It doesn’t always happen this way, but this trip took 3 days. Day one was a drive to Phoenix, where we spent the night. Day two we woke up at 5:00am to go to the airport. We left Phoenix in the morning and arrived in Washington, DC in the early evening. We had to spend the night there because there was not a direct connection from DC to Addis. Dinner was at a local Irish restaurant, and it was really nice. I ate a Thai salad at an Irish restaurant. Figure that one out.
The next day was the biggie as far as travel goes. Up again at 5:00am, except that means 2:00am to us since we live in Arizona. It’s hurry up and wait at the airport since you have to arrive 3 hours early for an international flight. All our bags were checked and we found our gate and proceeded to hang out for a couple of hours. Of course, Dinah used this time to scope out a boutique in the airport that sells clothing and accessories for women, designed by women. She asked the clerk if they would be interested in carrying the earrings that the ladies make at Living Hope, and the clerk said that the owner would most likely be very interested.
The flight from DC to Ethiopia was just under 12 hours. It was both exciting and excruciating at the same time. The anticipation being great, but the muscles getting very sore from all that sitting. It was a bit hard to sleep, but we managed, because if we stayed up all night we’d end up being awake for 36 hours. Not good for the brain.
After touching down in Addis, we went about the business of entering the country. First we got our visas. No excitement there, just paperwork and a $20 bill. Then we went over to the bank, which is conveniently located on the other side of the room, coincidentally next to the line for customs. We changed our spending money into Birr, and went to get into the customs line. The exchange rate is over 18 to 1, so we are living on the cheap.
The first day in Ethiopia was full of getting here and there, and mundane activity. But there was one thing that really stood out—what some folks would call a “God thing.”
We knew we would be hassled by Ethiopian customs officials because of what we were carrying. Dinah and her other traveling companions had experienced it before, and so had I the last time I visited. Here’s what normally happens: After you go through the customs line, you proceed to the baggage claim area. You get your checked bags and then stand in another line. This line is for an x-ray machine. Your bags are scanned and then the officials give you the third degree about what’s in the bags. This happens because we carry multiple copies of many items. This time we had hundreds of DVD’s to give away with a National Geographic movie about the development of a baby in the womb. We had cameras, cables, painting supplies, candy, diapers, baby clothes, and the list goes on and on. So we fully expected to be given a very hard time and maybe even asked to pay tariffs in order to keep our belongings.
There were 5 of us, each having 2 (50 pound) checked bags, and 2 small bags. Yep, that’s a lot of bags.
Now here’s where it gets really good:
We got close to the x-ray machine and all of a sudden there was a line of 6 or 7 porters who were loaded with bags and wanted to cut in front of us. The customs inspector came over from his post at the x-ray machine, clearly annoyed with these guys, and looked at Dinah. He asked her what was in her bags, and she told them, clothes, diapers, etc. He asked if there were any electronics and she said a camera and a laptop. He asked a couple more things, and then he waved her through. He let all of us bypass the x-ray machine and just leave.
This doesn’t happen.
But there had been many people praying for this very thing, and so we call it providence. We thank Him for it, and praise Him, but truth be told, if all had gone badly, He would still be praised. He just made things much easier on us on that particular day.
After the airport, we went to Ebise’s home to rest and wait for a traveling companion who was coming from Colorado on a different flight. She was due to arrive the night before, but weather had delayed her, and so we were to pick her up at 1:00 that day. We ate, napped, ate some more—Ebise knows how to feed a crowd! Then it was back to the airport.
We couldn’t find her.
We waited an hour, and finally decided to go on to the home in Adama. But this would leave her on her own to find a ride, and that would have been pretty hard on her, even though she is a seasoned traveler. So we were relieved (though tired!) to hear that she had made it to the airport after all, and we circled back to pick her up.
Now, all were safe in the van, and on the way to Living Hope to drop off the bags. We said a quick hello, had coffee (of course), unpacked some of the bags and left the others for another day. We headed to our hotel and checked in and completely crashed!
The next day we would go to Gutamuma for a church dedication.