Friday, December 4, 2015

Africa At Last

22:32 Friday, December 4th, 2015


I have officially made it to Madagascar! Four flights, 10,595 miles, and 28 hours after I left Dallas I finally landed in the capital, Antanarivo. 

It was a very long trip, but it honestly went a lot better than I expected. All of my connections were pretty tight, so one delay could have thrown everything off. Luckily though it all went smoothly. 

Did you know the Detroit airport has a tram line inside of it? it runs above the main floor almost up on the ceiling? I was highly impressed. 

My flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was almost empty. I had a window seat with an entire row to myself so I was able to stretch out and sleep. There were also really good TV screens on that flight so I watched Jurassic World and Train Wreck. The flight was also about an hour early which was great because my closest connection was in Amsterdam where I had to go through customs. Luckily the airport, although it was huge, was empty so customs was quick.

So, funny story. I almost didn't get to board my plane in Amsterdam that would take me to Paris. When they scanned my boarding pass it beeped and lit up red so they sent me to the counter at the front of the gate. The lady scanned it and I saw the words "Blacklisted" come up on the screen. I literally almost had a heart attack. The ticket lady said she had never seen this before and started making calls. They pulled me aside and had me wait about twenty minutes. She kept calling and talking to a bunch of different people but they were all speaking in Dutch so I had no idea what was going on. Finally, right before they shut the gate to the plane they let me get on. Apparently they were looking for another Claire Martin with a different birthday. That would be my luck.

My flight from Amsterdam to Paris was literally like forty five minutes. Once I got there I found some food. It was great because I had Euros still left over from when I was in Europe last so I basically had a free meal. I found some chocolate croissants that were delicious. Like seriously I can't even explain how much I love croissant and European food in general. It tasted exactly how I remember. Also, if anyone in Tyler knows where I can find some chocolate croissants, fill me in please.

Mmmm. Croissants.

The flight from Paris to Antananrivo was pretty horrible. I was seriously so tired just waiting to board the plane. To make matters worse, there were literally hundreds of people on the flight. Boarding took literally forever. It was also a full flight. Seriously I don't think I saw one empty seat, which was surprising because who in the world goes to Madagascar?! 

I had an aisle seat next to an old French guy who kind of smelled and kept talking to me in French- even after I clearly explained five times I did not speak French. He seriously just kept talking and talking to me. At this point I was so exhausted I literally didn't care and pretty much started ignoring him til he got the point. Bless his heart he was a sweet old man, but I mean seriously. I. Don't. Speak. French.

I'm really not sure what happened because I was asleep before the plane was even taxiing. But I woke up for a second when the plane was about to take off. It got really loud and you could tell the engine was gearing up, then all of the sudden it all shut down and we taxied back to the gate. I had no idea what was going on and really didn't want to know so I went back to sleep. When I woke up again the pilot was speaking saying that the engineer had taken a look and cleared the plane so we were finally taking off. I think we were delayed like an hour but I really have no idea because I was asleep. We finally took off. I'm pretty sure I slept for like seven hours of the eleven hour flight. Side note: the plane was freezing!!! I was wearing a hoodie and wrapped a blanket around myself and still thought I was going to get hypothermia. On the downside though I realized it would probably be the last air conditioning I experienced for quite some time.

Once we finally landed in Madagascar I had to go through customs again and get my visa, which surprise- was only $40 instead of $90 like I had previously been told. I guess that makes up for the fifty dollars I spent at the bookstore the day before I left. Customs seriously took FOREVER. The airport was open air and hot and everyone smelled bad. I met another American girl about my age in line. She was only going to be here camping and hiking for a week though. We were both slightly worried that our hotel shuttles wouldn't be there to pick us up so we decided that we'd wait to make sure both of us had a ride or we'd go somewhere together. Luckily both our rides were there and things worked out. My bag didn't even get lost. 

Check out my visa. Quite a bit different than my Czech visa. Seriously though I love getting stamps in my passport. It's getting about half full actually. It's funny because it's probably one of my most prized possessions. Anything else is replacable. I worked hard for those stamps. Thinking about it now, my passport is probable the most expensive item I own based on the money I've spent traveling and getting those precious stamps. Funny, but not.

So once I got picked up at the airport, we went right down the road to the hotel. I'm staying outside of the city which isn't too bad. I woke up this morning and walked around a bit. There were about twenty zebus (oxen/cow things) attached to carts right across the street. People were literally walking around balancing things on their heads. Literally every single person stared at me. Like really stared with a very curious look on their face probably wondering wtf this white, blonde girl is doing by herself in Africa. The little Malagasy girls were all really intrigued by me and several ran by saying "bon jour" or something similar. 
I found an ATM and got some cash. Here in Madagascar they use Airiarys. One USD is currently equivalent to about 3,300 airiarys. The conversion is super annoying so at this point I'm probably just going to be throwing cash down without even caring. "Seventy thousand? Sure! No idea what that's equivalent to but I don't care!" I found a small store and got three big bottles of water, some oreos, and some funny "Texas style" crackers which I bought strictly because they said Texas on them, all for about $2 USD.

Madagascar Ariarys. They were exactly what I hoped they would be and have lemeurs and zebus on them. Also, why is America the only country ever to have all of their currencies the same size? 

At this point I couldn't even remember the last hot meal I had. I was starving and wanted real food. All of the sudden, I saw the most beautiful sign in the world about 600meters ahead: a giant sign that said "pizza". Too bad everything was in French and literally no one here speaks english. I feel stupid because I literally know five words in French. I was slightly busy before I left and had zero time to learn a foreign language in addition to my other studies so I figured I'd wing it. The only thing I recognized was "quatro formaggio" which I'm pretty sure is French. I got that.

Pretty view of the countryside down the street. Definitely looks like Africa.

After that I came back to my hotel. It was about 2pm here I guess. I went back to sleep on accident and woke up around 7pm. My sleep schedule is nonexistent at this point. Since I boarded my plane in Dallas I've kind of just napped whenever I'm tired. 

Honestly I can't believe I'm actually here. It still surprises me that I made it without any major problems. The weather is beautiful. It was a warm sunny day with a cool breeze. It's kind of chilly now that the sun went down though. Tomorrow someone is supposed to come pick me up and take me and two other people in my program to a bus that will take us to the north west side of the island where we will eventually make it to Nosy Be, the Nosy Komba, the actual island I will be staying on. 

Overall it's definitely been a bit of a culture shock so far, but I expected that. I'm not sure if at this point I either A) am really good at just staying calm in any situation and going with the flow B) am really good at completely ignoring situations so I don't even fully comprehend what is going on or where I'm at or C) really am just too tired and used to traveling foreign lands at this point. Or maybe this is what being an adult feels like?!  Being confident in the world and prepared to handle any situation. Nah. Probably option B. 

I'm really looking forward to getting to Nosy Komba and getting more settled in and meeting everyone. I'm ready to get a better idea of what the next six weeks will hold. I want to pet some lemurs and swim and just have a good time. Hopefully everything continues to go smoothly.

The view sitting outside on the patio at my hotel.

I'm currently laying in bed in my hotel room writing this on my ipad with my wireless keyboard. I opted out of bringing a laptop because it's really just too heavy and I don't want mine to get broken. This brought a whole new challenge though with how to keep up my blog and transfer and edit gopro videos. I got a few new gadgets though that I think will work out. Hopefully I will be able to blog every now and then.

Anyways, I'm going to try to get some sleep now. I've got another long one or two days of travel ahead. Who knew getting somewhere remote would be this much of a challenge and journey?! Justtttt kiddinggggggg.

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