MONDAY DECEMBER 13: FLYING HOME FROM PARIS
Images from Singapore Airlines
It was 7.30 and the group were all ready for the final coach ride to Charles De Gaulle airport for the journey home and the end of Connecting Spirits 2010. The Youth Leaders Hamish, Hayden and Tristan joined Amanda at the front of the hotel to say goodbye: they would travel later by taxi to the Paris train station and go onto London via Eurostar. Emotions were raw as Mal said his goodbye to his son Hamish, Amanda shed many tears and overall it was a sad start to the morning. Beth was fragile after another night of illness but was ready for travel and Flo and I would also soon be separated from the kids. The journey to the airport was a very quiet one as everyone was feeling the same sense of loss.
Cases unloaded for the last time it was time to let go. Hugs and kisses were dished out to all and then they were all off to check in. From there it was just Flo, me and the driver making our way back to the UK and to drop Flossy off to her pub in Surrey where she would start a working adventure for two years in the UK. That farewell was tough as Flo had given so much over the years to Connecting Spirits and the legacy she has given the project will live on for a long time to come. In summing up this year’s project and tour I guess the fact that we all felt so miserable that it was over was in some ways its own evidence of success. The final reflections will add to how we now review Connecting Spirits 2010. What a wonderful adventure for all involved and I hope there will many more to come in the future.
After Julie left the group the rest of us negotiated Charles De Gaulle Airport. Beth was still suffering the after effects of her food poisoning and was not able to stand for long. After we all checked in I asked the staff if we could organise a wheel chair for her. After some looks from them and me reassuring them that she was over the worst of it and was just weak from no food or sleep for a few days, they told Beth and I to wait in the area reserved for preganant women and old people. Nice comfy chairs. Meanwhile Lorraine, Judy and the students made their way to passport control and joined the queue. After a 20 minute wait a nice man came with a wheel chair, put Beth into it and off we went. Straight to the front of the passport control line, in front of the rest of the group who had been lining up nicely for all of that time. Then on to security where we were given priority and put straight through and finally to the boarding gate where we were given pole position. That's the way to do it!!!!!!
We all eventually boarded and I was able to relax as Beth was comfortable enough; we waited for take off. We were delayed by de-icing, a foretaste of what was to come for other travellers, but were in the air about an hour after scheduled take off. About half way through the 12 hour flight, Cass was obviously suffering from stomach pains, and I thought that this was the beginning of worse to come. She was uncomfortable but with some medication from Judy and my bags of tricks, she was able to make it to Singapore with no major hassle. I asked the staff on the plane if we could organise a wheel chair for Cass as well, which was promptly done. Well done Singapore Air!!!. So now we had two students being wheeled around the airport. Cass was taken to the clinic and treated very promptly and felt considerably better after. We went to the Transit Hotel and booked rooms for every body for 6 hours. I also booked one room for 12 hours so that we had a base to keep bags etc and also to allow our sick ones to be able to sleep in comfort for as long as possible. Then to the first solid sleep in three days for Beth and I. We awoke at 4pm and most of the students did a bit of shopping, before camping in the foyer of the Transit Hotel and playing cards. I must thank the management of the hotel for their patience and goodwill in allowing us to take over their foyer, and they graciously hinted that things were about to get busy just when we were ready to get organised for boarding. If you have a stop over in Singapore but not long enough to leave the airport, check out the Ambassador Transit Hotel. You get a good sleep and a shower and freshen up for less than $60 Australian per room. Hayley was also then feeling unwell, so another trip to the doctor, who assured us that it was just after effects of her surgery and all was good. A great big thanks to Lorraine for all of the work she did in making sure Hayley got the attention she needed right from the start of the whole appendicitis saga. Back on to the wheel chairs for our invalides and the same story; straight through passport control and security and straight on to the plane, and wait for the others to catch up. An uneventful flight home and then customs at Adelaide. Jack had to collect a bullet shaped necklace that he wasn't allowed to carry on board, and we all declared chocolates and dirty boots with Flanders mud all over them. After scrubbing our shoes and answering all of the obligatory questions it was out to the waiting arms of family and friends. Lots of tears and hugs, not just hello to those we were meeting but also good bye to a group of very close new friends.