Saturday, January 1, 2011

Seven cities in 23 hours

Some highlights of each city I hit during my day-long adventure in trying to find a little town on the Rwandan-Congolese border, complete with two rerouted flights and a lost suitcase, in which I received kind support by airport attendants in half a dozen countries and from which I currently have no regrets...

1. Beirut. The most interesting thing that happened here was probably discovering I was sharing a flight with 8 deportees to Egypt. They were all working-class looking men, varying in age from very young to very weathered. Rather than looking upset at being kicked out of Lebanon, I sensed that they were excited to be returning home. Also impressive was the throng of irritated passengers mobbing the counter because we were an hour late. What else did you expect in a surprise downpour of rain?

2. Cairo. Between unfriendly EgyptAir representatives who didn't listen to me - an infuriating attitude that cost me the safe and prompt arrival of my luggage - my heart went out to the young man who attended me at the transfers desk and printed out my rebooking. He wasn't the most efficient guy in the world, but he still didn't deserve the berating he received by his supervisor (on my account) as the three of us half-sprinted to bus stop where I caught a minibus to my new terminal. Maybe I shouldn't sympathise with him that much, though, because in addition to losing my luggage he also failed to inform me that I was being rebooked. The urgency in his (and his supervisor's) treatment had led me to believe they'd held the original flight for me, not booked a new flight.

3. Khartoum. I'm in the last week of my R&R from Sue Dan. I had no desire or plan to stop by for a visit in the middle. What a shock when I sat down on the plane and the Sudanese gentleman next to me asked if I was going to Khartoum. No! I want to go to Nairobi! He proceeded to lecture me on the inefficiencies of the humanitarian sector - in other words, of my people. I know all this. But prefer not to think about it while on vacation.

4. Nairobi. Of course we were delayed in Khartoum! Because the computers were down so everyone had to be checked in by hand. So typical. And so of course when I arrived in Nairobi I missed my connection. The second time around I had dared to hope but not to expect I'd make it in time. So I waited for upwards of an hour and a half as they argued back and forth whether to reroute me on the morning flight or if I'd have to wait til the evening flight. On New Years Eve!

5. Bujumbura. I was very glad the finally gave me a seat on the morning flight, and could only chuckle when I learned we'd be stopping in Burundi. Thankfully, at this point, I was so exhausted from a night of three 2.5-hour flights and 1.5 hour layovers that I slept straight through Bujumbura. But seriously... to be rerouted TWICE, and BOTH times to be rerouted on flights with surprise stopovers? To use a favourite Brasilian saying, NINGUÉM MERECE

6. Kigali. Kigali was the town of lost luggage and fully-booked buses. A lovely little capital city which suggests the beginning of a season of economic development and prosperity. Colourful houses and bustling businesses. And, in the airport, there was what appeared to me to be a high rate of lost luggage - I was not alone in the little luggage office, and there were piles of unclaimed bags in the foyer. Then, though everyone had said that catching a bus to Gisenyi would be easy and fast, my taxi driver and I drove around the city centre for half an hour before ascertaining that there were no spaces on buses to Gisenyi on New Years Eve. He agreed to drive me personally, for a hefty but reasonable fee considering the distance. So together we walked into a major supermarket and chose snacks from the deli counter. Together we went through the check-out queue and I paid for our snacks. Then together we set off across the gorgeous Rwandan countryside.

7. Gisenyi. is beautiful. A lake nestled in mountains with a volcano peeking up from behind the driveway where I'm staying. Old colonial houses and faux-colonial hotels. Greenery of all sorts with flowers of all colours. And very dear friends with whom to share a couple of luxurious New Years' days. Worth the trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment