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  • I am afraid of many things, but - as they say - all fears are in the end fear of Death. And I suffer from that especially whenever I sit in an airplane. My very worst plane - fear I had in those small Cessna - planes, which flew us through parts of Africa.

    A day before we flew home to Swakopmund from Cerra Cafema I had read in the news that one such machine had dropped down near the Windhoek airport a few days ago and everybody in the plane died.

    The same blond, young woman, who flew us to Botswana a few weeks ago, was our pilot now. She chewed chewing gum incessantly and seemed to be just a High School Girl. Then she told us about her time as a pilot in the military bringing food to refugees in Congo and I won some more confidence in her flying skills. Our flight did not start until early afternoon. By then the desert had heated up under the sun and heat creates turbulences….

    When the pilot mentioned that I immediately felt my stomach tighten. There was fortunately a little outhouse at the landing strip and I visited that before we started the flight. Just the word “turbulences” had given me colics. When I washed my hands in the dim hut I spotted a small mirror in front of me. I took a careful look at myself. I saw my wrinkles around the eyes, detected the grey hair growing out under the red henna color.

    “I am too old to still carry these childish fears around with me!” I said to my mirrored self. I breathed in, deeply, then breathed out, made that long, looong… then again and once again. That calmed my heart a bit down. I stumbled from the dark outhouse into the bright sunlight outside and there was no choice: I walked directly to our plane.

    As soon as we were airborne everything jumped up and down. I desperately tried to hold on to something, but found nothing. Maybe the camera could help me? I photographed dry riverbeds and dark blue mountains under us. My hands were extremely sweaty and anyways the plane moved so much, no photograph could possibly come out well. My heart again beat inside my throat. I closed my eyes. I breathed in; held the air inside as long as I could then breathed slowly out. I would do this ten times I decided. But after the third time I found myself absolutely desperate again. I could not even start with the missing seven. I tried it differently: breathe in, then out, and then try not to breathe in again for the longest time possible. But it did not work either. Under me there was one dry riverbed after the next. I remembered somebody telling us:” If we are lucky these rivers carry water for eight or ten hours one day a year!” But then I could not concentrate on the subject of rain anymore either. My husband and my friends were napping. My friend’s husband observed what our pilot did and tried to learn a bit about flying from her. The pilot started to explain him how this or that worked. I did not like that. I wanted her to completely concentrate on the task in front of her.

    “Ay, Dios, dear God, I wish I had arrived already!” Why the heck was I such a terrible chicken – shit?

    We fell into an air hole, then another one. My friend had woken up and played Sudoku. My husband snored. My friend’s husband was napping now, too. Our pilot chewed her chewing gum.

    Suddenly all the turbulences were gone. We glided on swift air. Under me a canyon flew by as impressive as the Gran Canyon in Arizona. No fear anymore, just wonder and admiration. Our pilot gave us an extra tour low above the Skeleton Coast. We saw the many thousands of seals as small dark dots on the beach. We flew along the line where Ocean and Coast meet. We recognized Henties Bay and even our house in Swakopmund. Now my heart beat filled with beauty and joy! I was now nearly sad when we land.

    I try to avoid flying as much as I can, but if I want to travel to far - away places I have to fly and I do, even if I am stiffly glued to my seat for 12 hours and reject any food or drink during that time.


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    Art by Kiki ( Yes, I know: statistically planes are the safest transportation ever invented. I know I should tremble with fear every time I sit down in a car. But thinking rational facts does not help me at all when it comes to entering a plane. I need to imagine myself a ton of powerful angels protecting us poor souls sitting inside this metal bird.)
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