Uganda 2022 Day 17

We left the guest house at midnight and drove to the airport. I was able to sit next to Rachel Y and Ssepuuya was on the jump seat next to her. I looked over at one point and saw him sleeping. He told me before we left that he would not fall asleep until he got home. I told Rachel Y it was her job to hold onto him if Richard’s driving was to crazy and he started falling over. Not long after, Algena tapped him on the head. She was messing with him because she thought he was on his phone. She felt so bad that she woke him up, but it was fine because we were just arriving at the airport. Richard was able to get us the VIP treatment. He drove us up the hill and dropped us off at the door. Many people had to walk up the hill. Next was the hardest part. The goodbye… or at least see you later. It was sad to hug Ivan, Sam, Richard, and Ssepuuya for the last time. We walked in a big tent where someone had us line up our bags and step back while he had his dog smell them. The dog tried to take Benjamin’s jacket. When we were approved to continue, we stopped at a desk where we had to show our passport and our Covid vaccine card or negative Covid test. Finally we were able to walk in the building, but they had us send our bags through scanners. The next stop was the ticket counter and checking our bags. When I got there David and Jocelyn were there already. Jocelyn was not happy with what they were telling her. Our group of 14 had to pick one of five airports in the USA to stop at for Ebola screening. The dumb part about this is Ebola is in a small area nowhere near where we were, but the USA made it so anyone coming from Uganda has to be Ebola tested. They were also telling us that they would not do anything from that city to get us to Seattle. The reasoning was because it was not their doing, but the USA government. That told us we might have to buy another airplane ticket from the city we decided to arrive at to Seattle. There was another gentleman there that had arrived before us who was also going to Seattle. He had been in Uganda for his brothers wedding. This man was extra mad because he had gone to Turkish airlines and before and made sure there was no change so he would be prepared when he arrived for his flight. Our team members had been checking the Turkish airlines website, app, and their email often the last few days to make sure there were no changes as well. None of this sat well with people because everyone was sleepy and it just created stress. While Joanne was talking to one of the workers, we decided to pick the city then instead of waiting until we arrived in Istanbul. That way there was a chance to get everyone on. We decided Atlanta would be the best choice out of the airports. Then came the next challenge. We had a group of 9 tickets that were purchased at the same time and 5 others that were individually purchased. The airline employee said he might be able to get the 9 together. So many people came through and checked in while the employee was changing our tickets. Which brought even another problem. While he was changing our tickets from Seattle to Atlanta, he did not just change that flight, but removed everyone from the Istanbul flight. Some of the team had even paid extra money to get specific seats and would not get them anymore. Also, they overbook flights because people don’t show up. All that meant that there was chance to sit near each other on a full flight and we also might not make it. Once the employee was finished with changing the 9 tickets, Joanne had us check in our bags and continue to the gate. After checking our bags we had to go through customs and security and have them scan our carry on bags. I was right behind David. They stopped me to search my little backpack that I had been carrying with me all week. I was not worried because I had gone through it yesterday morning, but wondered what I might have left in it. The guy saw my super old, tiny iPod and said, “for music?” While holding it up, he was making fun of me for how old it was. I told him I didn’t need a new one because they are expensive and I have a phone for music too. The whole time we were laughing and smiling. Then he kept checking my bag. He proceeded to pull out a deck of cards I had and saw my second one in the bag as well. Both decks were new and I had only used one at the guest house while we were there. The guy told me the new one stays in Uganda. I said ok and he let me go. Then we waited to see what happened with the rest of our team. Neil came through fairly fast, but had a airline employee with him who needed David. It turned out that his checked bag was vibrating. Our team that was left behind tried to convince them it was his fan, but they would not take that answer. So, she took David down to baggage and he showed them what it was. It was actually not his fan, but was a razor. Finally, we saw Susanna, Joanne, and Jocelyn come through security with Tony not far behind. I asked if they all were able to get on the Atlanta flight. She said everyone except Naamah. She was still at the baggage check area. Because they were over booked, they were waiting to see if one person from business class showed up. If he did not, she would get his seat. When Benjamin learned this, he said he would not leave without his sister and he did not care about his baggage. Joanne said that was not an option. I started to pray more at this time, but was not truly worried about her not getting on. At this time, they had us line up at our gate so they could check our passports one more time. Our team stood in a circle and Neil prayed about the situation. Within a couple minutes, Joanne got a message saying Naamah was coming. Benjamin and Joanne waited for her to make it through security. When they rounded the corner, she got cheers and applause from the team. I am sure everyone waiting at the gate thought we were crazy. Our plane left late, but at least we were all on it. I also was lucky enough to fall asleep for about an hour. God has blessed me on this trip to be able to sleep a little on the planes.

When we arrived in Istanbul, we went directly to the Turkish airlines counter to have them set up a flight from Atlanta to Seattle. They kept saying they can’t do anything for us and that is was the USA’s governments fault. Joanne kept trying to explain we purchased round trip tickets and they she honor the round trip with one of their partner airlines. They kept going round and round about it. Even after Joanne explained that Rachel M’s airline helped her. Eventually, all the people who were helping us just left. The guy we met at the Uganda airport stood with our group to see what they were doing. He did not want to have to try himself if they would do nothing for us. We were glad to share our knowledge and save him time. All of us were going to Atlanta together anyway, so why not. We had to go through having our carryon bags checked again in a scanner before we could continue on. Tony, Joanne, David, Jen, Destanie, Elena, and I went to shake shack for lunch. I did not feel good after. I think it was all the grease after eating so well for so long and the fact that I over ate. Jen, Destanie, and I went to one of the stores after. I wanted to buy a couple Turkish snacks while we were there. Then I split off from them and went to the gate because I wanted to relax and not walk around while not feeling well. Plus, the Istanbul airport is huge! I got there just in time to miss to crazy of a line to check in and have my bags searched. Sadly this plane was packed, but at least I was between two ladies.

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