There are two traits that are especially handy when traveling: flexibility and patience.
After touring Westminster Abbey we made our way to the airport to collect our stored luggage (four giant suitcases filled with generous gifts for our Malawian brethren from our brethren in the US). Of course where we stored our luggage was a different terminal than our take off… I think we added two miles to our step count just in the Heathrow airport.
The day before our departure we had received an email from Ethiopian Airlines informing us that our flight would leave 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, but we would arrive two hours later. Huh? They added a stop in the Democratic Republic of Congo, just an hour stop, no big deal, stay on the plane we’ll be on our way in no time. Except we couldn’t check in for our flight because we didn’t have a visa for the DRC. Well, now what? We waited in line at customer service for about thirty minutes, thankfully it was an easy fix, just a notation in the computer.
We checked our bags and looked to see what gate we would fly out from, only to discover that Heathrow doesn’t give you that information right away, so we found what we hoped would be a centrally located restaurant for dinner while we waited. As our food was being delivered they updated the status of our flight to boarding! We scarfed down our food and ran to our gate, just in time to weigh our carry-on. I was nervous because we only get 12kg, and I was told that my backpack would count toward that weight (Bibles and computers are heavy you guys)! Thankfully we slipped by without a hassle.
Our main layover was in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. I’ll try to explain this airport… because it is straight terrible. You land and they wheel stairs to the plane on the tarmac. They usher you to waiting buses where they cram you in like sardines, to take you to the terminal. They corral all arriving passengers (I counted four gates of disembarking folks) into a sort of a queue (if you count hundreds of people trampling each other a queue). This queue leads directly to security where all arriving passengers have to get searched once again. Pandemonium. Seriously. That is the only word I can think to adequately describe this situation. Straight pandemonium. People shoving others to get to the scanning belt, snatching bins out of others hands. I was pushed, shoved, and stepped on countless times before making through to the other side.
Unfortunately, this whole scenario doesn’t allow one to enter the main terminal (where you can find restaurants and shops), it forces you straight to your gate, where there is adequate seating for about half the passengers, that is, half the passengers IF those already sitting down aren’t taking up two or three chairs with leaning and backpacks.
But we finally made it to Lilongwe where we were greeted by our dear friends Megan and Nick Lamoureux