Friday, March 21, 2014

Kombolcha 2014: The Journey Begins

This will be my fifth trip to Ethiopia, and my third to Kombolcha. While I'm not nearly as anxious as I have on previous trips, I'm still pretty excited to see the kids I've gotten to know so well since my first trip in 1999.

Lots of familiar faces in this 1999 photo. 

Playing Duck, Duck, Goose in 1999. This is
Besrate, sponsored by our friends the Morris'.

One new aspect of this trip will be the inclusion of Allison (16) and Michael (13). Benjamin went with Lori last year as a nine year old.

I am excited to see how the two teenagers interact with the kids of Kombolcha. They both have big hearts, so I know it will be a good experience. Also going on this trip are our friend Glen Bogdanovich and my cousin Patty. Glen's wife, Mindi, went last year.

The trip started easily enough. We picked up Glen at a parking lot, and then went to meet Michael and Allison at their schools.

The itinerary is a little crazy. We are flying out of Boston on Friday, staying the night at a hotel near Dulles airport, and meeting the rest of the group Saturday morning for a 10:15 flight. Despite some unexpected traffic in Boston, we made it to the airport in good time. Lori dropped us off and we said our good-byes.

 At Logan airport. It's scary how much I
look like my father in this picture 
(in the hat that used to belong to him). With me are
Allison, Michael, and our friend Glen Bogdanovich.

Lori had called United, who assured her that we would be able to check our nine suitcases (50 pounds each) through to Addis. Our first surprise came at the check-in counter. United would not check our bags through since had more than a six hour layover. We had to get our bags in D.C. and haul them to the hotel. We had a very nice porter (I think he was from Ethiopia) who helped us get our bags off the conveyor belt and to the hotel shuttle stop. Despite being told the shuttle would take five minutes, we waited almost another hour outside (temperature was about 20 degrees) for its arrival.

Late night pizza, good night's sleep, breakfast, and what I knew would be the last decent shower for ten days, we loaded our bags in the shuttle for a return trip to the airport. We met up with the rest of the group and took off for Ethiopia.

On the plane, ready to fly.

There was another snag. I received a text from Patty at 6:30 am that United had canceled her flight out of South Carolina. She would not make the connection in D.C., and in fact been rerouted through Philadelphia to London and then on to Addis. Since Patty had never been to Ethiopia, this was not welcome news. I spent the next three hours trying to call her to no avail. Finally, as we were boarding, she called to give me her itinerary. What she told me didn't make any sense, as the time she was to arrive in Addis was an hour before she was supposed to be landing in London. I don't think time travel has been invented yet. I suggested she get more info from United. I also gave her Zalalem's phone number and assured her someone would meet her at the airport in Addis.

Uneventful flight. Watched several movies, ate lots of bad airplane food, and unfortunately didn't sleep a wink.

It wasn't for the lack of trying. I sat in the middle seat between the kids, and they were really fidgety.

Landing was easy, customs took a long time (45 minutes) but was uneventful, baggage claim went off without a hitch, and we were released into the warm Ethiopian sunshine and the country I've come to know so well over the past six years.

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