Last summer I went to Mozambique on a mission trip with my church. We arrived late in the afternoon on July 5 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for an overnight flight to London’s Heathrow. It was my first time traveling outside the continental United States. And there in the Chicago airport is where the adventure began.
There were twelve of us traveling together: our leader, Todd, and his daughter, Kate; Jamie, Ryan, Tracy and her son, Evan, who had all been on the trip before; Jessica and Cory, a young married couple; Megan and Grace, the college-aged girls; Monti, Todd’s friend from another church; and me.
When we checked in at the terminal, there was a problem with the computer system between London and Johannesburg, so we were only able to get our boarding passes for the first leg, and would have to check in again at Heathrow to get our boarding passes for the South Africa flight. No big deal, just a minor inconvenience. The real problem was that the airport said that the paperwork Todd had for traveling abroad with his minor daughter wasn’t properly notarized. As a result, Todd and Kate drove the three hours back to Indiana to get their forms straightened out. We were to go on ahead to London with Jamie in the lead, and they would get on a later flight. Since we had the day set aside for sightseeing this wouldn’t be a problem.
The flight was smooth, but excitement and tight quarters made it difficult to sleep. We had breakfast on the plane (I’m not sure I’d ever get used to cooked tomatoes with breakfast), landed in London early and took our malaria medication first thing. While in line for customs, one of the girls threw up. Whether it was excitement, blood sugar, or the meds, who knows, but she was not well. Consequently, Jamie and Monti decided to stay with her in the airport for the day. Aside from that, we got through customs relatively easily and, after checking in our bags, spent the day in London with Ryan in the lead of the remainder of the group.
We took the 15-minute trip on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, had some coffee and light breakfast fare (it had been a few hours since our meal on the plane), and then, after consulting with a tour guide as to the timeliest course of action, boarded a double decker bus for a (ahem) three hour tour.
London is a very cool place, but it was a very busy place that day, because, well, Wimbledon. Regardless, we had a lovely bus tour, but had to cut it short and hop the tube at Waterloo station to get back to the airport on time. So we took that back to Paddington Station.
Once at Paddington, we discovered that the Heathrow Express was having signal problems, and was not operating. So we had to get a cab. Two actually, as there were seven of us. Given the congestion, it took us almost an hour to get from Paddington Station to Heathrow (with Ryan freaking out the whole time fearing we would be late), whereupon we had just barely enough time to collect our baggage from the counter, get through security, and get to our gate in time to board our flight.
It was an adventure, all right! And then… we went to Africa.