A lot happens within a day. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes ugly.
Where are my bags?
– *WHIRRL CLICK*
Was that the conveyor belt stopping? No way… this is about to happen isn’t it? I managed to make it through three different airline flights, bus and train rides to lose my bags on the last one? Oh look someone I can ask!
“Excuse me sir? Is this all the baggage that came from Ethiopia?”
uh oh… “Where do I go to report lost baggage?”
“Come this way…”
I followed the man 10 feet to a lonely podium situated in the middle of the room. I had been traveling for far too long to be super optimistic about all of my climbing gear and clothes being lost somewhere between France, Germany, Ethiopia, and Malawi; but what can you do when you are landed in the middle of nowhere? The man helping me was named James; his real name was something else, but for simplicity he called himself James. His accent was a mixture of Malawian and British from what I could understand and spoke in a low, relaxed-baritone– this soon caused a few issues for me. I have a terrible ear for accents and that tone of voice.
” So where do you come from?” – James
”I’m sorry what?”
”Where do you come from?”
…Oh… “I came from Europe…”
”No, where do you come from?”
…what…? “The United States?”
“No, from where do you come from?”
”Ah yes… sure… sure…”
This just became interesting… again. At this moment I realized I was in trouble. Communication plays an important role within this world. I was not doing well at the language barrier at this point.
” So what did you lose?”
“I lost two pieces of luggage. Here are the tags for them.”
“What do the two pieces of luggage look like?”
“One piece is a big black duffel bag with a huge Adidas logo on the side, and the other is a big red rectangular pad with Cassine Domino Pad written on the front.”
“Oh sure… would you please identify what your bags look like on this?”
James slid a piece of paper over to me. On it was a bunch of pictures of generic luggage that most people travel with. This was not going to help me because there is not picture for a crash pad on the paper, nor is there a picture even closely resembling my clothes and gear bag.
”Sorry James, the bags on this don’t match anything that I have lost.”
“Does your bag look like this?” (he points to a small rolling bag)
”No, one bag is a big black Adidas duffel bag and the other piece of luggage is a big red pad that stands as tall as my chest. I use it for climbing.”
”Ah… sure… sure. What color were the bags?”
… no way…
After an hour and many more explanations we finally reached an understanding of what was lost and what needed to be done. I even drew a diagram. I questioned him whether my bags would be found and brought to the airport the next day. He said yes; but I wasn’t feeling super hopeful. Much of this was because James recorded the loss of the bags in an old college ruled book similar to the ones that I used to use to keep notes in during university. But this was Africa… so I figured there was a method to the madness.
Not being able to do much more I walked away from the back of the airport to the arrivals meeting place. I was a little worried because I had never met the people that I was supposed to be working with for the next month… nor did I have a real clear idea of what to look for other than a tall Belgian, a French girl with dreads, and a South African. As I rounded the blind corner I entered into the entry-point bright eyed and excited to see my new friends… I found no one there.
Shut the F*&k up… no way… where are the people that are supposed to be here? My cell phone is almost dead… I have 5% left… no money… and no where to go… in the middle of the African plains.
So let’s assess… I have no bags, no money, no charge on my phone for more than a few texts or maybe one call– I’m in a completely foreign country… and have no idea where I am supposed to go. No way to charge my phone cause my adapter is in my bag that is lost somewhere between Europe and Ethiopia. Yep… I have managed to land myself into a what could become an interesting story later.
After having a small mental reboot…. and a coke someone bought for me (I looked that pathetic ) I sent out a text message and searched for electricity to charge my phone. An hour later I received a text message…
”Hey we are almost there… lost time at the market”
Trying not to sound too desperate and relieved I casually texted back.
“Cool, I’m just chilling here at the Lilongwe airport.”
I’m so sly…
Which I then received…
OH F*&K ME! You gotta be kidding me… NO F&*KING WAY!!! How the hell did I manage to land to the wrong airport!?
Nothing else for came through my phone for 40 mins. I no longer felt cool. I felt naked and shamed… and kind of starting to wonder how I had screwed up so badly to land in the wrong airport and what my next step would be. Then after enough time had passed I got a text message from the team trying to find me.
I had been in Africa less than 6 hours and already the adventure was in full swing. We visited a market place… had a crazy hectic car ride… and watched little kids selling rats on a stick. It didn’t let up… instead it only escalated to the point that if you didn’t just give into the insanity you would suffer real mental damage.
As day one settled and we were eating dinner together… a certain wall hanging caught my eye. It was a poem that was composed by Mary Gaunt in 1910 describing Africa. One line within the poem seared itself into my mind and set the mood for the entire trip…
Africa- All other places are tame.
Oh this is going to be an adventure. Game on Africa… game on.