Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 8: The Journey Begins

March 8, 2015

After a long, uneventful flight, we landed in Addis at about 8:00. I didn't get any sleep on the plane, but did catch up on some movies. I watched "Interstellar" (stay away from this one), "Penguins of Madagascar" (another one to avoid), and "Imitation Code" (a must see).

Benjamin didn't sleep either. Usually, when he doesn't sleep, we pay for it later. Keeping my fingers crossed.
The airport usually takes two hours to navigate through. You have to wait in line for your visa, wait in another line to pay for your visa, and then wait in yet another line to have your passport and visa inspected and have your picture taken. Then, you wait for your bags to claim your bags before proceeding to another line to make sure your bags are your own. Finally, you're supposed to send your bags through a final x-ray machine. Last year, though, we had seen Becka David, the person handling our trip's logistics, direct us around that line and right out the door. Becka wasn't there this year. Should we try it anyway?

There was one slight hitch to trying anything so brazen. Half of our team hadn't made the flight. For the sake of this story, I'll split our group into three parts; the Kombolcha 6, the North Carolina 5, and the California 2. The Kombolcha 6 include Myndi, Glen, and Ty Bogdanovich, our friends from Belchertown, Benjamin, and Brian Guy from Washington D.C. The six of us were able to make our flight out of Dulles.

Saturday morning, four hours before our flight, I started receiving messages from Lori and Candy Tennant. The NC5's flight had been canceled due to mechanical problems. They were going to drive to Dulles, miss the flight, and fly the next day. They would meet us in Kombolcha.

Shortly thereafter, I get another message. The wife of the person handling our trip's logistics had fallen ill on their flight from California. She was being taken to the emergency room. They, too, would miss the flight and may come on to Ethiopia, depending on her health.

So, we were a small group with no one handling our logistics. Our logician also had the contact information for the staff in Ethiopia who were to meet us and take us to the guest house.We could make a run around the xray machines, but if something happened, we had no way to contact anyone.

Our decision was made for us, as a porter walked over to us, took hold of the first of our three carts, and started walking around the xray machines. I held my breath and followed, hoping we didn't get in trouble. Fortunately, no one paid notice. Zelalem, one of our guides in Ethiopia, saw us and waved us over. We were free! He escorted us out of the airport terminal to the parking lot where our vans, drivers, and other staff were waiting, including Fikre and Yfruit.

Fikre and Yfruit work for Children's Hopechest, the organization that coordinates the sponsorship programs. I've known Fikre and Zelalem for six years, having met them on my first trip to Ethiopia in 2009. At the time, both were working for Hopechest. Zelalem now works for One Child Campaign, the organization that is handling logistics for our trips. Fikre continues to work for Children's Hopechest. Throught the power of Facebook, we are in contact with them throughout the year.

As the drivers loaded the vans with our luggage, we greeted our friends, marveled at the warmth (it was 20 degrees when we left Massachusetts, but close to 80 in Ethiopia), and loaded up for the trip to the guest house.
We arrived at the guest house, tired, but anxious to get online and update our loved ones that we had arrived safely and to get news about the rest of our team. Alas, WiFi was not working. So, most of us rested. Benjamin and Ty grabbed a soccer ball and went into the street to start a game of soccer with some of the other kids. There were about ten of them, formed into three teams, taking turns playing on the narrow, cobblestone street. It was amazing to watch how soccer brought this group of boys, none of whom could understand each other's language, play a game they all seemed to love so much.

After lunch, and more soccer, we drove to Kaldi's. Kaldi's is the local coffee chain. If you glance too quickly at the logo, you would think it was a Starbuck's (I'm sure that's not coincidental). We sat and enjoyed the down time. The kids had ice cream, others had coffee, and others had juice (including avocado juice, if you can imagine!).
Back at the hotel, we all went to lay down. Most of us were up for dinner, but Benjamin, who went to bed at 4:00. Tomorrow, we leave for Kombolcha, scheduled to leave at 6:00am for the eight to ten hour ride. With the jet lag, I'm certain that all of us will be awake.     

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