on the floor fully outstretched (for the first time in 24 hours), "This is the most comfortable floor I have ever laid on." I started laughing and she clarified, "I mean, I know it's marble, but... it's like a soft marble."

We waited awhile longer, and we were finally called for boarding. We got up and got the kids moving, happy because we were sure that our long and exhausting trip and our travel troubles were nearly behind us. Once again.... not so fast, savvy travelers. 

Although our flight uneventfully boarded and lifted off, we hit some fairly intense turbulence shortly thereafter. I'm focused on keeping the kids thinking this is all fun and games, when out of the corner of my eye I see a center ceiling compartment pop partially open. This is not where the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling (and you assist the child beside you after securing your own mask) but rather what is possibly an electrical panel... we can see some small aluminum tanks and some wires/hoses inside the partially open compartment. I assume the latch jiggled loose during the turbulence... and that it's no big deal. Not so the Egyptian woman seated just behind the panel... she thinks (we later find out) it's a bomb or a gas leak... and immediately passes out. Her posse of travelers jump to their feet and start yelling in Arabic. They are pointing to their noses and claiming they smell a gas leak. The flight attendants start yelling at people to sit down (no one listens) and momentarily, the plane starts banking sharply. People are fanning the still-out-cold lady and emphatically pantomiming to each other, pointing at the ceiling, and insisting something is drastically wrong. Five minutes later I notice we are preparing to land... and that the terrain looks awfully familiar... yes, we are back in Addis. Apparently the pilot heard the ruckus and decided to turn back. Alrighty then.

Once on the ground, the lady begins to stir, and a doctor who happened to be on board comes back to check her out. When the pilot shows up to check out the ceiling panel/ angry passenger situation, the Egyptians mob him and start yelling and gesturing about the stupid popped-open ceiling panel. They demand we get a new plane, that they will not fly on this one. The pilot acquiesces, and we all troop out of the plane and back into the terminal. When the airline staff announces free lunch for us all at the "restaurant" (really a small snack bar), the entire 200-person flight leaves en masse, leaving our group of 7 alone in the boarding area. One of the last to leave, a yellow-and-black striped shirted man tries to convince our weary party to join the happy eaters ("Just trust me! Do you trust me? DO YOU TRUST ME?") and once Kathy makes it clear that, no, we don't trust you; sorry, strange and random guy, we want to stay here and sleep, he leaves in a huff. Exhaustion takes over and we all crash out soundly on the now-empty benches, floors and chairs for an hour or two. Finally, finally we get wind that our plane will be departing soon. (When I go check, I am told we will leave "Whenever everyone gets back from lunch," and I am sorely tempted to go yell at everyone to get their tails in gear RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!!!) 

We eventually head back outside to re-board, and the plane looks oddly familiar. We hush the kids who are commenting such, as we do not wish to incite another riot. The plane takes off... we hit turbulence and ... yep, you guessed it: the compartment jostles open again. This time the flight attendants are on it, and keep everyone calm. The previously ill lady begins fanning herself and lies down. I tell the flight attendants with great conviction and confidence that I have absolutely seen this happen before in the States and there is nothing wrong with the plane. It is simply a loose latch on the compartment. They seem dumbfounded and tell me they have never seen this happen before. I reassure them it's very common (ok, so maybe a slight exaggeration)... and they seem to take heart. The Egyptians start waving their hands and pointing to their noses again but they are told everything is fine, and miraculously everyone stays (mostly) calm. After we clear the rough patch, several of the men get out of their seats, go to the back of the plane and help themselves to the beverage cart. They laugh and joke and high five each other while standing and lounging about, as if they own the place. One cocky middle-aged guy squeezes Olivia's face and loudly kisses her cheek -- after which I move her to the window seat. We uneventfully descend into Entebbe and everyone cheers, with the guy in front me saluting and calling out "allah akbar!"  

We sit on the ground in Entebbe for awhile and then leave for Kigali. When we finally spot Emily and Shami's beaming faces outside of customs, a load is lifted off all our shoulders and we heave a huge collective sigh of relief. We. actually. made. it. (!!!) Let our (actual) adventures begin. 

-- to be continued

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