May 12, 2012
Sadly, my time in Rwanda went by far too quickly. Onwards to Tanzania via Kenya. A simple trip that became far too complicated.
From the first, we're not allowed through security until they announce check-in for our plane. Unusual, but I'm sure they have their reasons...so I wait until they call my flight, go through security and check-in, only to wait again inside the airport for my flight.
After landing in Nairobi as planned I checked into my gate only to be informed two hours later that we would be delayed another three hours. After spending an hour trying to use the airport Wifi I find an internet cafe and inform my Dar es Salaam colleagues I would be delayed. Only to hear precisely after I clicked "send" we were now NOT delayed by three hours but rather only one and would be boarding IMMEDIATELY. After running back to my gate, everyone is still sitting there. Why? The airline is hanging out blue ponchos.
That's right. We were going to walk across the airport to our plane and therefore needed ponchos because it was monsoon raining. No bus, no security, just willy-nilly across the asphalt in our blue ponchoes to our airplane. And then, in another first for me, I was asked to sit in one of the exit seats that faces the plane rather than the cockpit. Taking off facing the back of the plane, in a rainstorm, is a different experience, that's for sure...
After finally making it to Dar es Salaam, I go to pay my visa in Euros, but they insist I get American dollars because "you'll get a better deal". Turns out that it's 100 Euros or a 100 dollars for American citizens, we have no choice on single or multiple entry visas and they don't give change. OKAAAAAY. Where should I get dollars? Oh easy, he says. Walk through the passport check - without a visa and without a check - go to the exchange office, change the money, then come back. That's right. I walked through without my passport or anything, out of passport control and into baggage claim where I could exchange my money. No escort or anything, he just trusted that an exhausted, red-eyed American would come back. I did, naturally, but still.
Thirty minutes later, visa in hand, I find that none of the luggage made it on the plane. That's right, we were delayed but somehow they just chose not to load anyone's luggage while waiting. After 12 hours of travel, I just don't care. I have some extra clothes in my backpack - "just in case" she says - and seeing how I was staying in a fancy hotel for work, I figure they'll have a toothbrush. So I fill out my forms and tell them where to deliver my luggage when they get it.
I hop in the car with my driver. Oh whoops no, I hop in a car with someone else's driver, so I get out again. Then I hop in MY car and we start the longest 30 minutes of my life to the hotel. Only to discover 15 minutes in that my vaccination booklet and return ticket were left with the disaster of a visa office. Return 15 minutes, go through security again, pick up my folder, exit again, get into the right car, and drive the longest 30 minutes of my life to the hotel.
In the end I made it to the swankiest hotel I've ever seen, ordered room service (45 minutes late and cold, but really, WHO CARES ANYMORE??), and got in bed. I've never been so relieved to be in between two sheets. Trying to stay upbeat I thought, well at least I've just experienced the worst travel day of my life.
Side note: I hadn't. Not even close.