Monday, May 18, 2015

Iran Or Angola?

When I got to the airport in Chicago, the lady at the counter told me I was booked for Iran. After several minutes, she cleared it up and I was off to the DRC, sort of. The flight was delayed but I got to Paris ok and found my gate to Kinshasa. We boarded on time, but then sat there. This was to become a theme that day. The other pattern was the myriad of updates I was to receive started first in French then in English. This would prove problematic as the messages steadily grew worse - the predominately French speaking crowd would listen intently to the message in French, then would break into a cacophony of irritation when I was trying to listen to the heavily accented English message.
We sat in the plane and were eventually updated that seven passengers were missing so Air France needed to go back into the hold and retrieve their luggage. This took much longer than the prescribed time. Finally, the French pilot came on with a very candid explanation. He started by saying he understood we were frustrated but that there was only one baggage loader and the bags ended up being on either end of the hold. TMI I thought until he added a bit at the end of the message - "Oh, and we are replacing our flight computer, this should only take a few minutes.........."
We eventually took off and the flight was ok. My back was hurting and I couldn't get very comfortable. They fed us around noon and we looked forward to arriving in Kinshasa just an hour late. However, when we started our approach, a thunderstorm rolled into the area so we circled the city and the Congo river for 45 minutes. Finally, we headed south and started climbing - I knew this wasn't good news. Evidently, a large hole had appeared in the runway from the rain or lightening strike so we were off to Luanda, Angola to land. Then the information got more bizarre.
The word spread that the runaway had been damaged the day before and that Air France hadn't been notified. Regardless, we were off to Angola, a place not too thrilled to be inundated with a plane full of Congolese. When we landed an hour later, we sat on the runaway for another two hours with no AC waiting for Air France to negotiate with the Angola authorities. Things got restless and heated on the plane, but as usual, was mediated by warm African laughter. By midnight (sixteen hours after we had boarded the plane) we were allowed into the terminal.
We were tired, frustrated, and confused as we walked in. Immediately, the took our passports and we all queued up down a hallway. After another hour, the 200 of us realized they were calling our names individually to the front. It was difficult to hear and the Portuguese accents didn't help. When our names were called, we came forward and were allowed to go into the terminal. We did not get our passports back but we were directed to transportation outside to our hotels. I squeezed into the first bus and we sat there in the heat for twenty minutes as the driver demanded to know how he was being paid. Once that was settled, a hundred or so of us were taken to the Hotel Tropico who had no  idea we were coming.
Upon arriving, we found a lone desk clerk staring at us as if to say "you have got be kidding." A few other people came out of the back and things got more confusing. They wanted our passports which were still at the airport and they also were unfamiliar with the vouchers the airlines had given us. I stood there quietly as the chaos unfolded around me.  Finally, I got my room and headed upstairs for the night. That was eleven hours ago....I haven't eaten for a day, but I did sleep for eight hours! The newest update is that we will leave tomorrow morning at 5am for the airport - fingers crossed.
The hotel room is nice and I am contemplating drifting down to the restaurant once the initial crowd subsides.
More from Luanda later, stay tuned :)


  1. Stay safe dad!!! Love you tons - keep me updated!
    - Sindi

  2. lets hope the rest goes much better

  3. It was an adventure Bruce but I am here :)