Thursday, 2 June 2011

The love of international travels

I have been very quiet in the last weeks. Several reasons for it: laziness (always), slow and irregular Internet connection, lack of inspiration, but also because we've had to go away for a few weeks rather unexpectedly. After three weeks in the UK and in France (we loved it!), it felt so good to be “home” again.

Ben was in South Africa, which meant I had to travel on my own with the girls. Luckily he was able to meet me half way across... in Addis Ababa. So the first leg of the journey, a day flight from Harare to Addis via Lusaka was very smooth chaotic. Neither Amandine nor Zélie slept and I became any air-plane passenger's worst flying nightmare: the mum who can't control her kids. A few tears were shed and I must confess some were mine too. By that point the air hostess had managed to calm Zélie down (a task in which I, the mum, had failed, only to reinforce the point in my fellow passenger's mind I'm sure). I have unlimited gratefulness to the passenger sitting right next to us, a very experienced Egyptian diplomat back from a high flying inter-African summit who, after having been kicked a 100 times by my darling daughters, alleviated a bit of my embarrassment by telling me that for sure, there is no way his grand-children would have behaved as well as my girls and that I was doing amazingly well. In Addis, Ben and I found each other straight away and I stopped feeling too sorry for myself.

Coming back was eventful too. In London, we were not allocated a bassinet for Zélie and were promised some extra seats instead only to find on board that this wasn't the case (if anyone has ever experienced keeping an exhausted wriggly Zélie on one's lap for 10 minutes, one might understand what kind of misfortune I am talking about). So Ben argued for 20 minutes with every single member of staff on the plane... and we eventually got what we needed.
In Addis, we battled again to get the buggy out, which we were promised was going to be available on arrival. So we waited and waited and eventually got it. By that point, Amandine was feeling rather unwell. We thought it was due to lack of sleep but then noticed a couple of spots on her little body and she definitely had a temperature. We looked for some airport medical assistance, and found a friendly nurse who examined her. She couldn't find any cause for the symptoms but was eager to offer an injection (of what? I have no idea). We thought the trauma of an injection would be worse that any relief she would get from it and opted out of the friendly offer. As Ben checked out flight details, he bumped into some worried passengers in transit over a middle aged Belgian guy who was obviously not feeling well but had some problems to communicate. Ben thought it would be helpful if I could speak to him in French. Unfortunately, I didn't get any further with my attempt to get any information from him (name, flight, etc.). We were told that the man had been sitting there for about two hours after collapsing, hurting his forehead and had missed his connection. It sounded too much like a stroke. An African lady who was trying to assist, a French speaker as well, encouraged us to do something about it because “at least, they will listen to you” i.e. because you are not African. So Ben went to get the well-meaning nurse again, who said she had seen the man already but had given up because he couldn't communicate! To which Ben responded that what that man needed was to be taken to hospital. By the time we boarded, the man had disappeared from the airport hall and I just hope he was able to receive appropriate medical care on time.

So we got to Harare airport and waited and waited and waited to get our passports stamped and collect our luggage but received a wonderful welcome from some of Tearfund Zimbabwe's members of staff, and found that one of the Tearfund vehicle had been clamped - it had not been parked perfectly straight (!). The Nicholson family got into the other car whilst we left Edward sorting this out. We got home at last, and were so pleased to be greeted by a smiley Pedzi. As it turned out, Amandine was having chicken pox (for the second time) and must have been the happiest of us all to arrive!

Anyway, we loved the whole experience so much that we decided to fly all the way back to Europe again (Ethiopian again) in three weeks time. And surprise surprise, I find it extremely hard to contain my excitement.

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