Alright, well I’m back in Africa and I was asked to keep another blog of my travels, so here it is! Most of the blog will just be copy and pasted from the Vets without Borders one I’ll be keeping, but the odd entry (like this one) will just be my own uncensored thoughts and misadventures.
Quick background: I was accepted to be a student intern to work on the Vets without Borders (VWB) Goat Pass-On Project in Uganda for three months. This is the same project I volunteered with last summer for about a month. Brittany (a classmate of mine) and Lena (a student from the Montreal vet college) are also working on this project with me and will be joining me in Uganda in a few days.
If there is anything I’ve learned while travelling, it’s that nothing goes as planned. Ever. And of course, this trip is no exception. So let’s start from the beginning. It’s the night before I leave and I’m frantically packing and checking to make sure I have everything I need late, late, late into the night… as in I get maybe an hour of sleep before I need to get up to head to the airport. I’m not one that can usually sleep on planes, but I have a much better flight path than last year and it’s only 28 hours of travel time (compared to 52 hours last time) so I figure I can manage with the sleep loss. I say my tearful goodbyes to everyone, including my dog - I still ALWAYS cry at goodbyes - and make my way to the airport and board my plane. As I check in, I’m told my bag is checked all the way to my final destination, Entebbe, Uganda.
I confirm, “So I don’t need to pick up my bag at all?”
“Nope, you’re good to go.”
**This is important - take note**
Anyways, I arrive in Calgary and wait around for my next flight, which is to Chicago, followed by Brussels, then Entebbe. The airport is undergoing some construction so I ask someone who works there where I need to catch my flight. They look at my boarding pass and instruct me where to go. I notice that my gate is actually on the other side of a glass wall, but when I ask about that, I’m told the doors open about half hour before the flight. Alright, so I wait. And wait. It’s about 25 minutes before my flight leaves so I ask again and they tell me that I still need to wait. I sit back down to wait some more. Then I hear my name over the intercom calling me to the gate. Ok, so that’s not a good sign. I talk to the same person again, saying that I just heard my name being called to go to the gate and she responds, “oh, well I don’t know what to tell you then. You’ll have to ask someone else.” Are you kidding me?
Now I’m frantically trying to find someone else to figure out where I need to go. Why is there no other staff in this area of the airport?? I finally find someone and they ask, “well, did you go through customs?” I have to go through customs??
Disclaimer: I’ve traveled a lot. And I knew I would have to go through customs when I arrive in Chicago, but I didn’t realize I had to go through “pre-customs” on the Canadian side; I’ve only had direct flights to the States.
I am now running through the airport, getting flashbacks of backpacking Europe when I nearly missed almost every single train, hoping to god that by some miracle I make it to my gate in the next few minutes. People understood my situation and I was able to skip every line and they rushed me through customs, security and all that. I see my gate, which is of course at the end of the longest hallway, and I’m booking it - well, by “booking it” it’s more of a moderate to fast-paced jog. I’m not much of a runner and I had a backpack on weighing me down, so I just try to go as fast as I can.
I get to my gate, with less than 10 minutes to spare, dripping in sweat, panting (man, I’m out of shape), and they ask, “Are you Sarah?”
“Yes, I am. Sorry I’m late, I was given wrong instructions.”
“Did you check your bag?”
“My bag? Yeah I checked it in Saskatoon.”
“You needed to pick it up and recheck it here. We can’t let you on the plane.”
I’m speechless (and still breathless). “I was told I didn’t have to pick it up.”
“Well, whoever told you that was wrong. We’re sorry.”
I hang my head, sit down for a moment to catch my breath and make my way through Canadian customs, where I’m told that my bag should have been checked to at least Chicago and in the agent’s words, “someone fucked up”. I pick up my bag, and talk to an agent about getting on another flight. Because my flight was booked with Aeroplan points through VWB this proves to be more difficult than expected. Eventually, after talking to two agents, calling Aeroplan, about 5 hours later I have new flights. I’m now going through London, Addis Ababa, and finally Entebbe.
After a few more hours in the Calgary airport, and a sleepless flight (thank you, screaming children), I arrive in London. I confirm that my bags are checked to the next stop and I won’t have to pick them up until I’m in Addis. I have a 12 hour layover so I decide to leave the airport and wander around. It’s London, and naturally it’s raining, so I just spend my time having lunch and a much-needed beer in a pub. As I’m staring out the window, sipping my beer, I realize this might be the first moment in weeks where I have absolutely nothing to do, or plan, or stress about, and it’s kinda nice. Silver lining of missing my flight, perhaps? I decide it’s probably not a good idea to get too day drunk, and risk missing another flight so I eventually make my way back to the airport to wait out the last of the hours I have before the next flight. At this point, I’m exhausted and I’m going on 50-some hours with no sleep. I eventually board, and to my luck the entire row I’m in is empty! I lie down to get a solid 5 hours of sleep.
I arrive in Addis, somewhat rested and go to collect my bag - determined to not mess this up twice. I find out that I actually can’t get to the baggage carousel because I don’t have a visa, but I can’t get a visa because I’m not staying in the country long enough. I get sent from person to person because no one was sure who I needed to talk to about my bag. This is an international airport, I can’t possibly be the first person to transfer flights with checked luggage. This shouldn't be so complicated. Eventually, a couple staff members take down my baggage info and scan the tag, saying they will have to transfer my bag for me. Well, I don’t have a good feeling about this but there is nothing I can do. I arrived in Entebbe, and as I suspected, my bag did not. I talk to several people and no one can confirm where my bag is or when/if I’ll see it again. Several forms and a couple hours later I can leave. Of course Frank (who was supposed to pick me up from the airport), has left thinking maybe I missed another flight. Thankfully, a local lends me their phone and I contact Frank, who is back at the airport in minutes.
I’m so exhausted, haven’t really slept in over three days now, feeling emotional and the relief of seeing a safe and familiar face makes me break down and cry. Not a big cry, just a little one; I’ve been holding a lot in over the last few days. He gives me a giant hug and we make our way to Green Valley, where I stayed last year.
I have since slept, but my bags haven’t shown up yet. Frank and I have gone back to the airport but they haven’t been able to trace it yet. I can only assume that someone stole it and Ethiopian street kids are now using my thongs as sling shots. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but not getting my hopes up that it will show up. I keep telling myself to take this experience as a lesson in patience and to remind myself that “stuff” isn’t THAT important (or something like that).
However, not all is bad! It feels awesome to be reunited with Frank and Silas again, and getting to know all the other staff and fellow travellers at Green Valley. Frank’s sister gave me a change of clothes to borrow and I bought a few toiletries to get me by. I was planning on volunteering at the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre but I don’t have the proper clothes or footwear to do so, so I’ve just been chilling around Green Valley. Today I woke up to song birds, did yoga with the sounds of a wicked rain storm in the background, made tea and had amazing fresh fruit for breakfast. Tough life, eh? Oh, and I ate my first banana since last time I was here and my insides didn’t explode! Small victories, right? And tonight there is a party for Frank and Silas’s dad’s 70th birthday, so that should be fun!
Anyways, that’s all for now. Sorry that was longer than expected. I hope all is well back home! xoxo
PS sorry there are no pictures… the cord to plug my camera into my computer was in my checked bag.
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