Last year I smashed out of my comfort zone and decided to start travelling the globe to help raise awareness for dyslexia. I started the year booking a ticket to Kenya to meet with the owners of The Rare Gem Talent school in Nairobi, this is an incredible school that helps children with dyslexia and other SPLD's this was an incredible adventure and one I will share in another blog.
So let's get back to my Malawi 🇲🇼 adventure this all came from the work that I was doing in Kenya and was kindly contacted by Jeranji who is the founder of the Able Foundation in Malawi, after a few emails exchanged I booked a ticket to fly out and help raise awareness for dyslexia in her country. Now I know this wouldn't be as straightforward as it was a connecting flight and to be honest it did fill me with concern, however we booked the ticket 🎫 and off I went.
The plan was to fly into Johannesburg and get the connecting flight to Malawi, meet my host, drive to the hotel and grab some food before having a nice rest and beginning our work in Malawi. If only it had been that easy .
I flew into the airport and was greeted with this, now this may look normal to most people and to be honest its kind of what you expect to see at an airport however here lies the problem.... I'm unable to read anything that is printed in red 🤦♂️ so my anxiety started to kick in.
I stood there after a 10 hour flight with my case and bags and stared so hard at the sign I felt my eyes were going to pop out, all I could see is what you can see in the picture a big blob of red however to me it was all moving around. I managed to find an attendant who was in a rush and gave me what I thought at the time was the correct information so thinking that my flight was in a couple of hours time I took myself off to a coffee shop and and waited. Two hours came and I went off to find my flight, however on entering my gate I could see no one at the check-in desk and not a single person queuing, this sent alarm bells ringing so I walked around the airport and found a help desk and was told that the flight I was due to take to Malawi had left just over two hours ago 😭 the information I was given was wrong and I had missed the only flight that day to Malawi .
This drove my anxiety to a new level along with my ADHD and Dyslexia, I remember walking up and down the airport in a bit of daze just looking at the metal seats and thinking that would be my bed for the night.
However a call to my partner and she had booked me a hotel for the night and my next flight out to Malawi the following morning. So after feeling a little tired I went to the hotel and got some rest, well not until I found exactly where my flight would be boarding the next day and triple checking the times!
So, the next day came and thankfully I boarded the flight and was off to Malawi to meet my hosts.
My hosts Jeranjie and her husband were amazing and very welcoming, we got in the car and started travelling to my hotel . I couldn't help but notice that whilst driving the streets were empty and thought it was a little strange. I eventually mentioned it and was then told of the mass protest that was going on in Blantyre and that there was a huge march to the parliament buildings and when asked where these buildings were Jeranjie replied that they were opposite my hotel! We pulled up to the hotel and I could hear lots of noise in the distance, and then after around 30 minutes after checking in I could start to see people walking past the hotel, this went on through out the night and there were thousands upon thousands of people all marching past the hotel. Im not going to lie I did feel a little concerned as the noise and the sheer number of people was very overwhelming.
When I woke in the morning I checked out the local news only to find out that there had been a lot of unrest that night (even though I could hear the noise) and the papers were full of news about the events.
I remember thinking that morning about lots of things and whether or not we would be able to carry out our tour of Malawi and get to the places for the events we had arranged as there were many roads blocked, however my hosts were able to come and pick me up and off we went to our first place.
We had been planing this for a good few months and put lots of marketing out on social media both in Malawi and in the UK so was hoping for a good turn out, and this didn't disappoint. We had lots of parents, teachers and some students attend and the event went perfectly.
After this event we headed off to Lilongwe which was about a 6 hour drive as we had another big event to carry out. The car journey to Lilongwe was quite the adventure as there are parts where there is nothing around but fields and then you drive through tiny little towns where people would come up to the car and sell you the crops that they have grown.
However the road is still quite treacherous and you have to make sure you have your eyes on the road the whole time as there are so many obstacles in the road, anything from giant holes in the road, animals, and people. I think while we were travelling I had witnessed several vehicles at the side of the road and some sadly that had an accident.
We arrived safely to our next hotel and the next morning we drove the short trip to our next event. This was similar to one we carried out before and again was hoping for a big turn out. We had parents, teachers and some local business people attend our talk and it went fantastic with lots of questions and so much awareness created in a country that at that time had very little knowledge of dyslexia.
We carried out lots more awareness events also during my time in Malawi and I met so many wonderful people and not only was I able to share my own personal experience of dyslexia I was also able to hear every one else's stories, the one story that stuck with me is by the teacher that is in the picture above . She told me of one of her students who had basically been given up on in the education system and her confidence was so low that she couldn't even get out of bed in the morning without the fear of going to school. She later moved to yet another new school and this teacher in the picture had noticed that she had the signs of dyslexia and got her an assessment. Fast forward a few years and that student is now excelling in her studies and the mother told the teacher that she leaps out of her bed on school days, this story is definitely one that stuck with me.
So my week of raising awareness for dyslexia had come to an end in Malawi and we spoke to hundreds of people and put dyslexia firmly at the front of peoples minds and for that experience I'm truly grateful.
However the adventure of my own dyslexia travels didn't stop there as I had a few more challenges ahead.
I said good bye to my amazing hosts and got the taxi to the airport and on route I sat and thought of all the amazing people I had met and the stories that they had shared. I grabbed my cases tipped the taxi driver and walked into the airport, Now I don't know if you have ever flown from Malawi airport but its very small in comparison to the main airports so I thought I couldn't possibly get this wrong.
I went to the check in desk showed my passport and ticket and then turned right and saw a sign that said waiting room for borders. I went through the metal detectors and went into a tiny room with metal bench seats, at that time there wasn't anyone else there so I sat down grabbed my ear phones and waited two hours until my flight was boarding. Time went past and more people came and sat down and then suddenly a lady from the airport came and stood at the front and asked us to get on the shuttle bus to our flight. I stood up walked over and noticed that the lady was just waving her arm quickly as if to rush us, this meant that I didn't show her my boarding pass and just got on the bus. We traveled up to the plane and I noticed that the plane we had arrived at was half the size of the one that we came over on. I knew it was a connecting flight so expected the plane to be smaller but this was tiny in comparison.
Oh well I thought as I boarded the flight with my large backpack and again the flight attendants didn't check my boarding pass, on I went squeezing down this tiny isle and trying not to hit people with my backpack. I found my seat number and saw that it was a window seat and the one other seat next to it already had someone in it, this gentleman was a very large bodybuilding chap and his arms alone took up both seats so I knew this wouldn't be the most comfortable of flights. He kindly moved and I squeezed in and at this point I was basically pushed up against the window. I went to put my earphones in just as the flight attendant started the safety talk so I quickly took them out, and I'm so pleased I did as she then started to thank everyone for boarding this flight to Lilongwe (OMG 😮)!!!!
IM ON THE WRONG PLANE!!!!!
This sent a very worrying feeling through me im not going to lie, so I began to ask the very large chap if he wouldn't mind moving as im currently on the wrong plane. I'm not quite sure to this day what he thought of me as he just kept staring at me and couldn't quite understand what I was saying, to be fair its not everyday you get on the wrong plane I guess. Anyway he kindly moved and I went rushing up the aisle with my backpack catching the heads of most of the passengers, I then proceeded to tell the flight attendants that I was on the wrong flight and again she just stared at me in disbelief, she then eventually went and spoke to the pilot to ask permission to open the doors as at this point the engine was on the doors were locked and everyone was strapped in for take off. The pilot agreed and the doors were opened and I was sent out on to the tarmac as soon as my feet touched the tarmac the plane doors were shut and the plane was gone . I stood on the tarmac of the runway for around ten minutes really not knowing what to do or where to go, then in the distance I could see the shuttle bus coming towards me, the door swung open and the driver yelled something to me and on I went. However on returning back to the airport I was greeted by not one but two armed guards pointing their guns and asking me where I came from and why I was in the middle of the runway. I was then taken to an office and questions were asked and at this point my dyslexic brain went in to overdrive I could hardly speak. Luckily what I was able to say was enough to convince them of my mistake.
Now the problem I had was the plane that I was due to board originally was boarding at the same time as the wrong plane that I boarded earlier so I was escorted by the armed police through the other part of the airport which is for International flights, I had to go through all the security again and back on to the shuttle bus that I had now been on twice and then taken to the plane which at this point was full of people all strapped in and looking a little annoyed with the delay, however the drama still wasn't over as in the confusion will the armed guards they had taken my boarding pass off me and while I being rushed through security I didn't think to ask for it back , so when the flight attendants had asked for it I was unable to show it. This meant I had to (yes youve guessed it ) go back onto the shuttle bus and back to the airport through security again and pick up my boarding pass from the security office. I return to the plane showed my ticket and walked past 80% of the people on the plane all looking a little cross to say the least.
So here is a picture of me boarding two planes 20 minutes apart 🤦♂️
You will be relieved to know that I got on the right plane and when I got to Johannesburg I successfully got my connecting flight and headed home. You see I have always struggled with travelling with my dyslexia and there are many other adventures like this and although this journey was very scary and stressful at times, but I would never not stop travelling and especially because of my dyslexia.