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Flights and Feelings

Today, I will narrate the story of the journey to this country. When I was thirteen, I made my way to America. I always wondered if I would make it to this country. It felt like a faraway place, very out of reach to me. I assumed that life on this side was sweeter than honey. Thus far, it has been like a sour patch. A constant variation of sweet and sour. Well, on a fateful Friday night, my brother and I boarded the Kenya Airways flight from Jomo Kenyatta to Istanbul.

I had never traveled by plane prior to this encounter so I did not know what to expect. My uncle had given me tips to put into practice in case of turbulence or during takeoff/landing. Like he said, I clenched my fists, closed my eyes and tightened my core as the plane taxied off the runway. It was nothing like I had ever experienced.

The plane used insurmountable force and it is a miracle I did not litter the seat with vomit. In true AFRICAN fashion, we were late to depart from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Due to unexpected delays, we left hours later than scheduled. What we did not know was there were implications to this delay but as first-time flyers we had no expectations. What we did know, life as we knew had changed forever and, in a few hours, we would be reunited with our parents.

The problems started when we descended into Istanbul. We did not know which gate we were supposed to go to for our connecting flight to New York. My older brother who was eighteen at the time assumed responsibility for the both of us and found an information desk hoping to get a sense of direction on where to go. Imagine our shock when the lady behind the desk spoke not a lick of English. Now I understand that most of Istanbul predominantly speaks Turkish but surely, it is an international airport. I am thoroughly fascinated every time I find myself at a major city with major tourism, or high traffic of international travelers and yet everything is in their native language. It is borderline hilarious to me.

Google translate was not a thing at the time so how we understood each other was by yelling and enunciating words in English and them vigorously shaking their hands and responding in Turkish. Clearly, it got us nowhere. After what seemed like an eternity of watching all of this unfold, the lady behind the counter spoke into a radio and a young man came to the rescue. You wonder, why did sis not do this earlier right? Anyways, we made it to our gate only to find we had missed our connecting flight and we would be placed on the next one as soon as possible. My parents had no knowledge of what had transpired between Nairobi and Istanbul. The flight updates did not reflect delays or language barriers so to their shock, we were not part of the passenger list of the incoming flight into JFK. The helpdesk had no idea where we were - I attribute it to the language barrier.

My mother immediately went into a state of panic. Each possible thought ran across her mind, and she imagined her children had succumbed into irreversible fate. We on the other hand were living our best lives exploring the airport in Istanbul. We had travel money with us that we splurged while at the airport waiting for our connecting flight. Finally, after many blissful hours and an unhealthy amount of sugar, we were on our final leg to New York. I have a friend that loves flying with Arabic airlines - Emirates, Turkish etc., His primary reason being they offer endless meals. He calls them flying restaurants. Now, no one ever prepares you for the shock your palate succumbs to when eating plane food. They swore that they gave us chicken, but I beg to differ because the chicken my grandfather slaughtered on Christmas had a distinctively different taste than the one this flying restaurant was serving. It was so off-putting that I did not eat meat for another year.

Once we made it to New York we realized that we had to find our parents, so my brother located a payphone and phoned our father. Imagine the relief when they saw us, alive and well. After a tearful hello, we began our life together as a family in the land of opportunity. The start was eventful, and I can assure you the energy has been consistent throughout my stay here in the States. Nonetheless, there is absolutely nothing that I cannot face knowing that I am in the same country as my family.

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