Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nightmares in London, Casablanca and Lagos!

After 98 hours of travel time, Ambassador Bost and I finally made it to Ghana! We had to cancel all of our appointments in Liberia….here’s why—

• We arrive in London expecting to have about an 8 hour layover…no problem, right?
• Flight to Casablanca (where we were supposed to have an hour layover before departing for Monrovia) was delayed for 6 hours, and then canceled until the following morning! After asking repeatedly about our connection to Monrovia, we were told that “No problem—we’ll have you on another flight” (Ha!) Note—don’t ever fly Royal Air Maroc!
• On a funny note—we saw a girl fight. Yes, a full fledged fight…hair pulling, screaming, belts. Quite the entertainment, and comic relief.
• The Royal Air Maroc representatives told us that they were putting us up at the Sheraton Skyline for the night because the flight was due to depart for Casablanca at 9am the following day (Sunday). After arriving at the Sheraton, we find out that Royal Air Maroc has not made arrangements there because the hotel is full. So, the manager at the Sheraton calls around and finds out that we have rooms at the Sofitel (at the airport). We get to the Sofitel, check in and sleep for a few hours before heading back to the airport at 6am.
• Sunday morning we go to the airport at 6am, anticipating an easy check-in for a flight to Casablanca…nothing’s easy. We wait around in the check-in area for about 5 hours until ONE representative comes to check in all of the passengers.
• Flight is set to leave, but then is delayed again and again. We finally take off..Woo hoo! Remind you, we have been told once again that we’ll have a flight to Monrovia so that we can be there for our Monday meetings

• We arrive in Casablanca, and, surprise, find out that there are no flights to Monrovia until TUESDAY! After talking to the transfer desk and our travel agent for about 5 more hours, we finally decided to just fly back to London, skip the meetings in Monrovia, and go straight to Ghana from London. Sounds simple, right?
• We spent the night in Casablanca, which was neat. My first time there. Went shopping at the Old Medina, which was fun.
• We get back to the airport in order to depart for London. Flight’s on time, so we’re off.

Back to London:
• We get back to London and wait for about 4 hours before we can check in for the flight on Arik Air (a Nigerian company). As we’re checking in, the agent tells us that as of that morning, they’ve added a stop in Abuja before landing in Lagos, so now, instead of having a three hour layover in Lagos, we only have 1 hour. We asked the agent to notify the airline (same one, Arik) in Lagos to let them know that we’ll now have a tight connection. They say “no problem.” They also informed us that if we missed our 7am flight out of Lagos to Ghana, that there is one at 5pm…
• By this point, we’re tired and achy but are trying to be optimistic.
• We board the plane for Abuja/Lagos……

• Well, what do you know, the stopover in Abuja takes about 2.5 hours longer than expected. Some bright travelers decided that they didn’t want to get off so there is another fight on the plane! What is it with these people?!
• We arrive in Lagos (dumpy airport, by the way), and have of course missed our flight. We also find out that the desk in London never informed them that we would be delayed…..and the fun begins.
• One of the immigration officers takes us around to try to find out what flight we will get one. He takes our passports and leads us on a wild goose chase around the airport (think dark hallways, immigration offices, etc). Very, very shady. Since we didn’t have transit visas for Nigeria (we never imagined we’d be in Nigeria!), they said they had to keep our passports….”no problem, it’s just our policy.”
• We wait for about 2 hours in the Arik Air office (with the immigration officer, who still has our passports). The manager says “No problem, we have you confirmed on the later flight. You can wait in the lounge and I’ll come get you before boarding.”
• So, we head back to the lounge, still passport-less and wait and wait and wait.
• About 2 hours before the flight we head back to the immigration office to attempt to get my passport back….
• They give it back to me, but then take it back. They’ve decided that one of the officers needs to escort us to the ticket counter (looking for bribes, eh?!). We get back to the ticket counter and finally have boarding passes and check our bags.
• And….I FINALLY get my passport back. And, NO, I did not give the jerk wad any money.
• We board the plane and take off for Accra!

We finally made it to Accra! We had great meetings and a very warm reception. Ghana is definitely a country that I would visit again!

Lessons from this trip:
1) Never fly on Royal Air Maroc or Arik Air
2) “No problem”=you’re probably going to have problems, but I really don’t care because it’s no problem for me because I’m not the one traveling
3) If possible, take direct flights into Africa!

Now off to Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa (where Aaron will meet me for some vacation time!!). Stay tuned for pics and updates.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Those Who Steal Dogs Should Rot in Hell....

I have to keep this short, or otherwise, I might get really upset. Last week someone stole my beloved little (well, not so little!) Buckley FROM OUR BACKYARD. Can you believe that?! Who does that? Mean, heartless people--that's who.

Aaron has been so great to make and put up posters and signs all throughout Bryan. And though it's hard to see his cute face plastered everywhere our house, I know it's what we have to do in order to have a glimpse of hope to getting him back.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone needs some cash and decides to return him to us. I'll keep you posted.....