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!


lisa said...

i dont suppose there were stray, mangy cats running around the airport? that's my favorite part of the khartoum "terminal." so glad you have your bags.

Bassam said...

I know, exactly, how you feel! Remember the bags I hauled around with me when I visited you in Charleston? Multiply them by two and imagine hauling them through Chad, Lebanon and UK! I don't even want to talk about all the excess luggage charges I paid!!!
You did really well, C! I’m proud o’ ya. :-)