At least one person from southwest Minnesota was directly affected by the massive delays caused by ash from the Icelandic volcano last week.
I got a call Monday from Darla O’Brien of Rushmore, who told me about her son, Sean, being stranded as a result of ash spewed from the Eyjafjallajokul (my wife thought this was some kind of major typographical error when she first saw it in the Globe) volcano. At that time, she said her son had informed her that day that he would likely be unable to fly back to Minneapolis for another week. An Associated Press report Friday said, however, that flights across Europe were operating Friday, though Iceland’s biggest airport was now closed for the first time. Here’s hoping that Sean is home by now — though I can’t imagine spending a few days in Nairobi, Kenya, being the worst thing in the world.
Sean, a student at the University of Minnesota, was in Africa as part of his education, as he spent six weeks working at a hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. I know little about the country — other than I’ve had some delicious coffee that’s come from there — so I did a little web search. According to Wikipedia, “Arusha is a city of northern Tanzania surrounded by some of Africa’s most famous landscapes and national parks. Beautifully situated below Mount Meru on the eastern edge of the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley, it has a pleasant climate and is close to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, Tarangire National Park, and Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as having its own Arusha National Park on Mount Meru.” It sounds, in a word, wonderful.
A 2002 graduate of Worthington High School, Sean left from Tanzania last Thursday and made it Nairobi, where he got stuck. He was to fly KLM Royal Dutch Airlines out of the Kenyan capital — and make it home in time for a couple of weekend Minnesota Twins games at the brand-new Target Field — but it was not to be.
Luckily, I was told, Sean had purchased flight insurance that allowed him some nice compensation for his travel troubles. He was put up at a Hilton hotel in Nairobi, where — according to his mom — he was able to go online and have electricity that stayed, onlike the flickering lights at a previous accomodation.
Being it has a population of 3 million, it’s difficult to imagine there being nothing for a tourist to do — though I did read that Nairobi is home to the Kibera slum, the second-largest in all of Africa and home to approximately 1.5 million people. Simple math shows that half of Nairobi lives an extreme poverty, a truly sad statistic.
I hope that, by now, Sean is back in Minnesota, or at the very least on his way back. Still, as a lover of all kinds of travel stories, I would truly enjoy hearing or reading about his adventures in a world far away from my own.