June 28, 2011
I remember that each time we had gone to the airport in Madagascar to drop somebody off for a flight I was EXTREMELY relieved and excited that it wasn't US going home but someone else. But alas, the day finally came where it WAS our turn to be dropped off for our flight. We had about 20 people come to the airport to send us off. A nice mix of cultures: Korean, English, Dutch, South African, and Malagasy. I purposefully had not put on make up that morning as I knew I would be wearing it in streaks after rivers of tears poured out my eyes. As I walked up to the airport my dear friend Helena was standing there waiting for me with her daughter and mother. I started to cry instantly! Florentine, Helena's mother, wiped my tears away, gently, with her hand. With a gentle smile she looked at me and said, “Raha mbola manao anio anao de ho capoako.”, which in English is, “If you do that again, I'll give you a spank”. She had a good sense of humor!
We then got in line to check in our 6 bags. We asked the group to pray as we checked in as we were only allowed one suitcase each for the 4 of us. Each bag went through without any problem! The boys and I then just hung out and talked, cried, and prayed while Randy was trying to exchange money. You can only exchange ariary in Madagascar. Our flight was to leave at 3 pm and since this is “Africa”, though NO Malagasy considers themselves African, we figured if we got to the airplane by 2:45 pm that would give us plenty of time as we were told that this flight in particular runs late. It was about 2:35 pm when we saw a woman dressed in Airport attire running towards our group yelling, “The plane is waiting for you! The plane is waiting for you!” I turned around to see who she was yelling at. “It couldn't be us. That would mean that the flight is leaving early and well....that just doesn't happen here.” But sure enough she was headed straight for me! Randy had just stepped out of the banking area and in a flurry of emotions and movement I grabbed the boys and yelled, “It's us they are waiting for!” We started running to the gate (not too hard to miss as there is only ONE gate in the airport). I actually made it through with scissors in my carry on! They led us onto the tarmac and onto the plane, where everyone watched us get on. As I got settled into my seat I looked out the window to see if there were any pigs flying, as NOTHING is EVER EARLY in Madagascar.
Once the plane was up and running another missionary that we knew from Mada came up to talk with me. She said she saw us in line with extra baggage and started praying for a miracle. Apparently she had taken her son to the airport a few weeks ago to head off to college. He had two suitcases and he either had to pay 10 euros per kilo or couldn't bring his bag with him. Obviously that was a lot of money so they left the bag there. Later that week the family went to the main office of the airline and got a special letter from the “boss” stating that, when the rest of the family goes to the US they could bring this 1 extra baggage. When they got to the airport (the same flight we were on) the check in person gave them a hard time, even with the letter. They kept having to get someone higher up to stamp it and read it! What a hassle! And this was WITH a letter! Then we go through the same line with 2 extra suitcases and NO letter and have NO problem getting through! Now THAT, my friends, was a miraclel!
We got to the JoBurg airport without any problems. Our baggage had a sticker on it all the way through to Durban so we didn't have to wait to get our luggage which meant we went right through customs without a problem. We were able to meet a friend, Glen, who was a short termer in Mada the first 3 months we were there, at the airport. He lived in JoBurg. We had a GREAT meal at a Burger joint. Not a fast food one but a REAL burger. It was the best tasting thing I've had in a long time! After dinner we went to check into our next flight. We were asked if we had any baggage to check in. We explained that we didn't because it was tagged to go straight through to Durban. Apparently we misunderstood. We DID have to get our luggage and recheck it through customs! PANIC. Thankfully we had 1 hr. before we started boarding, but was our luggage still there? So we left the kids with Glen's friends (who had joined us for dinner) and Glen, Randy and I went back down to where we came in. At this point we didn't have a clue where our luggage would be. We walked into the luggage claim area, and there they were....all 6 of them piled together waiting patiently for us! In the end, all our luggage and all 4 of us made it to Durban.
I know this blog is getting long....hang in there with me. We were going to rent a car as Pam and Steve's (the friends we are staying with) was too small to fit both families. Randy had found out before we left Mada that his credit card was frozen from being used in South Africa due to a fraud alert. So, when he went to rent a car they wouldn't accept the new credit card number we had, (didn't have the card as there wasn't enough time to mail it from the states...and not safe either) nor would they except a check or cash, or debit card. We wondered how this would work out. Steve ended up picking us up in a huge Land Rover so there was plenty of room for us and the baggage! We ended up being able to use the Land Rover the whole week. The best part? Steve and Pam each drove the two cars so I didn't have to have a heartattack trying to learn to drive on the other side of the road! (I would have had to drive as Randy lost his license when he lost his wallet a few weeks earlier). Thank you Pam and Steve!