Hi all! I arrived safe and sound at Heathrow Airport in London and was able to sleep on the flight but still all in all only about 4.5 hours. At 3am, when it was 8 in London, they turned on the lights and then about 45 min later they served a muffin and tea. I was really impressed with British Airways service- top notch. By the way, I flew Economy- so regular seats- but as we boarded I walked through the “Business Class”. I think this is the first time I flew where there was actually something between First Class and Economy and Business had these really cool seats that were set apart from each other with low dividers and alternated with some seats facing the front of the plane and others facing the rear of the plane. They had little foot stools and reclined much more (maybe all the way down) than regular seats. But, even in Economy class, there was a fresh blanket, pillow and headset on the seat when I got there. I had packed a lightweight blanket based on my experiences on domestic flights that blankets and pillows are not always available for everyone, but didn’t need to use mine. Also, they served food (dinner) right away if you wanted it- a hot meal- chicken curry on rice or pasta. I declined because I was exhausted and went to sleep to the smell of delicious Indian spices.
There is a game I often play with myself when I’m traveling. I try to figure out if where I’m going is really all that different from where I came. I mean, if someone blindfolded you and drove/flew you around for hours or days and then plopped you in a big city, would you really be able to tell that you were in NYC vs Chicago or would the England countryside resemble the Pennsylvania countryside? Anyway, what I do is pretend I don’t know where I’m going and then try to look at my surroundings objectively to see the city- or place-specific “tell-tale sign”. So, out of the plane window as we were arriving, Heathrow and the surrounding area looked no different than flying into BWI or other US airport. Now, I was seated on the aisle so I was looking over 2 people and maybe I missed something, but it looked pretty normal for what you see from the air- plots of farm land, lots of houses in suburban neighborhood, roads… The first thing that was somewhat different is that although we took a very large plane, 2 aisles and seats in a 3-3-3 config, we left the aircraft by climbing down a steep set of stairs to a waiting bus, were packed in like sardines, and were driven across the tarmac to the appropriate terminal. Using stairs isn’t that unusual for me when I fly from a small airport like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but it was a little odd for this big flight but not really a problem, except that I wonder how they get the people who boarded in wheelchairs down… (there were some on our flight) Anyway, the clincher telling me that this was NOT an American airport came when I entered the gate and saw a sign telling me that the Toilet and Lift were “that way”. Now I’ve found a spot to sit and relax until my next flight- a total of about 11 hours wait, but this is no hardship- I am quite comfortable and have power and wi-fi. I hope to be able to blog while in Tanzania but that is the leg of my trip that is least likely to have internet available when I need it so I will do my best.
One of my pre-trip activities was to try and get-up-to-speed on some of the diseases I will be likely to encounter while working in the hospital in Tanzania and in the villages in Masindi, Uganda. I located a series of summary documents created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and will be posting links to those when I can, so stay posted.