The joys of travel

I was able to get two gift certificates from Delta converted into upgrades to and from Brussels, but the rest of the trip, into and out of Africa, was on an airline I have no standing with. My seat was a regular economy, in back of the comfort or privilege class – narrow seats, standard legroom (=not much), and slow boarding lines. I also was to discover later that the transfer of my suitcase from one airline to the other didn’t work.

Once in Monrovia I stood (at first) patiently waiting for my suitcase amidst a cacophony of uniformed people and tired passengers, myself included. The space around the luggage belt was small; the airport reminded me of how most African airports used to be when I started traveling to Africa more than 30 years ago. Much has changed since then; many have been upgraded and modernized. But this one had not. The cramped space was soon filled with enormous bags, people bumping into each other and the uniformed people talking to each other at the top of their lungs, chaos of the first degree.

I engaged Mr. Kamara with the neon yellow vest to find my suitcase and then lead me to the hotel shuttle amidst the chaos. Before the belt has started he assured me he would go outside and spot my suitcase, bypassing the slow unloading process. I thought I lucked out and was going to pay him a good tip for this service that would make my transition to the hotel a breeze. But things turned out otherwise.

Although we arrived half an hour before time, two hours later I was still waiting for the elusive suitcase. And then the belt stopped. By the time I made my way to the desk where missing luggage was registered most of the passengers had cleared out. I was left at a chest-high counter with about 8 uniformed people behind and around it all talking at the top of their lungs about God knows what – most activity had ceased by then.

I could not see what was happening on the other side of the counter, even if I stood on my tiptoes, to see the forms that had to be filled in.  You’d think with that many officials around the missing luggage registration should have been a cinch, but it took another hour in the hot space and me in my fall weather traveling clothes, by now tired beyond tired.

I had asked Kamara to find the shuttle driver and make sure he wouldn’t leave without me. He returned shortly with the sign with my name on it, telling me the shuttle had left but a private car was summoned to wait for me. Kamara had earned his tip, even without the suitcase.

Another gentleman heading for the same hotel had also missed the shuttle and accompanied me in the private car. I was glad to have this male companion when, about 15 minutes outside the airport, we had a flat tire on a narrow deserted road. Luckily there was a spare tire, it was in good shape and there was a jack. 15 minutes later we were back on the road and another 45 minutes later I was dropped off at the Grand Royal hotel. Grand Royal was actually two hotels, an old 1 star crappy hotel (Royal) and an ostentatious and imposing new building (the Grand). The receptionist at the Grand told me she was sorry but they were full and pointed me across the driveway to the crappy royal hotel which had a crappy room for me. By that time I had also learned that my co-facilitators were in another hotel which was also the venue for the retreat. It felt like everything had gone wrong and wondered whether the universe conspired against me, awakening a nagging feeling that I should not have gone on this trip.

1 Response to “The joys of travel”

  1. 1 Edith Maxwell December 8, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Awful trip. I hope it all gets better from here on out!

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