Monday, March 03, 2008

Oh, the joys of international travel

I've flown Ethiopian Airlines (ET) six times in my life. Of this rather small sampling of their services, I've not been impressed. They have yet to prove to me that they are capable of having an on-time departure.

This morning's flight to Nairobi was rather comical, quite honestly. The check-in area was semi-chaotic. There was a group of 30-some cyclists on the same flight as I. They are riding from Cairo to Cape Town, but are skipping Kenya due to the unrest. So they rode to the border, bussed back to Addis, and are flying to Arusha. (Some are taking a detour to Uganda, or Lalibela.)

Either way, they can't be the reason for the chaos. They're just ordinary passengers, like I am. Their bikes were being carted by road, so that didn't cause a delay. But every so often, an ET official steps up and calls all the passengers going to such-and-such a place to urgently step up. When it came to "Passengers to Nairobi/Kilimanjaro," the guy's eyes just grew big when he saw that there were still several of us in line.

We finally made it through check-in, headed through customs and then upstairs, falling in line for the second X-ray, one at the gate. This took ages, and soon enough, a semi-frantic officer was walking up and down again, calling, "Passengers to Nairobi/Kilimanjaro?!" He then diverted us through a different gate (1A) to ours (1), but soon we were all herded back to 1A again, downstairs, and told to form one line. (Except, you cannot get roughly 250 people to form a single line in a small room.)

And then ensued a huge argument. One group of ground staff were confronting a second group for bringing us down too early. (By then, however, it was already past boarding time.) Their fight continued for a good 20 minutes easily, until they herded us onto busses, carted us off to a plane on the other side of the runway, where we sat again for another 15 minutes or so.

When the captain finally addressed us, he didn't even find it necessary to apologize for the delay and any inconvenience it may have caused. C'est la vie, right?

Fortunately, I didn't have a connecting flight. I really wasn't in a terrible hurry. Just wanted to get to my destination for today: a colleague's home in Nairobi.

But first, I had to
a) find both pieces of checked luggage (one piece, the one with my toiletries and my books in), seemed to have been left behind in the rush of getting out of Addis, or it wasn't unloaded from the plane and was en route to Kilimanjaro. They promised it would be here tonight. (Which it isn't. They're hoping it will be on tomorrow's flight. I'm REALLY hoping it is on that flight. All my clean clothes are in there!)
b) go to the British Airways office to follow up on a damaged luggage claim from 11 months ago. For the past just-less-than-a-year, BA has been telling me, "Come back next time." But praise God for the supervisor I got to talk to today. She apologized for the delay in getting my luggage back to me and asked me to go and purchase a new bag and bring her the receipt tomorrow. Hopefully, by then, my other piece of luggage will have made it from Addis, well rested and possibly fluent in Amharic.

All that to say: It's good to be back in Kenya. There's a definite change in atmosphere here! But my taxi driver on the ride from the airport was quick to tell me, "It would be difficult to trust our neighbors again! In fact, we were very ready for war last week!"

I'm working on a follow-up project for class in the city this week, after which I'll be returning to the village. I especially look forward to seeing the kids in Ilula. It has been far too long since I've seen them. My heart truly longs to sit with them and hear their stories, to hear what they felt, to pray with them, and to laugh with them.

It's good to be back, though some uncertainty about the way toward healing in Kenya still lingers.

P.S. A day later and I have my second piece of luggage back (it had indeed stayed on for perhaps a massage in Addis), and I got a debit card from BA today for the cost of a new piece of luggage. Nice. Very nice.


  1. Praise God! So glad to see you made it back. I know you are looking forward to seeing them.

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  3. Almost a year and you finally have your luggage replaced! Bless God, all your persistence paid off. So glad to hear you made it back to Kenya safely.