An African Adventure – Part 1

Flying Backwards Across the Atlantic

In 1966, Africa was still called the Dark Continent.

In 1966, when John and I got married, we were just 21 years old.  Three days after the wedding we were on our way to Africa, blissfully in love and blissfully unaware of how difficult it must have been for our parents to see us go.  No cell phones, no Skype, no Internet, no email, no downloading or uploading of photos, no digital cameras, and no electronic means of communicating.

We were both brought up with a sense of adventure and decided, after knowing each other for only three months, to get married and move to Zambia, in Central Africa.  We joined a volunteer organization called CUSO, which placed Canadian university graduates in posts in many of the world’s poorer countries.

Here we are, married three days, and leaving for Montreal, en route to Zambia.

Here we are, married three days, and leaving for Montreal, en route to Zambia.

After an orientation course in Montreal, we boarded our flight to Africa.  CUSO had arranged for about 120 volunteers to be ferried across the ocean aboard a Canadian Air Force troop-carrier turbo-prop airplane, with a crew of pilots and navigators in training.

The feeling of hurtling down the runway facing backwards was amazing.  Apparently it was considered safer so all the seats faced the back of the plane.  It took us eight hours to cross the Atlantic and we landed at the Canadian Air Force base at Marveille, France.

We were billeted in the air force barracks on the base and were scheduled to depart for Africa the next day.  However, there was some trouble getting permission from the government of Libya for a military plane to cross their air space and it took three days before we were able to leave.

We flew into Tunisia just as dusk was descending on the ancient city of Carthage.  We dropped off about 20 French-speaking volunteers who had been assigned to that country.

We flew off again and I remember looking down at the Sahara Desert as the moon shone on the waves of sand dunes, very much like the moon shone down on the waves of the Atlantic Ocean a few days earlier.

The next morning we landed in Entebbe, Uganda, to drop off more volunteers.  Just a young woman from a small town in Nova Scotia and here I was in Africa.

We flew on to Nairobi, Kenya, dropped off more volunteers and then were taken to a hotel for the night.  The next morning at six, we were awakened by someone knocking on the door and calling out something that sounded like, “Key, key”.  We couldn’t figure out who would want our room key but John answered the door and came back with a tray of Tea.  What a lovely custom!

The problem with landing the plane in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, was that the airport runway was quite short and in the heat at the middle of the day, it would take a long distance for the plane to stop.  We left the rest of the volunteers, destined for posts in Tanzania, to wait for the plane to return to Nairobi to pick them up  after our possibly dicey landing.  The fewer people in the plane the better, so we took off with about twenty passengers.

We landed without incident and were finally, after five days en route, in Africa.

Part 2 to follow soon.  Have a great day and thanks for reading.