Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- The Trip

(Are y'all ready for this?? Grace emailed me a blog post!!! Woohoo!!! She is also trying to send pictures that go with it but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment. I was so excited to hear the update and I just couldn't keep you guys waiting. Please come back to see the pictures. I will put them in as soon as I get them. Enjoy! ~Faith)

Wow, this flight is long! We are just about to land in Rome to refuel, and I am already more than done with flying! Alas, there are several hours yet to go. At nearly 6 feet tall (and most of that being leg!) both my mom and I are ready for a nice long stretch and walk to get our blood flowing and sensation returning to all of our extremities. J

Here are some thoughts about our trip so far…

After we checked in, we had to take a shuttle to our terminal. We happened to get on the same shuttle as our entire ETA flight crew! Abigail loved to look at all the flight attendants, and as we walked behind them to the gate, she said "I want to be one of them when I grow up, even thought I have this skin and I don't match them."

So far, the food has been great. They served dinner shortly after take-off (Abigail slept through dinner) at about 9:30pm EST. Dinner was a beef, potato, and vegetable pot roast, and it was good! They also served salad, cheese and crackers, and cheesecake. For breakfast we had a croissant and roll with butter/jam, strawberry yogurt, fruit cup, and beverages. Neither my mom nor I have needed to break into our snack pack yet. In fact, we have not really been hungry for most of the trip, but have eaten and drank lots of fluids.

If you check in at the Ethiopian terminal at Dulles (no connection), you have to check in and get your boarding pass and then drop off your luggage at a TSA luggage check point. It was interesting, but we managed (glad of the carts!) We left our rolling carry-on bags with John while we checked in and dropped off our luggage. No one weighed our carry-on bags, but as we were boarding, they did ask us to check one of the rolling carry-ons. I already had chosen one that I would check (it mostly had food/snack for in Ethiopia- we packed our "snack pack" for the plane in another bag) so I had no problem doing a gate check on that bag.

I am SOOOOOO glad I brought earplugs. Between Abigail laying her head on my lap (thus necessitating the need to keep still and not move/stretch) and the kid behind me kicking the seat, I really didn't get much sleep. But the earplugs and my neck pillow have definitely contributed to my comfort!

Abigail and I took off our rain boots as soon as we sat down and haven't had them on since. Ethiopian distributes a pair of socks shortly after take-off, and I suppose we could have put those on over our socks, but for now, we have just been wearing our socks to walk to the bathroom, etc. In fact, that is what most people have been doing!

I will be glad of a real bed tonight when we land. I am super-happy that our flight lands in the evening and then we just go straight to our guest house. I can't imagine getting off this plane and getting a baby! That would be great, but I am already so tired, I think the baby would meet the worst part of Momma, not the best! J

More thoughts about travel…

The rest of our flight was uneventful. Our plane actually landed early! We were trying to help a mom traveling alone with her 2 young children, so de-boarding and getting the visas was a bit complicated, and we ended up being last in line.

We were asked to gate check a rolling carry on, and that, along with all of our luggage, came through just fine. One of my Rubbermaid bins had been searched by security in the USA, but nothing was missing. I used zip ties to "lock" my luggage, and that worked well. We ended up waiting a long time for our final suitcase, and because of that delay, poor Ryan and Philip (a student who is working with Gladney for the semester) had to wait about 2 hours for us!

For those who travel Ethiopian Airlines, here is what you need to know:

On the plane, they will hand you an "Entry Card." There will be no explanation. Fill this out, including all the info that you have (passport number, date of birth, etc.) When you get off the plane, go down the stairs. If you walk straight, the bathrooms are on the right. Do not use these unless necessary- go on the plane after you land if possible, but do not use these toilets.

For those who arrive on any airline in Addis, here is some info:

Once down the stairs, look to the left. The "sharp" left will be a place for "Interlink" transfers or something of that nature. To the "easy" left, you will see signs for a visa. Get in line here, and have your passport and entry cards ready. If you have not received an entry card on the plane, request one and fill it out. They cannot issue your visa until the entry card is complete. Then you wait in line, and they review your entry card and passport. The final step is to pay for the visa- $20 USD.

When you exit the visa room, if you look straight ahead, you will see a bank where you can exchange some money. There will also be ropes that form lines, and you want to be in the first line, closest to the visa office, unless otherwise directed. We were the last people in line, so we had plenty of time to use the bathroom and exchange some money. And then stand and wait.

When it is your turn, have your passport and visa ready. (On the card, when asked where I was staying, I wrote "hotel." At this cubicle, the person asked which hotel, and I stated that it was a private guest house. I think it would have been okay to just write "guest house" on the entry form.) They will ask a few questions and stamp your passport. Exit and go to the right to baggage claim. There are 4 belts, and you will be able to see which one is for your flight. There are free carts (you have to push down on the top handle to get them to move- it is a built-in break, and while it takes getting used to, it is actually quite nice!)

While waiting for your luggage, have your baggage claim tickets ready. You will have to show your tickets to be able to exit with your luggage. If any piece of your luggage is missing, there is a "Lost Bag" area in the back left corner of the luggage claim area. It is a small office, but you will probably find it easily, since there is really nothing else in the area.

When you have your luggage, head towards the exit. You will be asked to show that it is your luggage (claim tickets) and you may be asked to X-ray your bags. We had to X-ray all of our bags, and then they wanted to search my bins as well. However, they couldn't get the zip ties open! (No scissors or knifes or anything.) In the mean time, I also supplied them with a copy of the humanitarian aid letter supplied by Gladney, and they were satisfied and let us go.

Interestingly, one of the questions that they asked before they let us leave was "Are you bringing any projectors into the country?" And no, I wasn't. Then they asked "Are you telling me the truth?" Maybe I looked like some sort of projecting criminal aiming to start a rally or something? I don't know- not having traveled internationally, maybe this is something they ask everyone?

On the way to Ayat house, we stopped at the grocery. I had already exchanged a small amount of money at the airport, so I was able to get some groceries without difficulty. At the grocery I went to, they had bags of milk (1 liter size) and I picked up some "full cream milk" (whole milk) for the baby, and some 2.7% milk for the rest of us. They were out of eggs and bread, but I did get water (buy lots!), coffee grinds, and Honey Nut Cheerios.

It was during our grocery trip that Ryan B. confessed that Sparrow is one of his favorites. He has a soft spot for the children who come in ill and grief-stricken. I could tell from pictures that Anna loves him, and it was so calming to my heart to know that he was taking special care of my girl!

It was 10:30pm by the time we got home, so we quickly unpacked enough to find our warm pajamas. (Seriously, you need warm jammies this time of year- without heat, the evenings and early mornings are chilly! And warm socks or slippers since the floors at Ayat are tile and very cold.) Ryan made plans to bring Misrak over around 9am and then he and the driver left for the evening (I felt so bad for keeping them waiting so long at the airport!) Mer, Ryan, and Simon had already gone to bed for the night, and Waguyu had already left as well when I realized that I had no clue what time it was, so I could not set my alarm clock. Hint: bring a watch and travel alarm clock, for sure! There are no clocks in Ayat House!

This was also when I realized that my purse, which I realized I had left on the plane, had my cell phone in it. Oops! I was not concerned about loosing my purse since I thought it only had my lip gloss. Kind of sad when I realized it also had my celly! Not sure what I am going to do about that.

Abigail and I settled in for the night and after a few rounds of dogs barking, we fell asleep. I was so glad to be horizontal! Once I heard a sound that could have been Simon crying… but then, it could have been a cat crying, as well, so I went back to sleep. Abigail woke up in the middle of the night and was sleepwalking- that was fun! But overall, I slept fairly well, considering that I kept waking up to see if it was light out!


Jim and Ryane said...

In true Grace style you give us all the details! Thanks so much! This is SO helpful!

Can't wait to hear about your first meeting with Anna.

Sorry about the cell phone. That stinks.

Have fun!!

Dawn said...

Glad to hear that your flight went well. Sorry about your purse and cell phone though.

Mrs. Kensington said...

We weren't asked about having projectors, however they demanded a detailed explanation of what baby wipes were and if we had a license to carry them.

Anonymous said...

if you contact the airlines and give them the flight number and seat assignment they will be able to hold your purse for you.

haze said...

Wow, I'm going to save this post for future reference (plus your packing posts). This sort of info is priceless for those of us yet to travel. THANK YOU!!