Leaving for Ethiopia should start with a good nights sleep and a refreshing comfortable morning routine, but I had anything but. My mother decided to get lost on the way to our house, we are still trying to figure out exactly where she went wrong, but we wound up having to talk her in on the cell phone, that is an experience and a half, but she finally got here late in the night, and then we still had more to do, last minute jobs, and everything that we totally forgot about till the last minute. We finally got into bed around 1am, way too late for my taste!! The buzzer went off way too early at 8am, and since my mother, my sister, and my wife showered before me there wasn’t a lick of warm water left for me. Oh what a way to start the day!!!!
We needed to leave the house a bit early as we were stopping half way to DC to meet with Heather’s best friend for lunch. We finally are ready to get out the door at 10am and after much delay with hugs and last minute instructions to the kids (to a son who was wearing a “Grandma Has No Rules” t-shirt, who was spinning around on the living room floor screaming “Grandma Has No Rules” over and over and over again) and the journey was under way. Let me tell you that five 70 pound bags really makes a low-rider out of our Toyota ECHO, and it really effects the handling as well!!!!!!
We met with our friends right outside of DC and had a nice lunch at a small outback, neither of us where very hungry so we split a bowl of soup and a desert and we were good to go. Part of it was that we were starving a couple of hours ago and swung into a KFC/Long John Silvers and had a really bad greasy lunch, and part of it was that we were totally stoked to be on our way! A small side bar here is that I found the best Altoids ever!!!! (I am a connoisseur of Altoids in a weird kind of way) Dark Chocolate Dipped Altoids! I’m sure they will disappear the same as the wasabi Altoids did (and someone stole my wasabi tin!!! Yes I do try to keep a tin of every flavor mint they make, I don’t care for their candies though)
At 5pm we finally arrived at the airport, where we discovered that the cheapest parking was going to run us $9 a day, ouch, and that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that we need to drop off the luggage in one section of the airport and then park in another, and Heather gets lost when she knows where she is, and she is also too little to manage five 70 pound bags and our carry ons while I go park the car. Our final solution was to abandon the car for a minute while I pushed the bags inside with Heather rolling the carry on bags, finding her a place to sit with the bags and waiting for me to return to her to check in. We figured our car was less likely to get jacked while we abandoned it, than the bomb squad seizing our luggage if I took it in and abandoned it to have Heather watching the car.
Now I know some of you are wondering about the 5 bags as Ethiopian Air only allows 4 bags, but if you are a Sheba Miles member and are Silver Status you are allowed 5 bags. Now what where we carrying you ask? Mostly Yesus on the Streets materials, but we also had supplies for the orphanage and kids.
Mind you I called not once, but twice to verify my status with the ShebaMiles program so when I got to the ticket counter and they had bumped me back to blue I was livid! Not only did we have to pay $130 for the bag but we also weren’t allowed access to the lounge. God is faithful in all of this though, before I know about the bag limit with Silver status we knew we had an extra bag, and for the last few weeks people had been giving small amounts of cash telling us to use it for the extra baggage fee. Wouldn’t you know that we had been given $130. It didn’t make me happy with Ethiopia Air, but it was a nice reminder that even in the little things God is with us!
Sitting in the lobby we got to meet a few other adopting families, they were studying their Lonely Planet guide book so we had a nice conversation with them, and they asked plenty of questions once they discovered I had been to Ethiopia before. I’m far from being an expert but some experience is still able to help no experience!
As it was time to board the man we know that was to help us with the Yesus on the Streets project arrived and he was LIVID!! He flies back and forth to Ethiopia about 6 times a year, and flies even more people than that via Ethiopia Air, making him a huge gold tier member, and they had totally botched up his ticket. The ticket he had booked about 6 months in advance had been totally screwed up and he was sitting in the tail of the plane next to the restrooms rather than up in Cloud Nine where he was supposed to be. Luckily for him the supervisor pulled him out of the line about 7 people before he was to board to give him his correct seating.
We wound up behind the adopting couple on the plane, and during the trip I met two other sets of families and got to talk to them for a bit as well. The plane was absolutely packed but Ethiopia Air is no longer subbing the DC flight out to World Travel, so the plane is a newer plane than I flew on last time. Unfortunately my TV didn’t work, so I was unable to watch the movies as Heather needed the window for her motion sickness. But the biggest difference (other than the smaller seats) with this flight was the food. I forgot how bad the international flight food really is!! The Cloud Nine stuff isn’t great, but it makes the stuff they serve in the back look 5 star! I thought nothing would get worse than the breakfast they served us but then they brought out lunch. I don’t exactly know what it was supposed to be, you had to chose between beef, chicken or fish, and all 3 were covered in a really, really, really disgusting red sauce. Needless to say I ate the stale bread and weird cheese and kept my cup full every time the cart came by.
When we got to Addis the other families got off the plane before us, but it’s a bit disorienting in their airport so they were trying to ask the non English speaking staff to direct them, they were very glad to see us come off the plane and I led a small parade of white people down through the customs and immigrations section of the airport.
Our bags all came through just fine, but the luggage with all of the school supplies had been searched by US customs. It was wrapped with the US security tape but everything made it through just fine. As an FYI the reason it was searched was any bag with a lot of paper, books, or magazines is searched for bomb material. I learned this little tid bit from some missionary friends, it’ll get there just fine, they just open it up to sniff for the C4.
Customs was even easier than last time, as not a single person asked us anything, not even for the bag claim tickets. Walking out to the lobby I asked and an Ethiopian man jingling some keys if he was a taxi driver, and I was jumped by another man pulling me over to the side of the airport where you can rennet a prepaid taxi to any hotel in Addis. They have a printed guide so you know the rate, and it’s the same regardless of who you are. Enjoy this final perk of the airport, it’s the last time you are going to pay the same price as an Ethiopian for a taxi, or for that matter much less anything else in Ethiopia.
Walking out the door I was taken back by the difference in smells that the dry season brings. The damp goat smell that was so overpowering during the big rainy season was missing. It wasn’t missed, but it was missing. The berbere, smoke and dust was still very pervasive, we were here in Ethiopia, the smells were here.
Our taxi driver didn’t speak any English at all, but it’s not a long drive from the airport to the hotel, and luckily we only wound up at one major stop and only one street kid saw the taxi with the ferenj in it. I can’t explain how rough it is to keep your composure as you are looking out the window at what was your own son just a few years ago. I passed him a few birr through the window and was very glad when we started moving along the way again.
We arrived at the motel and we were on the opposite side of the hotel and up another story, although the extra stairs sucked (remember Addis is at 7000 feet elevation and the air is THIN!)but in the long run it was such a blessing as we never heard the Mosque while we where there. I know the Mosque was on the other side of the building but I would have never thought that the small difference would be such a huge blessing!
We were hungry for some food before we retired for the night so we went down to the hotel restaurant and ordered some doro wat. The supper was really good, spicy, good injera, and it was such a blessing after the terrible food from the airplane.
It was so good to be here, and starting tomorrow my wife will have been so blessed to have met the two children that have been in her heart for the last 15 months, plus the years before that before she had a face to put to the longing.