Day 2

We are safely in Addis Ababa, healthy and greeting Friday morning.

Days 1 and 2 always pass slowly, but every once in a while, we have a trip where those first 36 hours provide some adventure.  Wednesday morning and Thursday night provided just such adventures.

PictureThe team agreed to meet Wednesday morning at 5:00 a.m. for our United Airlines flight to Washington, D.C.  When I arrived at 4:40 a.m., the entire Los Gatos High School contingent was already sitting on the floor at the “Group Travel” desk, waiting for it to open and enjoying some breakfast.  It turns out, these folks never went to bed.  (Neither did three other team members, including our youngest, who are hardy Harry Potter fans – staying awake after the first showing on July 15 at 12:01 a.m.)  By 5:11 a.m., our entire team had gathered and we began what can only be described as a mind-numbingly slow check-in process, where we were first told we didn’t have tickets and then told we didn’t have seats.  (As the drama played out over the next couple of hours until we boarded the plane, our team had been booked on the flight twice, resulting in the flight being overbooked and, as a result of our lowest of low class missionary ticket fares, members of our team in threat of losing their seats.  Ah, American efficiency!)

The next 24 hours passed v – e – r – y, s – l – o – w – l – y.  Five hours to D.C., five hours in D.C., eight hours to Rome, one hour on the ground in Rome (without the ability to get off the plane) and seven hours to Addis Ababa later, we landed at Bolé International Airport, 24 slightly haggard, somewhat stinky and mostly weary travelers.  After securing all of our bags (which made it and were greeted with gratefulness), all we needed to do was pass through customs and head to our hotel.

Simple, right?

Right!

PictureHaving some experience with the customs process (and given that our team was carrying 20 portable overhead projectors, four computers, one LCD projector, 20 voltage step-down transformers and a myriad of teaching and school supplies), we sent two members of the team through customs as a check on the mood of today’s custom’s officials.  Grace Evans made it through without question, carrying an overhead projector, a transformer and various other supplies in her bag.  (Who would ever want to hassle Grace?)  Kurt Kroesche wasn’t so lucky.  One of our team leaders stepped into the fray to “discuss” the Custom’s officer’s objections to Kurt’s overhead projector.  Eventually, the Executive Director of HOPE Enterprises was permitted into the Customs area to assist in the “discussions.”  Ultimately, it was determined that, “yes,” we can bring 20 overhead projectors into the country (they never looked at anything else in our bags), but each of 20 members of our team would have to “declare” the projectors, which then would be stored at the airport until we brought back a letter making clear they were gifts from MPPC to HOPE.

Easy, right?

Right!

PictureFirst, we handed over 20 passports which were used to complete individualized declaration forms (completed by hand, in triplicate), and which required each projector to be disassembled so that a model number or serial number could be included in the declaration.  An hour later, all 20 forms were complete and we were ready to go, right?

Right!

Then, the 20 people with declaration forms, had to proceed to another area where they (and their personally declared projector) could be logged into the airport customs warehouse, with a hand written receipt (in triplicate, of course).  An hour later, we were ready to go.  (Ahh, Ethiopian efficiency!)

As we assembled in the outside lobby, being greeted by friends from HOPE (including Tomaskin, Worku, and, of course, Zenebe) and with everything (other than 20 overhead projectors and a little of our patience), we gathered together and prayed a prayer of thanks to God, for our safe passage, for the arrival of all of our luggage, for our health, and importantly, for the men and women in Customs who worked with diligence to carry out their jobs.

And we remembered Gumby and Pokey.

Once at the Global Hotel, 20 of us gathered in the restaurant for a “late night snack” and we all headed to bed.

PictureThis morning, as we awaken to the traditional sounds and smells of Ethiopia (the morning call to Muslim and Orthodox Christian prayers announced over loudspeakers, the cars honking on Debraziet Road, the dogs fighting in the back alley, and the diesel fumes and wood-burning smoke) we enjoyed the Buna (coffee), omelets and fresh juices, and we prepared for our first day on the ground, grateful for everything that has transpired, including that which seemed frustratingly slow at the time.

Again, I was reminded of the African who came to MPPC several years ago and thanked us for our prayers for Africa – prayers for resources, health, food, and development – but who also said that he prayed often for us in America – where we had much, but seemed to lack the time to enjoy it.