Hi everyone –
After a very, very long trip, we have safely arrived in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. We left La Crosse shortly after noon on Thursday and got here at 4am today (Saturday). Allowing for the 9 hour time difference, it took us 31 hours to get here. We had 21 hours of actual flying time and 10 hours of sitting in airports. We crossed 9 time zones and were in 5 countries: U.S. – Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Nairobi (Kenya) – Djibouti – Ethiopia. Yes, there really is a country called Djibouti. It is located on the Red Sea and our plane stopped there en route from Nairobi to Addis Ababa. Our flights were all on time and we were very well fed on the planes.
Flying from Amsterdam to Nairobi we were on a huge plane (747-400) that seated 415 passengers and had the first class section upstairs (none of us were up there!!) We had a very rough landing in Nairobi but didn’t think much of it, at the time. We had to take some detours within the Nairobi Airport because they have still not repaired the damage from the large fire they had last year. Much of the international section was still boarded up and being worked on.
We arrived in Addis Ababa to a comfortable temperature of 61 degrees at 4am. We were blurry-eyed and tired, but we had made it!! Unfortunately, none of our checked luggage arrived with us! We were told that after we had landed in Nairobi, the cargo door was jammed and could not be opened, so they couldn’t get the luggage out (possibly due to that rough landing?). So what did they do?? They sent the plane back to Amsterdam and took our luggage with it!! Obviously, there is very little about this situation that makes sense, but the bottom line is that we are in Ethiopia and our luggage is in Amsterdam. This was a good lesson for all of us – pack clean underwear and all your necessities in your carry-on bags! Some of us fared better with this than others. Cheryl was the smartest one. She has a carry-on full of clean underwear. If our bags do not arrive tomorrow, she has agreed to sell her underwear to the highest bidders!
After filling out all our missing luggage claims for our 28 pieces of checked luggage, we left the airport and checked in to the Sadula Hotel in Addis. It is nothing fancy but is quiet, clean and cozy. Our plan was to see the city of Addis today, stay overnight and tomorrow drive south to the rural Yetebon area where we will be staying and working. That is what we did today and that is still the plan for tomorrow but we will first claim our luggage. We’ve been told that it WILL be here on the 4am flight.
So this morning–some of us got a very short nap, before heading out to see the sites of Addis. I won’t go into detail about all the sites we saw (churches, palaces, etc.) but I will mention that we went to the Red Terror Martyr’s Memorial Museum. This museum is about the horrors and genocide that occurred in Ethiopia during the 17 years of communist rule (known as the Derg Regime) that occurred in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
While we were in that museum Abe went to use the men’s bathroom – and he couldn’t get out! He said he pounded and yelled but no one heard him and none of us knew he was in there! He ended up using his fingernails to undo the screws of the door knob, completely disassembling it so he could get out. (We reassured him that we would have missed him – eventually!)
After seeing the sites, having a coffee break in a lovely restaurant and doing a little shopping, it was time to eat. We stopped at a great place serving traditional Ethiopian food. We had injira (which is a spongy-type bread made with teff), beef, vegetables, some spicy red stuff, some brown stuff, and some hard boiled eggs on top to make everything look good. That’s about all I can tell you about the food except that it was quite good but spicier than I had expected.
I’m not sure what it is about our team and bathrooms, but at the restaurant Sally couldn’t get out of the women’s bathroom. Thankfully, Jean Ann was nearby and able to open the door from the outside.
Many of us are now getting ready for an early bed time since we have had little sleep in the last two days. But first, some of the team decided to walk to a nearby grocery store. They all returned safely but noted that the dirt roads are rough and bumpy, cars drive without lights, no one stops for pedestrians and of course none of them had a flashlight because they are all in our checked luggage. However, the prices at the grocery store were quite cheap!
Just a reminder that when we leave Addis tomorrow and head to Yetebon, the internet availability might be a bit sporadic. We’ll be taking turns writing a blog every night so you all know what we are doing, but if you don’t hear from us on a daily basis, it might be due to poor/no internet access.
Thank you for your prayers and support. We have a terrific team. We are all here safe and we are all healthy. The adventure continues, so stay tuned…
P.S. I enjoyed reading the comments about my old bag. Thank you for clarifying that the bag was old and not referring to me as the old bag!!