June 05, 2004
My Life in Airports
DAY 226: I had so many errands to run that day for when I got back to Addis Ababa that I had to make a checklist: get a taxi from airport to hotel, pick up bag in storage to get ATM card, go to privatized Dashen bank to withdraw cash, go to Commercial Bank of Ethiopia to wire payback money to Nugusse, go to NTO office to straighten out rejected AmEx mess, go back to hotel to sort out photos, organize a transport to the airport, go to the internet cafe to upload at least the photos, go back to hotel and type until my airport transport at 1 a.m.
Simple enough. And then my flight got canceled.
Originally I was to fly out of Aksum at 9:55 a.m. and everything was a go when I arrived at the airport by 8:30. By 9:30 we got word that there would be a delay because of plane problems and an hour later we were told the morning flight would not be available until after the afternoon flight at 2 p.m. Normally this wouildn't bother me, but I had so much to do before heading on the red eye to Cairo. With the ETA of Addis now at 4 p.m., it put me in a predicament because the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia closed at 3 p.m. and there went my window to pay back Nugusse for the 280 birr he lent me to see Aksum.
"I need to make a phone call," I told Matteus, the Ethiopian Airlines attendant. I explained my situation and he led me to the office. On a normal day, Nugusse would be at the airport waiting for a fare, but his family was in town and he was probably showing them around.
I sat in the office and thought and thought and thought. "I could leave Ethiopia without paying him, but I don't want to do that," I told Matteus. But there really was no way to send him money given my ETA. Perhaps I could wire him via Western Union or send a bank check via the online checking at my bank later on? -- it'd be okay. Matteus and I called and called the number Nugusse gave me to try and get his bank info, only to get his sister saying he wasn't in. (Later that night I called and called some more with no luck and ultimately just sent him an e-mail to his associated hotel.)
This went on for hours until the waiting room catering arrived (egg sandwiches and fries). Sooner than I thought, it was 2 p.m. already and we were off to Addis, with a quick stopover in Lalibela. I arrived by 4:10 and was in a taxi by 4:20. "Debra Damo Hotel," I instructed. I was reunited with my bag and ATM which had been in storage.
"Remember me?" I greeted Hamere. "I don't know what happened to my AmEx card. Did they say anything?" I was trying to deflect the conversation away from "Why did you cancel on us?" using the AmEx as a scapegoat. Hamere told me that AmEx couldn't give a reason, only that it was rejected. Meanwhile, I was to pick up my credit receipt to prevent them from charging it, but it was stuck in the cashier's office and she had gone home already.
"Come back tomorrow. Eight o'clock," she told me.
"I'm leaving at four."
"In the morning?"
"Yeah. To Cairo."
It was another predicament which could have easily been avoided if I didn't spend my whole morning and half an afternoon in Aksum's airport. After racking our brains, Hamere just told me she'd mail the receipt back to my address in The States. I took a taxi back to the hotel, and told that driver to come back for me at 1 a.m. to bring me to the airport.
Airport check-in was routine and I wandered in hallways (picture above), duty free shops, airport cafes and waiting rooms yet again until four in the morning. In total, I spent more of my waking life in airports that day than anywhere else.
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