Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Packing up and leaving the guest house, I had a swirl of emotions. The overwhelming one being, of course, sheer excitement of going HOME WITH OUR BABIES!!!! At the same time, I knew I wouldn’t likely return anytime soon, and so I just wanted to memorize everything I saw. Have I mentioned that I hate it that I couldn’t take pictures in public???
We arrived at the airport, and were a little uncertain about what we were to do. We knew Bob would be meeting us, but last time we saw him (when we arrived here over three weeks ago), he was in a DGM uniform. So today, when a plain clothed man came up, it took me a moment to realize that was actually Bob.
He remembered me from last time, as I was the one who tried to communicate with him…”tried” being the operative word, of course. He asked if I still had my dictionary and I told him I did. I fished around in my bag, found it, and showed it to him. He took it from me, stuck it in his pocket, and said, “Thank you. Next time I speak English.” Um, okay.
We gathered our things, and took off quickly for the airport entrance. I had Blake on my front in a baby carrier, a ginormous backpack on my back, and I was pulling my carry on suitcase. The airport parking lot wasn’t paved and I misjudged a “curb” I needed to step over. As though it were happening in slow motion, I caught my suitcase on something and lost my center of balance. With all that extra weight on my front and my back, I couldn’t stop myself and literally felt straight backwards. No bending at the knees or waist, just straight up and down one minute and flat on my back the next. Oh, I felt silly, of course, but didn’t realize until later that I did actually hurt myself. My ankle took a beating! Maybe that whole no pictures in public is a good thing. There is no record of my sheer gracefulness! :)
We were very early. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:50 and it was before 10:00 when we got to the airport. We said goodbye to James and Pastor Peter and Bob took us on in. No one was even there yet to check us in, so we just sat and waited. Shortly after 10, the airline workers arrived, and we soon realized that to get anything done, you have to be pushy! We went from first in line to about tenth, just because people pushed and shoved past us.
The check-in process was maddening. Try to imagine the most inefficient way to check a group of 8 adults and 7 children and you still can’t come close to how it actually happened. And in the midst of it all, the power kept going off! It was wild. We were getting closer and closer to the time our flight was to leave. It seriously took hours just for them to check us in and check our baggage. (This wasn’t even waiting in a line! This was simply them actually checking us in!) The sad thing is, is that it was all wrong. They hadn’t checked several of us in for anything beyond our first flight, and had our baggage all mixed around.
When they were all done with us, we had about 45 minutes until our flight. We had to head through immigration. They didn’t seem to happy to see us, but Bob saved the day! He quickly explained who we were, why we had black children with us, and the guy waved us through. We still had a check booth to pass through, and then a very intimidating man in a suit who inspected all of our documents very thoroughly. We had been told that this is where they could tell you there are problems and take you off to a side room and let you sit for a long time (probably looking for a bribe.) Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and we made it through just fine.
We went through some rather informal security checkpoints and then were told to sit in one large waiting room. Anyone who was waiting for any departing flight waited in this one room. It was wild to me that in a city of upwards of 8 – 10 million people, we all passed through one door, one man, and now one waiting room. A flight number is simply called when it’s your turn, and you make a mad dash to get on the little trams to take you to your flight. (Remember that they can be overbooked, so the first one on gets the seat. Thus, more pushing and shoving!)
We sat in the seats and waited for our flight. Of course, Blake decides this would be a good time for a blow out diaper. I’m still barely walking from falling in the parking lot, and we didn’t want to leave to try to find a bathroom and risk missing them calling our flight. Hubby began to change him right there. Of course it was a giant blow out. Of course they called our flight while Blake was naked. So what did we do? We took some diaper wipes, pushed the dirty diaper, dirty clothes, and icky used wipes onto the floor under our seat, threw a diaper on him, wrapped him in a blanket, and quickly headed out for our flight! I feel bad for the person who sat there next!
There was a much more, ahem, thorough
intimate touching session security check before boarding the trams. Hubby was finished before me, and was standing there waiting when an officer told him repeatedly that he had a nice watch. Hubby just smiled and said thank you. I’m sure the hope was that hubby would give it to him, but nope.
We rode our tram to the plane and went to find our seat. Much to my surprise, there was a dude in my seat! I started panicking, remembering what they had told us about how the flights are overbooked. I looked at Hubby and said, “I am NOT getting off this plane!!!” I just started pointing and telling the gentleman that that was my seat. He kindly pulled out his boarding pass, and sure enough, it was also his seat. A very nice French man in the row in front of us got up and gave us his seat, and told us not to worry…we’d work it all out. He called the flight attendant and they began trying to find seats for everyone. Praise God, the flight wasn’t overbooked, just ticketed wrong, so there were seats for us. We were on our way home!!!!!!!
As the flight lifted off (about an hour late!), I remember looking out the window thinking that this is the last time for quite some time that Blake and Lauren will be on Congolese soil. It made me a little sad. I hope we can convey to them the wonderful things about their birth country.
They did great on the flights and didn’t fuss at all. We were a little concerned about what would happen in Ethiopia because our flight left Kinshasa so late and we were not checked in for the next leg of our trip. The flight attendant told us we’d just have to run when we got to Addis Ababa!
We landed in Ethiopia and I hobbled off the plane. I had to look hysterically odd. I could hardly walk, yet I was moving very quickly! I was a mama on a mission! It was difficult to figure out where to go since we didn’t know the proper gate or anything, but we found someone who could help us. He was wonderful! Oh, to be somewhere with good customer service again!!! He told us not to worry, that he was also the gate agent for our flight, and he’d make sure the plane wouldn’t leave until our group all got checked in. Thank you, Lord!!!!
After being in Kinshasa, the Addis Ababa airport almost felt like home. It was very modern, and had shops, restaurants, restrooms, and air conditioning! I know that when you venture away from the airport, the poverty is staggering, but this airport was night and day different from Kinshasa’s!
We made it on our flight just fine and were pleased to see that our ticketing agent not only made sure we got on the flight, but gave us each 3 seats in rows to ourselves! We had tons of room to stretch out and lay down with the babies. We were SO grateful!!!