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Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 1: Not Cuba

The Freedom Schooner Amistad was supposed to arrive in Matanzas, Cuba, today, where she was to dock right in front of the UNESCO Slave Route Museum. For all I know, she did just that, but I don’t really know, as my travel plans have managed to unravel themselves rather thoroughly.

My traveling companion, Bill Kraus, who is a board member of Amistad America and also a fellow UCC person, overnighted at Chez Brysmi so we could get an early start on today’s travels. At 3:15am, Kimberly shoved Bill and me into the car and drove us to JFK Airport, where we arrived the requisite three hours early for our 7:20am flight. We boarded the JetBlue aircraft and began our adventure, with the plane heading down the coast, taking us toward Nassau, Bahamas, where we were scheduled to transfer to our flight to Havana.

As the plane began its descent, we dropped down through deep gray clouds and the landing gear rumbled its way out from the fuselage. I watched the display on the seatback that gave the airspeed and altitude, watching the numbers decreased. 2000 feet, 1000 feet, 500 feet, and then the engines screamed back to life and the plane clawed its way back up into the sky. The young man in the seat in front of me vomited and the newlywed couple next to me clutched their airsick bags while other passengers moaned as their stomachs bounced off of their ankles.

The pilot circled the plane around again to try a different approach and, again, the numbers dropped. 1500 feet, 1000 feet, 500 feet. Once more, the engines roared as we pointed nose-to-the-sky and accelerated from an aborted landing, with the sounds of retching coming from somewhere behind me. The intercom crackled and the pilot announced that the runway was completely covered with dense fog and it looked like it wouldn’t be safe to land for at least another half hour but that we also didn’t have enough fuel to wait around for a half hour and try again and still have any margin of safety, so he turned the plane around and took us to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he made a beautiful landing and taxied to the concourse, where we sat for an hour or so as the plane was refueled. Finally, we got word that the fog in Nassau had cleared and we were in the air again in minutes for a 45 minute flight and another perfect landing, with the wheels touching the ground at exactly the same instant that our flight to Cuba was scheduled to take off.

So, now Bill and I are stuck in Nassau. Truth to tell, it is probably my fault, as I had joked on Sunday that here I was with a trip through Nassau and Cancun and was only going to see the inside of the airports. But here we are, killing time until tomorrow’s flight to Cuba. After settling into our room at the Sun Fun Resort, I made a couple Skype calls home to get Kimberly to make real phone calls for me, since my cell phone only receives calls here and can’t place them. Then, I went for a walk along the coast road, stopping to take some pictures with my cell phone. They drive on the left side of the road here, which made being a pedestrian oddly confusing. The storm here was pretty severe and there is standing water everywhere. I passed a grove of coconut palms and there were several nuts lying on the ground and I thought about taking one back to the hotel and trying to open it with my rigging knife and spike, but decided against it. Finally, after about two miles on foot, I caught one of the local busses (which are rattly affairs like the Poda-Podas in Sierra Leone) back to the hotel.

After my walk, Bill and I had dinner in Cable Beach: Conch fritters as an appetizer and a conch-in-a-foil-pouch affair for our entrée with sweet potatoes, yucca, plantain, and a rather nice curry sauce over wild rice. Of course, this is the Caribbean and neither of us was driving, so we also tried a couple of local specialties, the most interesting of which was “Cloud Juice” which is made with gin, coconut water and condensed milk.

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to be at the airport at 11:30, so we can be appropriately early for the 2:30 flight to Havana. We’re supposed to arrive in Havana shortly thereafter and will have to make our way to Matanzas to meet the schooner that I expect did, in fact, arrive on time, unlike us.

1 comment:

Nancy Dryden said...

Kudos to you for being able to roll with the landings, er, punches! I pray it'll be smooth sailing from here on in...