I arrived at Dulles and stood in a very long line at the Ethiopian Air ticket counter. The problems with Ethiopian started immediately. Once I reached the counter, the agent stared at me then took my passport and said she’d be right back. She showed my passport to several other agents and spoke in what I can only assume was Ethiopian before finally returning to the counter in front of me. She then said she needed the credit card I used to book the trip. Once more, she left (with my passport AND credit card this time) and had discussions with other people before finally returning and tossing my documents towards me without saying a word. As I put my things away, she barked at me that I’d need to take my bags to the end of the terminal and check them with TSA. Not sure why they were unable to take the bag but whatever, I was just happy to get away from that ticket counter and the rude employees.
After dropping off my bag with TSA, I headed towards security. Going through airport security has to be similar to what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. It’s a constant parade of “showing your papers” and being scrutinized and interrogated about your actions and intentions. All that is missing are salivating, rabid German Shepards to bark and lunge at travelers while they wait in line. Like a good lil passenger, I had all my three ounce bottles in a quart zip lock and was ready to go. When it was my turn to send my stuff through the scanner I was completely ready: shoes off, jewelry off, liquids ready, etc. Der Kommissar TSA agent motioned for me to go through the full body scanner instead of the traditional scanner. The body scanner is the one that shows the government all of your naughty bits. Apparently it is VITAL that TSA see your nipples to ensure you’re not smuggling explosives. Regardless, I stepped in, assumed the position, and got the scan. Imagine my surprise when I stepped out and was told I needed to receive a body pat down. Huh?! I asked why and they said it was because I had “pockets” on my pants. Doesn’t everyone? I gotta ask, what is the point of having gamma rays (okay, I don’t know if they’re gamma rays but for comedic effect that’s what we’re going with) shot through my body and exposing myself to government worker bees if I STILL have to get a rub down because I have “pockets” on my pants? The revolutionary in me wanted to protest and ask smart alec questions; the selfish part of me wanted to get to Africa….so I shut up and took my full body massage like a good citizen. Honestly, I felt sorry for the TSA agent who had to do it. Obviously they don’t make the stupid rules but are forced to enforce stupidity. You could tell she was uncomfortable and slightly miserable. I hope she gets paid well. I don’t envy that job.
Whew! Security cleared and now it was time to make my way to the gate. I felt pretty relaxed and happy at this point. What could go wrong now? Things were fine now. Wrong! When it was time to board the plane, the Ethiopian airline reps stopped me and told me I had to check my carry-on. I asked why and they explained that there was no room left on the plane. This seemed strange to me since I was one of the first people to board. I insisted that I needed to carry it on the plane because the bag was filled with valuables (camera, Kindle, etc.) but more importantly, it contained my hiking boots. If the bag was lost I wouldn’t be able to climb Kili. Panic and dread filled me because lost luggage on the way into JRO (Kilimanjaro airport) is TripAdvisor legend! I continued to beg but my cries fell on deaf ears. The agent wrote on a post it note (I’m not even joking) and stuck it to my bag then handed me another post it note with some scribbles on it. This was supposed to be my claim ticket. Great. I just knew my bag was going to end up in Djibouti or Cairo instead of Kilimanjaro. I sadly shuffled onto the plane and made my way to 15A (which turned out to be the seat I sat in for every leg of the journey- coming and going). I tried to tell myself things would be okay but then I noticed that EVERY person getting on after me was carrying not one, but TWO or sometimes THREE bags! I felt nothing but rage and jumped up and asked a flight attendent to explain to me why I had to check my bag but others were bringing multiple bags on board. She had no good explanation and was curt so I became rather heated and we got into it. Realizing that if I didn’t calm down, I’d get kicked off, I angrily went back to my seat and started praying with fervor that God would get my boots to Kilimanjaro. Sounds stupid, but after spending thousands of dollars, it made me feel sick to think the whole trip would be a wash simply because the post it note fell off my bag and my boots ended up in Calcutta. As I prayed, I also remembered that the Diamox, along with my anti-malarial meds, were in the bag as well. Ugh! Diamox is the drug climbers take to help with altitude sickness and of course, the anti-malarials protected me from malaria. This trip was not getting off to a good start. 😦
Someone over the Atlantic my rage faded a bit and I noticed a little boy sitting next to me. I can’t remember how we started talking but he and I became rather chummy on the 13 hour flight. I can’t remember his name…it was Ethiopian and hard to pronouce….but he explained that he was 7 years old and lived in the US with his father; however, his mother still lived in Ethiopia and he was going to visit her for the Summer. We talked about school and I informed him I was a teacher. I think that made him a little nervous but I assured him I wouldn’t be giving any homework assignments or pop quizzes. Little man talked my ear off for the rest of the time. He even made me play video games with him! He was a very sweet, funny boy and I am thankful I met him because goofing around with him kept my mind off the bag and my worries.
Somewhere over North Africa we started to experience turbulance. The plane was really rocking and shaking and when I looked at the “in-flight map” that shows the plane’s geographical location, I noticed we were flying over Benghazi, Libya. I wondered for a moment if the turbulance was really rocket fire- haha but yikes!
After what felt like decades, we finally started to make our approach into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The landscape from above looked green. This surprised me. I always pictured Ethiopia to look like the barren, brown landscape that I saw on TV during the 80’s. I also half expected to see Bob Geldof singing “Feed the World”. Is that wrong? lol When we landed I noticed two things:. First, everyone clapped when the wheels touched down. Applause? Really? Were they not expecting us to make it? haha Second thing I noticed, it was very foggy but once I left the plane I quickly discovered that it was pollution. The air was very acrid and burned my nose. My plan, upon arrival, was to inquire about my bag but alas, when I made it inside the airport, there was no one to ask. 😦
I ended up in the terminal 1 lounge area where people are corralled until time to make their way to the gates. I was shocked to discover people can smoke in the termial! Yuck! As I walked around the lounge, I smiled alot and tried to politely greet people but found the place to be rather hostile.
As I waited, I spied some Americans. They were LOUD. My goodness, the stereotype is true. Americans are LOUD! But as I watched them more closely, I discovered they were loud because they were happy. They were giggling and laughing and had a good time! So ya know what? Who cares if Americans are loud if it means we’re happy? Unfortunately, I did notice one thing that I thought was stupid. I realized they were either military or more likely, government contractors. I discerned this because A.) They all had short, “high and tight” style hair cuts. B.) Several of them had Army issued backpacks C.) One of them had the desert brown, military issue combat boots dangling from a backpack. My thoughts on discovering this: “Nice job, jackwagons….we’re 10 feet from Somalia”. Maybe I’m too paranoid but it just seems foolish to travel in a Muslim region of the world whilst advertising your American military connections.
As I continued to wait, I noticed eyes kept falling on me. I think it confounded some men that I was a woman traveling alone. Not sure if it bothered them or just intrigued them. What intrigued me though, was the bizarre commercial I noticed on a tv in the lounge. It was a condom commercial! The commercial lasted, no joke, THREE minutes and it showed all sorts of different people in very innocent situations such as drinking coffee, walking in a field, shopping, etc. Also, it showed not just couples but sometimes three or four people at a time. It never showed people in romantic situations. But the strangest part was that while all of the people were sipping coffee and strolling through fields of barley (Sting!) there was a running subtitle that proclaimed the merits of “Sensations Condoms”. Here is what I now know about them: They are all individually electronically tested and they come in the following flavors: cinnamon, mint, honey, and my favorite…coffee! WTH!?!?!? Coffee flavored condoms? We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
**I found the commercial on Youtube. Sadly it doesn’t have the subtitles that inform the viewer of all the delicious flavors; yet, I still think that you, the viewer, will appreciate the artistry- hahaha**