The beauty of nature seen through the lens of Rob Packer

25 Apr - ANZAC Day in America

25 April 2009

Beautiful Beginnings

The day started early, way too early. I had adjusted my phone to Atlanta time, which is an hour ahead of Tennessee. Thus when my alarm went off at 5:15 am it was actually 4:15, which I did not realise until going outside. As I had been sleeping on a floor-level mattress in Rayson’s room I didn't want to disturb them, so found somewhere "reasonably" comfortable and hoped to doze while waiting for sunrise. Had I known the end of the day a different decision might well have been made.

Beersheba Sunrise

There was disappointingly little cloud, yet still a beautiful sunrise. The newly-repaired lens was put to good use photographing fresh new leaves in the first-light.


Mike shared the story of Simpson and his donkey for the morning devotions. It was a different experience being in the USA to hear again some of the ANZAC story. They equate it with Memorial Day which they celebrate on 11th November.
After breakfast, which again included the increasingly familiar biscuits (scones) and gravy, waffles, sugar formed into the shape of various cereals and coffee Mike and I packed up to leave. Because I'd forgotten that the time for my first flight had changed from 3:40 to 5:15 we detoured home to deliver the cache of pies, lamingtons & vanilla slices Mike had splurged on the day before.

Beersheba Sunrise 2

Leaving Nashvile is hard to do

Mike then came with me as far as the first security check at Nashville International Airport. He left at about 4:00 pm with my first flight due to board at 4:45. Who would have imagined that it would be nearly six hours before I left and that I would sleep in a city I'd never heard of before. It all began 10 minutes before we were due to board with an announcement that storms in Chicago meant we were to be delayed by 15 minutes. Over the next 30 minutes that became a delay of at least 3-4 hours, then the flight was cancelled. The added problem was that there had been a huge marathon run in Nashville that day and all accommodation was booked out.

For most of the three hours of chaos the airline had one staff member, Adam, who worked two phones, a hand-held radio and the endless line of customers wanting answers. He did all of it with amazing patience and was co-ordinating with people in Chicago as well as locally. He managed to get the flight reinstated and diverted to Raleigh where there was accommodation. All the while people were trying to work out their best options. When I finally got to the front of the line, someone more senior had come to help out. After looking at my plans they decided it was too hard for them, and sent be back to ticketing, back out of security. There it became obvious that there was no way to get to London in time to catch the flight to Entebbe. The anguish of that was knowing that the flight only went every second day, so to miss it would mean losing two whole days in Uganda. After 20 long minutes a connection through Brussels to Entebbe was found. It would mean arriving 12 hours later than planned – but it meant being on the flight to Raleigh that I had left half an hour previously. The flight that had more people trying to get on it than there were seats. Somehow a seatplace was booked for me, but it was about to depart. So I ran to security, then ran the length of the terminal, and waited another hour before departure.

At last we left, five long hours after we were due to leave, but heading for a different city. The airline had negotiated a ‘distressed rate’ with a hotel, yet it still ended up costing US$80 – mind you it was a nice room with a king-size bed. In Raleigh the motel had a 7 seater people-mover to transport 70 people to the motel, and that was 10 minutes from the airport. Many caught taxi’s (or cabs) but it still took an eternity. Finally, finally, I collapsed into a huge bed at 2am, with the alarm set for 7:30. It had been a loong day.

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