Thanks mom and dad! I don’t know how many time they’ve dropped me off and picked me up from YYC, but I am forever thankful for the convenient drop off/pick up situation they provide me with. Not to mention, the hundreds of dollars they’ve saved me on airport parking. I love you, guys.
Standing in one of the longest security lines I’ve ever been in, I slowly made my way to the ‘other side.’ There’s something about departure gates that gets me all jazzed up. The energy of this place is incredible. The crying children, the excited children, the stressed mother, the people who don’t speak one word of the local language, the newly weds, the fighting couple… there really is ALL different types of people beyond the security scanner. And there I am, as anonymous as I can be, about to depart on one of the coolest trips I’ve ever been on.
It took me 29 hours to get from Calgary to Antananarivo (in the air for 23 of those hours). And surprisingly, it went by very quickly. Maybe it was the anticipation of the next layover that makes the time speed on by. Layovers are my most favorite part of travelling. The new snacks, the challenge of navigating terminals, and the people watching is the icing on the vacation cake. As for jet lag… there is a 9 hour time difference between Calgary and Madagascar. Combine that with 30 hours of travelling and you have severely out of whack melatonin levels.
Highlights of my flight:
- I saw the sunrise from the plane.
- I watched down onto a huge lightning storm.
- I lost 9 games of solitaire…consecutively (it’s just not my game).
- All you can drink wine! (Thank you AirFrance)
- The best lava brownie cake thing I’ve EVER had!!
- I actually communicated to the stewardess in french. Perhaps I picked up more grade 5 French than I gave myself credit for. However, once arriving in Tana (Antananarivo), I was unable to fake my French language skills. (The main language in Madagascar is Malagasy, however, the majority of residents are also fluent in French). Luckily, I was able to decipher the three airport cues and get into the correct one. It was here that I ran into another volunteer, Kim! Not only was Kim the most down to earth person I have ever met, she was also fluent in French. Yay! A great help while getting through customs.
By the way, here’s what happens when going through Madagascar customs. (This ‘system’ would not fly in Canada). One gentleman sitting behind a counter takes passports from 20-30 people, stacks them in the corner of his desk, then proceeds to stamp and sign them all individually. Next, guy #1 passes the completed passports to non-shalont guy #2, who ‘verifies’ the stamps then yells out the name on the passport. Meanwhile there are the 20-30 passport-less travellers huddled around this counter waiting to hear their name (or a broken-English version of their name), over the loud commotion of beggars, bargainers, and buses. All the while, I’m trying to locate my two bags of luggage, hoping they haven’t been unattended on the carousel for too long. Interesting, yet an undesirable experience whilst severely jetlagged.
Exchanging my money was next. I only needed to exchange $500 US but keep in mind that the exchange rate is 2200:1. The largest bills I got from the exchange place was 5000 (equiv. ~$2.50), and needless to say I got a HUGE stack of them. Thankfully they don’t have coins here, my pockets would have been outrageously heavy getting over 1 million arairy in coins.
I am overly excited to have finally arrived in Madagascar. Months of planning, saving and effort have gone into this trip and I am so thankful to have this opportunity. My hair is already loving the humidity, and the warmth of this place is very comforting. Arriving at the hotel for the night Kim and I were handed our room key along with a candle. The powers out, which I later learned is a regular occurrence, so the candle is our room light. It’s surprising how much light a single flame gives off.
Looking forward to seeing Madagascar in the daylight. Let the adventure begin…