Africa, African adventure, Bar Mitzvah, family, family adventure

Flying on a Wing and a Prayer

We just returned from a two-week trip to Tanzania with our six sons. While I was very nervous and unsure about this crazy adventure before we set out, I can’t put into words what a dream come true it was now that we’ve returned. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the coming days, but I wanted to recount one of the funnier stories.

We flew from Tel Aviv to Zanzibar (via Addis Ababa) but then to get to the safari we had to purchase domestic flights from Zanzibar to Arusha, the city where we were meeting our guides to start the safari. These tickets were with a company called Flight Link. We showed up at the Zanzibar airport after an amazing few days on the island and we were ready for our quick flight to Arusha. The airport had the feel of a small town bus terminal. It was breezy, not really indoors, and rather small. As we went through security and got to the check-in counter, we didn’t see anywhere for Flight Link. “No worries,” the guy working at the counter said. “Just wait a minute.”

We sat down and Josh said “I’ll bet you that the guy at the counter turns one of those handmade signs around in a minute or two and shows Flight Link on the other side.”

And then a few minutes later, that’s exactly what he did. And then he looked up, smiled at Josh and said, “Ready.”

Now, by this point I was a bit nervous. Most people who know me know that I hate to fly. And I don’t mean that I would rather not be flying and I don’t particularly enjoy it. I mean that I spent about five years weirdly passing out during flight landings, which resulted in a series of medical tests and an abject fear of flying, which created all sorts of psychological barriers to flying including claustrophobia, heart palpitations and the distinct feeling that I’m dying mid-flight. Yeah, that kind of “dislike” of flying.

Josh finished at the counter and came to sit down, handing me the tickets. “Um,” I said with a bit of a shake to my voice. “Where are the seat assignments on these plane tickets?”

“Well,” Josh said, “um, they said we don’t need seat assignments.” And at that moment, we all started to realize what we were about to do. The kids hooted and hollered with excitement, and then I felt a hush descend over the Sussman space as everyone looked at me and realized that there might be 7 people going on safari instead of 8.

Pretending everything is going to be alright….

All that I could do was sit there shaking my head and hoping that a large 747 would suddenly appear on that little runway. The only thing standing between me and my son’s bar mitzvah safari was the damn plane.

We started to board and quickly realized that we were going on a plane for ten. Yes, ten, of which we were eight. The plane was so small that there was no air conditioning and the co-pilot explained that he would keep his door open until seconds before take-off. Ok buddy, that is really reassuring.

About to board (or run away!)

I told Josh that I actually wished I could look because I’m sure it was an amazing experience to be on a tiny plane flying over an island in Africa. But as you could see, were I to let anyone see the pictures, my eyes were closed from take-off to landing. Yes, Matan filmed the entire ride with his Go Pro, yelling just about the entire way while I white knuckled and waited to feel the air when we landed and the pilot opened his door once again.

The good news was that the flight was only 15 minutes long (taking us from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam). Then, with barely enough time to go to the bathroom (because obviously the planes didn’t have bathrooms), we scooted to our next flight which fit 15 and felt even smaller and smooshier than the first flight. That flight took an hour and a half and must have taken five years off of my life.

But we did arrive in Arusha and get to our safari.  And I quickly tried to push the flights out of my mind and ignore the refrain about what goes up must come down (what goes to Arusha must also leave Arusha).  I felt a great sense of accomplishment that I had overcome something as daunting as these plane rides.

And a great deal of gratitude for my doctor who prescribes my awesome medicines to keep me sane, well or at least relatively sane enough to enjoy crazy memory-making adventures of this sort.

PS-The flight back from Arusha to Zanzibar didn’t even stop in Dar es Salaam and had room for at least 30 people! I got on that plane thinking it was ‘big,’ proving that life is all about perspective.

5 thoughts on “Flying on a Wing and a Prayer

  1. WOW! your very real struggle with flying and all that you overcame to get through your fears is really amazing! I am certain that your courage will shine as a wonderful example for others to overcome there fears. Loved reading your posts!

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