Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Luggage! So What!

     One aspect of Third World travel that I have mentioned before is serendipity, the willingness and even joyful acceptance of new and surprising events which happen to the traveler. The requirement to be flexible in the face of the unknown is an an absolute necessity if the voyage is to be successful. One of the great hazards on any trip is the failure of luggage to arrive at the same place as its owner. Although this is a great inconvenience wherever the traveler may be, it is especially aggravating when it happens in a place where access to substitute clothing and trip items is limited. At the same time, even a happening such as this can be a memorable and actually productive event if it is dealt with in good spirit. A good example of making lemonade out of lemon was a recent trip my wife and I took from Cairo to Nairobi.

      We flew out of Cairo on an Air Ethiopia flight that was trouble from the very beginning. We spent hours in the transit area of the airport because we were on our way from Tel Aviv to Nairobi. The hot, poorly maintained section of the building  was uninviting and uncomfortable and all the announcements were in Arabic which we spoke not a single word of. Fortunately, we met a young man who spoke English as well as Arabic so we were able to discern the various rationales announced to account for the stops and starts we made from transit to the plane itself (and of course back again.)  It must have been 100 degrees on the tarmac and the excuse for why we did not get underway included an airport strike in Khartoum (our only stop along the way), mechanical problems, and a decision about whether or not the Khartoum bound passengers were supposed to board. After all the uncertainty, we experienced a one hour stay on the plane with no air conditioning, and a decision that we would be heading directly to Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia and passing over Khartoum, we finally boarded for the flight.

      That was another adventure still. The young man who translated for us in the transit area came on board only a few minutes after us. While I was happy to see that he was making his flight, he was supposed to be on his way to Khartoum. The problem was that we were told the plane was not stopping in Khartoum. Oh, well, another change or, perhaps, a misunderstanding. When we finally took off now headed for the Sudan instead of Ethiopia, we were all quite exhausted. My wife fell asleep immediately. I probably would have also had I not noticed that there was a crack in the window right next to our seat. That did keep me up a while and I knew we would not be landing for repair. We  stopped in Khartoum, discharged the passengers who were getting off there and headed for Addis. It was there we discovered that we were changing planes there for the rest of our flight to Nairobi. My wife was very worried that our luggage would not get onto the second plane. We gazed intently out of our window from the new plane trying to discern whether or not the luggage actually transferred but could not tell for certain. I was almost certain I saw it being loaded onto our new flight. My wife was fairly sure it did not make the transfer. She was right.

     The empty, helpless feeling we experienced as the luggage pile disappeared from under our nose in Nairobi is rather indescribable. Ours never showed up. We were scheduled to go by van to Tanzania in just a couple of hours. No problem! After an hour or so of negotiations, Air Ethiopia presented us with about $20.00
 each to buy clothing to wear for the two and a half week duration of our trip. We were surely not used to shopping in East Africa but we did find a place with incredibly inexpensive and frail clothing so we were able to garner a few pairs of shoddy underclothes and socks and a couple of other indispensable items for the upcoming safaris. With those additions we knew we would hardly be the fanciest ones in our group but at least we did have something to change into after each evening's wash. We learned along the way that Tanzania and Kenya did not have friendly relations at that time, so we did not recover our luggage until we returned later to Nairobi. Off to Tanzania we went. We just made the bus.

      This was to be a true learning experience. First of all, we discovered that we only needed about $20.00 worth of clothing each for the next couple of weeks and that it was quite liberating to be carrying nothing with us. We learned also that we were the objects of the other people in the group's sympathy and generosity. They managed to assemble a modest assortment of t-shirts, shorts, and paraphernalia to round out the required items. We made new friends, carried less with us than anyone else on the safari and never sent luggage through again. We travel light and fancy free now. And we do generally have more clothing than the people we visit on our trips.

We Usually Have More Clothes Than
The People We Visit. Damazulu, South Africa

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I go to India on that town on the Gandes, and the funerals there, I'll remember to travel light!!!