Before changing planes, I encountered my first wall. The Delta person I talked to in Myrtle Beach was wrong. As I checked my bags in Myrtle Beach I learned that, because Delta Airlines and Turkish Airlines don't have a baggage contract, I would indeed need to pick up my bags in Atlanta, then carry them over to the International Terminal to check them with Turkish Airlines. Although it was a hassle, I had time to spare so I took my time and everything went well. My return trip will be a whole different story. Because I refuse to accept that the Myrtle Beach Delta check-in agent was correct, when I check my bags in at the Kilgali, Rwanda airport, I will ask that agent if he or she can check them all the way through to Myrtle Beach. If the M.B. agent was correct, I will have a problem. My plane from Istanbul to Atlanta arrives Atlanta at 7:50 pm. My Myrtle Beach flight takes off at 9:07 p.m. giving me little time to pick the bags up and recheck them.
As I purchased the tickets from M.B. to Atlanta I was torn as to whether I should buy the offered insurance policy or not. The policy was for a missed flight meaning that I didn't have to pay for a new ticket, but had the privilege of changing to a new flight if I had to. My gut told me to spend the additional $30 for the insurance because it sure looks as if I will need to use the policy.
My return flight from Kigali to Istanbul takes off at 2:05 a.m. on February 28th. Ugh...that's an ungodly hour. I will be exhausted when I finally arrive in Atlanta at 7:50 p.m. It will be all I can do to hurry to pick up my bags and hightail it to the domestic terminal (a shuttle drive of more than one mile) to recheck my bags. I expect that I will miss the flight from Atlanta to M.B. and to boot, it's the last flight of the day. So, I'll have to spend the night in the terminal. Sure I could get a motel, but, then I would have to stress about getting to the airport on time. Spending my night in the terminal is what I am expecting to do.
Day two was spent on a plane; all day on a plane. Not a fun day! When I couldn’t find my Kindle to take with me, Bob gave me his and told me to feel free to load whatever books I wanted on his Kindle.
I wanted to read a book about Rwanda called, A Thousand Hills to Heaven, by John Ruxin, who, with his wife, Allisia, owns a small restaurant in Rwanda called Heaven. John, Alissia and their small family live here. He wrote the book after they found that the bones of a 1994 Genocide victim were buried in their backyard. It was a relative who came to retrieve the bones, so she could give the person who belonged to the bones a proper burial.
I began reading the book on the plane. I had done some research regarding the 1994 Genocide and recalled my emotions as I watched the film Hotel Rwanda several years ago. However, I was interested to experience the interpretation and emotions of a fellow American, especially one who lives here. I am getting that interpretation and far more.
As I was in the air I realized that I will find two books to write on my journey to Rwanda, Edwin’s and mine, at least my experience of my journey.
When I worked for McCormick, the spice company, I traveled a lot. I was used to traveling alone. This trip felt totally different. My work-related travel was done within the States, especially those in the southeastern part of the U.S., and later in two of the uppermost states on the west coast, Oregon, and Washington. This trip I was on my own once I boarded the Turkish Airlines flight in Atlanta. I was leaving the country and flying to the other side of the world. I was totally alone!
When I checked my bags at the Myrtle Beach airport, the Delta ticket agent told me he could not check my bags all the way through to Rwanda. He informed me that Delta did not have a baggage contract with Turkish Air. I told him I had come to the airport a week prior and another Delta ticket agent told me not to worry, that Delta could do just that. The gentleman informed me that the first agent was wrong. Thus, when I arrived in Atlanta, I had to retrieve my bags and take a shuttle over to the new International terminal which was quite a distance. At least it seemed to be. I had plenty of time to do this flying to my African destination. However, on the way home I won’t have much time.
I will need to retrieve my bags from customs to recheck them at the domestic terminal with Delta. I was told by the same agent, that my bags will not be flown to Myrtle Beach as they would be if my entire flight was domestic. Because I was leaving the States, I had to personally retrieve my bags to clear customs.
The return flight out of Atlanta to M.B. is the last flight of the night on Feb. 28. It may not matter anyway as I learned from my flights over here, International flights can run late. Thus, regardless of whether I have time to retrieve bags and recheck them, I may not get into Atlanta on time anyway and will have to get a hotel near the airport. If it is on time, I’ll only have an hour to catch my flight. As I told Bob, when I talked to him via FB instant messaging, I’m not going to worry about it until the 28th. I’ll have no choice but to deal with whatever happens on the way back home.
The International terminal in Atlanta is beautiful. It was easy to navigate and the people were friendly. Once I got to customs, I was told I needed to take out all my electronic “stuff,” and put them in one of the bins. I only had one electronic item, the Kindle Bob let me borrow. Thus, when a male customs person got mad at me for not taking all my electronics out, I thought he was referring to my camera and my CD player. It wasn’t until the morning of day three that I discovered why he was so miffed with me.
Do you remember my Kindle we couldn’t fine? I found it the morning of day three. I did put it somewhere so I wouldn’t forget to take it with me. The problem was, I couldn’t recall where that somewhere was. It was in the pocket of my red carry on a tote bag. On day three, as I was looking through the bag, I felt something in the pocket. Ahh, I thought to myself, this is why the customs guy was so peeved at me.
It was in Istanbul that I realized this trip was totally different from all my domestic travel.
As everyone got off the flight, we had to look at the flight board directly across from the gate exit door. Unlike in the States, there’s no airport employee close by to ask. It was a very long hike down to the terminal where I was to catch my Kilgali flight. I had to stop and use the restroom once. As I proceeded, I took a wrong turn, which was easy to do. By the time I realized I had taken a wrong turn, I was now doubting myself that I remembered the right gate number. I stopped to look at another screen and found I did remember the right gate, so I proceeded to walk to gate 205.
Once there, however, that screen was flashing, flight 606 for Entebbe, Uganda, while the flight for Kilgali was flashing 1606. My ticket for the Kigali flight read flight 606. Now I wasn’t sure of anything. I asked a few people nearby, but they didn’t understand what I was asking. There were plenty of European looking people at the gate, but most of them were from Europe and not the U.S. I finally flagged down someone with a uniform and badge who assured me that I was at the right gate. However, my flight was running late, two hours late. After being reassured, I realized that the first leg of 606 was to Kigali. The second leg was to Entebbe.
When I finally arrived in Kigali, I went down to customs and gave the Rwandan agent my passport. He asked why I was in Rwanda. I told him, but that wasn’t enough information for him. He needed Edwin’s address or phone number. I found Edwin on my phone, but the number I had was unacceptable. I didn’t have a local phone number, nor did I have his address in Rwanda. What I had was his South Carolina phone and address. So, I told the agent Edwin was picking me up. We, myself and the customs agent walked together out of the building to find Edwin. With my flight being two hours late, I worried that Edwin may not be out there right now. When we stepped out of the building it was very dark on the sidewalk. Thank god, I recognized Edwin immediately. We were able to get his local address and phone number, go back to the building and finish my customs inspection and buy my visa permit.
We, Edwin, his friend, Beverly and I finally arrived at his home around three in the morning. We all went to bed as Edwin told me not to worry about getting up early because the next day was a day in the city of rest.
Footnote: As I turned in for the night, or was it morning? Yes it was morning, I cursed my country for always needing to be different. All other countries have the same electrical system. That is when you plug in an electric maching like a hair dryer, you don't have to have an adapter. I had a time getting my adapter to plug in the first time. I'M GOING TO BED. I'LL WORRY ABOUT ADAPTERS LATER!
MONDAY, FEB 12, 2018