In the next few days I’ll be sharing a couple of excerpts from the trip journal of Jordan who was on our team that just got back from Ghana. Jordan is a player in Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program and is a junior at Ankeny High School. I hope you enjoy his humor, observations, and touching thoughts as much as I have in reading through his writings! I thought I’d start sharing from the beginning of the trip with their travel nightmare…Jordan’s play-by-play will give you a detailed glimpse of how it all went down….
March 11-12-13, 2013
Des Moines: So dad agrees to come home from work and pick me up for the airport at 10:30am Monday morning. After getting my last bit of packing done that morning I was set to go. 2 suitcases, 49.5 pounds each, plus my Nike backpack. Little did I know I wouldn't see those suitcases until a few hours before I was set to come back home.
But 10:45am rolls around and the snow is still going steady, no sight of my notoriously untimely father. A phone call to his office assures he's on the way. 10:52am when he pulls in. I tell Nilly to be good while I'm gone as I go out the door; we throw the bags in the back, and we're off. This journey of however many thousands of miles begins. At the airport I meet everybody that's going with. Thank goodness there's somebody my age - Bailey Nichol is a 16 year old junior from Knoxville with a brother that plays for Kingdom. Her dad tells me to look out for her before both our dads head back to work.
The flight into Denver was pretty uneventful, but getting off I kinda messed up the whole 'look after Bailey' thing. As the whole group headed to grab bags to switch airlines she was in the back of the plane and hadn't gotten off yet. My bad. But Tim and Amber went back and got her. I was good about it the rest of the time though. Even talked one guy out of trying to propose to her. Yeah, like marriage proposal. But then again I did almost sell her for a bowl at another point (will explain later). She's sitting next to me (as I write now on our way back home) so she must've forgiven me for that. Back to that day though. We had to grab luggage in Denver and check it again. That would be the last time I saw my bags for 7 days. I grabbed the new Sports Illustrated, some trail mix, and a couple cheeseburgers as my last things from North America and headed to the gate. Some lady blew chunks in line to board. Just another reason to dislike Panda Express. We got on and my seat was right up front next to an older Scandinavian couple that put on their little slippers when we got on. Bailey came and got me since there were seats together back there. The guy she was supposed to sit next to said the middle seat was saved...for his hat. It is as absurd as you're thinking. But we ended up in row 50something where the lady in front of me put her seat all the way back into my knees 15 minutes into the flight and put it up when we touched down in Europe. A 10-hour red eye flight. I popped a couple sleeping pills and figured it was bedtime. My body had other ideas. Didn't sleep a wink the whole flight. Bailey slept off and on. I watched movies and some episodes of Burn Notice to pass the time as my knees were crunched into my chest by this random woman in front of me. We came into Frankfurt just after 8 that morning. Let the fun begin.
After finally finding a place to eat something the snow began to fall. We didn't think too much of it since our flight wasn't for another 6 hours. And the snow kept coming. Flights started getting delayed and it was a full on whiteout blizzard by 10am. We found a big open seating area where Tim, Alex, and I finally got about an hour or two of sleep laying across the seats. I woke up with some really attractive lines across my face and a left shoulder that felt like it had just been thrown out. But it was well worth that little bit of shut eye. After a little more time there talking we decided to head up to where our gate was.
About an hour into being up there with the snow still going strong, our flight got moved back for the first time - an hour or so. It was understandable with the weather and didn't really bother us. The Ghanaian men sitting in between us and the desk had a different opinion. This was not acceptable for them and they were very vocal with their opinions. As they argued amongst themselves, we played everything from ‘mafia’ (where JJ and Justice became notorious for peeking) to ‘how can we beat up Jordan’. The latter ended with me soaked in water by Justice. That would be my first shower in Germany. The flight kept getting delayed an hour and then another 45 minutes and they eventually gave us vouchers good for 10€ worth of food and drinks, plus a huge stack of free bottled water, and some little snacks. I would eventually grab another 45 minutes of sleep to add to my losing total. More delays and excuses - from an icy plane to a flight turning back to Switzerland. The Ghanaian men from earlier had finally had enough. They yelled enough at each other and at the guy and gal at the desk to have the German police called in and the head of security to settle things.
About 7:30pm they finally come over the loud speaker and confirm our worst fears. The flight to Accra had been cancelled. So what do we do now? That was a good question. None of us had German visas to leave the airport and we would have to go to customer service to figure out another way to get to Africa. After finally figuring out where customer service was we saw the signs and it didn't seem too bad. That was at least until we turned the corner and saw the line that never seemed to come to an end. We walked to the back, probably 300 people in front of us. It was gonna be awhile. A few of us sat down and not long out, JJ was out cold. An hour passed and we had moved maybe 25 feet. Another hour, another 10 yards. They bring in huge stocks of bottled water and boxes of granola bars for all of us waiting. After our 3rd hour we had moved our first 100 feet, with another 150 to go. It was gonna be a long night. It was 11ish when a little cart pulled up with stacks of sandwiches and noodle things that sent the crowd into a feeding frenzy. One of the big Ghanaian men grabbed a stack of 50 and headed back to his clan’s spot in line. Everyone else looked like hungry koi in a little pond being fed for the first time in days. By now a man had passed out to our left and had medics at his side while others took pictures and videos of the line. Lufthansa was doing what they could but people were getting antsy.
After 3 hours in line we had finally made it to the spot where you start into the snaked line to get to a counter. An hour later we had moved somewhere close to 10 feet. The next hour goes by with maybe 5 yards of movement, but at least we were within 20 people of the front. We had now been in line for 5 hours and it was 1:06am when one of the managers came out to make an announcement. Lufthansa was sending its workers home and they would be back to help people at 6am. Haha, this was not going to end well. Immediately everyone is yelling in disbelief that they would do this to paying customers. We yelled at the girls behind the counter. An enraged Indian man went off on the manager followed by a Norwegian woman. Everybody was getting in their shots. There was maybe an hour of work left and everybody was good to go. The 50 people that hadn't been helped weren't going to let this happen. The head of security made his second appearance trying to calm the angry crowd. I loudly gave my suggestions to the brunette behind the computer. While at the same time a Turkish girl wasn't going to let her less than decent English keep her from yelling in the back about the lack of care for customers. The manager said that if we wanted to sleep there they would have another shift at 6am. The large Ghanaian men on the other side of the split snaked line were ready to choke out the little German man in front of them. Protests could be heard in every language. I assume most of them swear words. After it all the workers grabbed their things and headed out the back exit. Probably a smart move with an angry mob on the other side of the door. I grabbed the blanket that had been tucked away in the bottom of my black Nike backpack and laid it down right up against the first counter. That's where I would stay for the night. Everyone else began to follow suit. With no one left to yell at, this would be our protest. To my surprise no security would ever come to be sure that we would behave ourselves with all the computers and working stations as our new headboards. Within 10 minutes everyone had their space carved out with blankets and bodies everywhere that trash wasn't.
Around 3:30am sharp a big Ghanaian man comes in for a chair and with its terrible screech across the floor manages to wake up just about everybody. Some fall back asleep and the rest of us sit up and begin to wait again. My new waiting spot would be sitting on top of the service counter and eventually in the desk chair with my feet up on the counter. Tim and Alex join in the neighboring chairs. As the time gets closer to opening, more and more people begin to line up that had slept other places in the huge airport. Everybody that had spent the night on the tile floor of the Lufthansa's customer service area was now claiming their spots back in line. About a quarter to six the first workers of the morning shift begin to roll in. Two older women that hadn't been there all night think they're gonna just grab the first spot. That wasn't flying with the people in line or the manager that was there. We eventually got helped and were printed off papers to get on a flight to Amsterdam and then Accra. The papers would just be used to get boarding passes at the gate.
Another couple hours of waiting to go and Tim and I start to try and find the gate. On all the television sets it gives the terminal but no gate number. He finally just decides to go to where the last flight from Amsterdam is going out and ask. After somehow going through a passport check and getting a German stamp we finally ended up at gate D21 where the last flight to Amsterdam was just finishing boarding. After 25 minutes or so of sitting up against a pole, our flight begins to board. Jake goes up to talk to the lady who says that she'll print off our boarding passes after everybody that already has them gets through. The point comes when everybody is on and she prints off Alex's first. He starts down the jetway before he turns to wait as Jake checks in himself and his boys. The young British attendant at the boarding gate is very overwhelmed and gets a call from the pilot asking if they are good to go. She explains the situation and that the decision is his. She continues working and gets a call a couple minutes later. He makes the executive decision to go ahead with take off to try and make up time. 8 feet from getting on a plane to England and there it goes. We're sitting there once again wondering what we're going to do now. The girl behind the counter begins apologizing in some other language and the tears start to come. She directs us to the check-in desk for the airline and points us in the right direction. The incredible journey adds another chapter. We find our way out to the right place. Another line, and a long one at that. At this point I just lay down with all the bags and with my backpack as a pillow, grab another 30 minutes of sleep for a grand total of 3 hours in a couple days. I'm awoken by Justice posing for pictures with a foot on my chest like a gladiator.
A couple good movies made for another sleepless flight. After finding our way through the Arabic signs of the Dubai airport we sit down at our gate and in the New York Times is a story on the German airport’s failure the day before. The best thing of all was we managed to pick up some wifi. A little contact back home through iMessage and tweets felt wonderful. It's short lived with the boarding of the flight and anxiousness of finally going to Africa. While boarding, I start talking to a couple about why I'm going to Ghana. It turns out they are from Iowa City and the wife says she has about 8 bags of baby clothes she'd love to donate to somewhere like Kingdom Cares to put to good use in Ghana. I finally sleep a couple hours on this flight and with the help of some movies, I make it to touch down in Accra where only about a third of the bags are present. Of course mine are not included. That concludes the crazy story of how I got to Africa this week.
To be continued….