Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's like watching 24, but much less interesting

Can everyone please hold me to this statement: before I leave for my next posting, wherever that may be, I will have either bought or rented a room somewhere where I can put things so I don’t have to carry them all with me? I can not go through another morning like this one. I know it is boring, but I just have to share.

6 am, wake up in the pouring down rain, get everything packed, climb in to the taxi that bounces me down the dirt roads that have now become mud rivers in our posh Kampala neighborhood. If these are the roads in the fancy hilltop enclaves god knows what’s going on in the poor valleys.

8 am, due to the rain, and the complete and total inability of Ugandans to drive faster than 5 km/hour in the rain, I get the airport late. My first port of call is Avisec, the aviation security office, because in order to pick up the bags which were lost, I have to go in to the arrivals hall which requires special permission. Me and about 40 day laborers in bright yellow jackets. This was slightly annoying but I was still young and fresh and spry and in a good mood, so I gave a little “ah Africa” shake of the head and waited patiently whilst ages of negotiations went on.

8.20 am, I am now slightly more nervous because I still haven’t gotten anywhere closer to the front of the queue and I have a lot to get done before my flight so I bat my eyelashes at the laborers and they let me go in front. The Avisec man takes my passport, my visa, my address, my employers address, my mobile, my shoe size and my star sign, then gives me the sacred pass.

8.30 am, realize there is no security down there this early and I didn’t need the pass.

8.35 am, a very friendly, sympathetic girl tells me the bags didn’t come. I start to lose it a bit, catch myself, apologize and explain they did, I confirmed last night, etc etc etc. They sit me down and tell me they’ll help. Unfortunately, at this moment, a big flight from Heathrow gets in and around 25 people, all women, oddly, have missing bags. I read Hello! magazine (Hugh Grant, apparently, wasn’t very good for Jemina Khan and footballers’ wives are very trashy).

9 am, my flight to Juba is checking in upstairs, I’m still sitting, having just read that Lilly Allen in starting up a chat show on iTv.

9.15 am, I start waylaying everyone I can find in a blue sweater and a name tag until a very very sullen customs dude takes me over to the “warehouse” (big closet) and leaves me there to try and find my bags.

9.25 am, my bags, somehow, were under a bunch of boxes full of, it would appear, farming supplies. Whatever, they were there! Yay!

9.30 am, I now am the proud possessor of 100 kgs of luggage. That’s about 220 lbs for the Americans. Seriously seriously heavy bags. The arrivals hall, where I picked up the bags, is on the ground floor, the departures lounge in up a level. I heaved my trolley towards the lift only to be told it if broken and I will have to haul all 100 kgs up two flights of stairs, piece by piece.

9.35 am, about 10 young, strapping, strong Ugandan men sit and watch enthralled as I go up and down the stairs, hauling my huge trunks and bags and looking less elegant than one would like. This would be the point where I re-discovered my hatred for Uganda.

9.40 am, all the bags are upstairs and back on a trolley. I am basically a “before” picture in an anti-perspirant add. I go to move the trolley. It tips over, scattering all my bags hither and yon. Eight construction workers watch in wonder as I scramble everything back together.

9.45 am, I go to return my Avisec pass and retrieve my passport. There is now a young, pretty girl at the desk and a huge queue of people in front of me, all apparently, arguing with the girl. I try to explain I just want to return something, she refuses, tells me to wait in the back of the queue.

9.55 am, she is still arguing with the first group, having a very pedantic discussion about whether or not the man on my side of the counter had used a snide tone with her. At this point I am no longer young and fresh and spry and in a good mood. I am damp and rumpled and my arms are sore and I have a very good chance of missing my flight. I walk up, hand her the id card, reach across her, take my passport and walk out, not really caring if I get arrested at this point, it may be a relief.

10.15 am, I have lifted and restacked my bags three times to get through the security, which means when I appear at the ticket counter all the ladies are looking at me like I am slightly toxic. However, once I asked them if they’d like the copy of Hello! I’d finished with I was whisked through everything, given a chair and a drink whilst someone went to go break my $50 bill for tens to pay my overage costs and generally treated like a queen. They even took me through to the gate personally. Elhamdillilah!

I hate this. So much!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Starting out slow

Alright, so I can safely say there is very little in the world that sucks more than stepping on to an airplane in a city full of wine and friends and beaches and jogging paths next to the water and concerts in the park at sunset and other wonderful things and stepping off that same plane in a city that smells of firewood and animal poo and hasn't ever heard of the concept of traffic laws.

Oh wait, there IS something worse, all those things and your luggage doesn't arrive.

I seriously spent four hours on the phone today with different people trying to find the bags that contain everything I own. I spoke with all the people in the head office, all the people in the ticketing offices, all the people at the checkins, all the people on the ground crews in Uganda and Jo'burg. At different points in the morning my luggage was: in Cape Town, in Jo'burg, in Kampala, in Nairobi, lost, stolen, with me and I was just trying to scam the airline, on and on and on.

Finally, I get Collin. Collin is in charge of the baggage guys at Jo'burg. Collin is talking to me on his cell phone, the number of which i shouldn't have but which someone gave me in a fit of frustration. Collin listened to my slightly hysterical story of not wanting to start my life in Juba with two pairs of underwear, one pair of jeans and a really bad chick lit novel. Collin made all his guys go search all the hangars until they found the bags hidden behind some boxes in the wrong part of the airport. Collin is a god.

I haven't gotten them yet, but I have faith in Collin. I fly out tomorrow and I believe they'll be there. Though, knowing me and my luck (tire falling off my car, anyone), they'll end up in Kuala Lampur instead of Kampala.

Third time is a charm

The media seems obsessed with the overexposure of today's society. How we all facebook and blog and twitter and myspace to the point that nothing is sacred and nothing is private and we become convinced that everyone is interested in the Clancy is feeling a bit low today or whatever that we write up on our walls. It has taken all the interaction and the depth out of human relationships.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I don't care. I'm adding, yet again, to the blogsphere. It isn't like I work for Gawker or Perez Hilton.

For those who were keeping up, I ran in to a bit of.... trouble, shall we say, in my last job location and had to pull down the original Thirsty Palmetto. I knew I would feel like a total moron if I was arrested for telling inappropriate stories about donkeys on the web so it seemed like too much of a risk. But now I am in a MUCH less scary place from the government perspective and, therefore, want to get back to documenting. If nothing else so I can remember where the hell I've been.