We'd had some issues getting a flight. We didn't pass our first court date and then all of a sudden we were cleared and scheduled to fly. We wanted to fly Emirates because we could go direct from our local airport to Dubai, spend the night and fly a quick three hour jaunt to Addis. For some reason, we were having the hardest time confirming our travel, through both AGCI and the airline. We really thought we were going to be there several days early or that we'd hang in Dubai for a while. We actually have some friends who are there doing m.ssions work, and we figured it would be a great time to fellowship and encourage one another. Then we realized they were flying back stateside the same time we were flying to Dubai. At what felt like the last minute, we were able to fly out on Thursday (US) and arrive on Saturday (AA). Things were working out.
The night before we left, we ordered some takeout and settled in for our last night in our home as just the two of us. I'm sure we watched a movie. Or repacked a suitcase. Or both. As we fought over the last fortune cookie, we discovered a sweet little message meant just for us -- that would be true both literally and figuratively. : )
When it was finally time to leave, Justin's mom (who had recently moved to our 'hood) picked us up, watched us load all our bags, and drove us to the airport. I remember lots of small talk and it seemed odd to me that we were acting like it was just any other day.
We unloaded everything onto our luggage cart and posed for a quick picture. I'm not sure why all our luggage isn't in the picture. We were so blessed by the young adult group at church that it took us, and two other families to carry all the donations. We managed to pack all our stuff plus baby stuff and a few more donations into one smaller bag. I know that everyone said to spread your stuff out, but I packed up the donations weeks early because they were taking over my house and I didn't want to get to Hannah's Hope and have to sift through our undies to get to the last package of diapers. I just went on blind faith that all our luggage would arrive with us and that if it didn't, we'd manage somehow.
The flight to Dubai from Houston is about 16.5 hours ... in the air. That doesn't count the hours it was delayed that we sat in the terminal, just a few minutes from the comfort of family (and their oversized couches) or the time on the tarmac, or the hour it took for our plane to be taxied to some plane graveyard in Dubai where we deplaned. Emirates was by far the most comfortable international flight I'd ever been on. Plus they have like one million movies you can watch and even regular ol' TV. Justin had never traveled internationally before and I tried to prep him as much as I could... but there's really only so much you can do. I managed to get some sleep on the plane, and my hubband who can generally sleep anywhere, anytime, did not. We landed in Dubai sometime in the evening but by the time we walked the seventyelevenmillion miles to our hotel bus (on the opposite side of Dubai, apparently) it was around nine so we headed to our room and figured we'd just shower and hit the sack.
By this time, I'd already begun to regulate my schedule to Addis time. Justin did not. This will come back to bite him throughout the trip. We don't look too bad for eighteen + hours on a plane, huh? We both slept through the night and woke up early the next morning to meet our bus back to the airport (and trek through the airport) at 6am Dubai time. We got on the plane, we flew, we landed in Ethiopia. Yay! We made it!!!
This is the view out the front of the Addis Ababa International Airport. Fancy. So, we arrived, and I'd taken note of everyone's suggestions so we went straight to the immigration line as fast as I could drag Justin. We were about the fifth and sixth person in line. They do everything by hand. There are computers though. They are sitting on the ground behind the little desks where the guys sit and handwrite everything. Somehow Justin and I were separated and about ten people went between us because you go to one desk and pay your money and then you get out of the way and another desk writes your receipt. Well, when they kept passing the receipts, they were stacked on top of each other and Justin's was apparently at the very bottom. When we got out of the closet where all this important paperwork takes place, we were so glad to see our luggage all waiting for us -- and that all the other silly people who got their luggage first were now standing in a super long line that we were no longer part of. And, did I mention, HALLELUJAH that all our luggage made it? Excellent.
My notes said next to just follow the crowd into the next space ... which is the front of the airport where you should be met with someone who will have a sign for you to take you to AGCI. This is where the fun really started. There was no such person. For those of you who have the awesome privilege of knowing my dear, sweet hubband, you know how much fun this really was. Let me assure the rest of you that this is Justin's deepest hope and dream: to travel to a third world country, not speak the language, have no mode of transportation, no idea where you're going, and no currency. And a ton of luggage. And a wife who thinks this is hilarious. Yep. He was thrilled. So I did what I do in these types of situations. I just walked off. Left my poor hubband standing there in the airport with all our luggage while I went and talked to random people. I met another adoptive family who was using a different agency and their driver had no idea where AGCI was. Or Hannah's Hope. Or had even heard of it. See, one of the coolest things about Addis is that there are no street names. Or real addresses. It's super fun. A baggage handler hung around us a lot and I asked to use his phone to call Almaz, the director in Addis. No answer. Awesome. More eyerolling from hubband.
I talked to another random Ethiopian fellow and discovered that he was someone we knew. Well, knew of. Another family had traveled and mentioned that he was an excellent guide. He was picking up someone else, but said he'd take us too if we needed. I asked to borrow his phone and called Almaz again, but no answer. I am starting to think we'll just ride with the guide and eventually get where we're going. It's early in the afternoon so there's plenty of time.
But wait, here comes our luggage guy, running through the people with his phone. It's Almaz! She is really glad to hear we're alive. Well, that's slightly alarming. Apparently in all our wire crossing and international correspondence and flight rescheduling, AGCI thought we were arriving in Addis on Friday. They'd been at the airport the day before and never found us. AGCI had called us at home, with no answer and all had assumed we were lost traveling the planet. She assured us that someone would come to pick us up. We just had to sit and wait ... and "talk to no one". Ummm. Ok.
We stopped at the snack bar and had a drink and decided to wait outside because the weather was awesome. Seriously, awesome. It was a billion percent humidity in Houston when we left, we'd been to Dubai where it was like two hundred degrees everywhere, and now it was a sunny, breezy, pleasant 72. Almaz's brother came to our rescue. Danny, their regular driver, was off and so he had come with a friend. We get into the van, complete with fur- lined dashboard, hole in the floorboard, and giant picture of the virgin Mary, and head off to our hotel.
Then our van stops. "Ooops! Out of gas!" the friend yells with a smile. Apparently this happens often. This is where we stopped. The driver jumped out of the car, reached for a gas can, jumped on the back of a passing vehicle, and disappeared. I turned to my wonderful hubband and laughed. I believe my words were somewhere along the lines of, "Well, God certainly has a sense of humor, and he just wants to make sure that we are having lots of fun." So we did. The above is a picture out the van window where we stopped. There was a wreck on the "highway" so someone had placed giant bolders in the entrance lanes so you couldn't drive. There were people and traffic everywhere. And we were sitting, trying to laugh, as we waited for our driver to come back.
to be continued...