Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another Airplane Adventure

We arrived in Puerto Cabezas on Friday afternoon, and on Monday morning I left to return to Managua.  I was a little unsure of getting out of Port because it was very stormy (I jumped out of bed at 5:30 that morning because I had been rattled to the bone by a thunderclap).  I was told to arrive at the airport 2 hours early, so we got there around 10 since my flight was supposed to leave at 12.  

Just typing that made me shake my head a little. 

We got there and the check in process went smoothly.  However, because of the recent flying disaster I was not feeling confident.  Something or other about pride before a fall…I dunno.  I just wasn't feeling it.  Anyway, my friends left and I was there with the two boys.  In the distance I saw a plane land, and it seemed kind of little.  However, since we flew in on a 40 passenger plane I just assumed it was the plane to Bluefields.  20 minutes later when seats 1-13 were called I realized it was the plane to Managua, and they were operating two at a time to make (not two out of Port, but one leaves Port and another leaves Managua at the same time to make sure that everyone gets to their destination on time).  I had numbers 25 and 26, so I was happy to realize that I would be on the next flight and perhaps would make it into Managua a little bit early.  I was scheduled to land at 1:40 and it was looking like I would be in by 12:30, tops.  I figured since it took about 40 minutes to get my luggage the first time around that I would be about right. 

I turned on a movie for Tate and Theo fell asleep in the stroller without even being pushed around!  I was thrilled!  This was going so well. 

Until about an hour later when the next flight was called.  It was seats 12-24.  

I looked down at my ticket, sure there was a mistake.  There was not.  Bummer.  I talked to the gate guy and he said the next plane would arrive in another hour and 20 minutes, so we would still be in by 1:40.  No problem.  We wouldn't be early but at least we were running on time.  And I would be first in line next time!

Wrong and wrong. 

Theo woke up and Tate tired of his movie, so they took turns playing around in the waiting area.  No one seemed to mind (they were all Latinos, after all and I believe there is no other people group out there who loves kids more than Latinos).  They were playing some wretched Lindsey Lohan movie so I tried to keep Tate occupied so he wouldn't watch TV.  

Around 12:20 we all started watching the runway. 

At about 12:45 someone approached the a lady who worked at the airport (don't ask me her title-she collected the exit tax, announced flights and wanded people who failed the metal detector test) when she thought the plane would come.  She said the standard, "I don't really know, but I think in about 15 minutes or so."

Everyone else got out their cell phones and called the people who were picking them up.  Everyone but me.  I had emailed Don Jorge about the flight prior to leaving, just like he asked.  I did not have his number, though, because I don't have a phone here (yet).  I decided to say a quick prayer that things would go well and tried to quiet my unease by reminding myself that everything here runs on Nicaraguan time anyway. 

At 1:15 I really started to get irritated. 

At 1:20 Theo started pounding on the doors. 

At 1:45 the rest of us started pounding on the doors.  OK, not really but I think everyone wanted to.   Lunch is the big meal here and everyone was getting grumpy hungry.  Myself included.  

Finally at about 1:55 we were loaded up into the bus.  Having my boys, a stroller and a purse made it so I was the last one onto the bus.  Everyone who boarded before me decided to sit in the front seats which meant I had to walk all the way to the back.  Luckily there was enough room and I didn't hit anyone.  

Once we got to the runway we waited even longer for the plane to land and for everyone to disembark.  Right as we walked ahead to board it started to pour.  We almost reached the door and the pilot ran out yelling "No, you can't board yet!  Someone vomited on the way here and we're cleaning it up!!"


That could only mean two things: 
A.  The plane ride was very bumpy.  
B.  It was going to be very bumpy and smell like puke.  

We finally boarded.  The door was in the back of the plane.  I was the last one (surprise surprise).  

As I boarded I realized that I was going to have to get past everyone in the 12 seater plane because the only seats left were in the front row.  I kid you not when I say that the row to walk was only about 8 inches wide.  I had so somehow propel myself, my almost 4-year-old, a big purse, a 1.4 year old and a stroller and a little backpack all the way up the mini-aisle to the front row.  Did I also mention the the plane was only about 5 feet tall so I had to hunch down?  Well, I did. 

I didn't know if I could do it.   After squeezing past the first seat I decided to drop the stroller.  After huffing and puffing my way past the second seat I lost the little backpack. With another seat to go I practically threw Tate up to our seats and gently tossed Theo.  My knees were literally up against the pilots seats. 

Allow me to say now that I'm not a really nervous flier, but I am afraid of heights and big bumps, and can be a little claustrophobic if the mood is right. 

As we buckled our seatbelts and said a prayer for our lives, I realized the mood was right.  The woman behind me was complaining her seatbelt was wet.  Inside I smiled knowing that she was in the vomit seat and not me.  Horrible, I know, but after huffing and puffing to get to my seat I really didn't care.  

We took off and my fears were realized.  The take off was bumpy and rough, and the plane pitched this way and that in the wind and rain.  We made a sharp turn and I was suddenly thankful that I was hungry rather than full. 

A few minutes later we "leveled off" and I snuggled the boys closer.  Tate and I prayed sincerely and he said what I believe was something like, "Mom, I'm sorry if I ever disobeyed you."

I looked out the front windows and only saw white clouds.  Enter claustrophobia.  

The good part was that I could see the instruments and tell how much longer until we landed.  I made a deal with myself that I would close my eyes and count to 100 slowly and then I could open them and see how much time had passed.  The first time it was only a minute. 

The second time rain started to pour and we started losing altitude.  And I almost peed my pants. 

When we got through that about 8 minutes of the flight had passed.  Only an hour and 12 more minutes. 

I continued like this until about 30 minutes into the flight.  Some kind of alarm started going off and the instruments started flashing.  The pilots looked at each other surprised and quickly pushed some buttons.  I wanted to knock my head against the window so I could pass out until the flight was over. 

We went through a few more rain clouds and about half way through the flight I started to relax.  Each time it rained hard I would tense up, but when the skies cleared I could almost forget I was nearly seconds away from death. 

Then the "low fuel" light and buzzer came on.  Since I was sitting right behind the pilots I saw clearly what was happening.  I saw them check some gages and flip a switch and promised myself that they had two tanks.  At that point we only had 30 minutes left and the boys were asleep so I could panic and pray by myself.  

As I saw the altitude odometer (or whatever it's called) go down, I started to relax.  When I saw the runway I nearly wept for joy.  I was the last one off the plane, and as I stumbled off I praised God that we were still alive.  Everyone on our plane was stumbling a little and feeling a little sick.  

Except Tate, who said "Mom, that little race airplane is so much fun!  Let's do it again soon!"

Yes Tate, let's.  Perhaps the Sunday after never. 


Heather Carl said...

oh my goodness you describe the plane so well!! we too sat in the VERY front row both times and wiggled our way down the 8 inch isle. i'm sorry it was so miserable for you but so glad to know you're safe and sound...and even more than that, grateful that you endured it all to spend time with us...speechless! :) love you more!

Kara said...

You, Sis, are one tough cookie!! Congratulations on surviving such an interesting flight. Hugs and loves and prayers from TX!

Anonymous said...

Again...I'm looking forward to reading this account in an appropriate publication. You are a VERY talented writer, Jenni...I see a book in your future.

-- Nana Stearns