I’m waiting until next week to put up the official stories of our week in Tanzania. I’m doing this because as far as I can tell, there are about 2 of you who aren’t on vacation this week and I want everyone possible to hear about the awesomeness that was this trip. But if you’re dying for pictures with no context, there is a big pile of them on Flickr that has no narrative attached but does feature the team looking determined and badass and stuff. It will all make sense next week.
But for the rest of you, I’m sure you’re dying to know what happened to the luggage that was left in limbo when last we spoke, and let me tell you, that is a story in and of itself.
The Airport Run
So. As things stood, when we returned from safari on Saturday Alana and Toccoa were still without bags. Now, driving around Arusha in search of luggage is no small feat; it’s not like you can just hop in the car and go. You need a driver. We had been using Freeman, a really nice guy from Arusha with a particularly nice minivan and a decidedly non-traditional tendency for punctuality for all of our airport runs, and it was Freeman who was then secured to help the team locate their bags.
When we came back to the lodge after the safari, Toccoa heard from her friend in Frankfurt that they would not give her a luggage update since she was not the owner of the bags in question, but they did seem reasonably confident that the bags were not in Frankfurt. So, the bags were somewhere on the African continent, which was at least some sort of news. Toccoa called the Ethiopian Airlines 800 number, only to be connected with the same (and likely only) customer service rep she spoke to the day prior, who snapped at her, “I TOLD you to wait three business days!” and then hung up on her again.
Being the woman of action that she is, Toccoa then decided to hitch a ride with Freeman to the airport to pick up Dr. Kirkhope, which seems like a reasonable plan until you learn that his flight touched down at 2:30 am and we were beginning our donkey clinics the next morning. Then it just becomes nuts. However, talking to an actual person sitting behind a Luggage Services desk seemed like her best hope, so she decided to give it a shot. The alarm went off at 1:30, which she slept through until I threw a flip flop at her, then she got up and headed out the door while I went back to sleep.
Juma Has Them
Around 6:30 or so, I heard the door open. I cracked open an eye, listening for the telltale scrape of bags being pulled into the room, and heard nothing but footsteps. Sighing, I dozed back off.
Shortly thereafter, we got up. “So how’d it go?” I asked.
“Fine,” Toccoa replied. “But the new guy’s flight was three hours late.”
“Ugh,” I said, and then, “Is he OK? Are we going to like him?”
“He’s fine,” she said. “Then again, he slept most of the way back.”
With that, the conversation turned to luggage. Given the long delay, when Toccoa got to the airport, she had pleeeeenty of time to talk to luggage services while she waited for the delayed flight to touch down. After some scribbling and shuffling of papers, the luggage services desk announced that yes, her bags had indeed arrived.
“They did?” she asked ecstatically. “When?”
The clerk shuffled some more papers. “Yesterday.”
“WHAT?” she said. And then, “So, where are they?”
Shuffle shuffle. “They are not here.” Shuffle. “Juma has them.”
“Juma?” she asked. “Who’s Juma?”
There was a long pause. “Juma…..works for the airline,” the clerk said unconvincingly.
“Did he bring them to the office downtown?” she asked. The clerk shrugged no. “Juma has them.”
“So now what?”
The clerk scribbled down a phone number. “Call him.”
Freeman, indignant that Juma had been driving around with the bags for a full day, suggested calling Juma immediately, right there at 3 am, since they had a couple of hours to kill anyway. Toccoa, wisely deducing that customer service was likely not among Juma’s strong suits, convinced Freeman that they stood a better chance of actually retrieving the luggage if they waited until after dawn to start ringing Juma up.
Eventually, Rudy arrived- as did, thankfully, his luggage. “Wow, that was so nice of you to come and meet me at the airport!” he said to Toccoa, who didn’t have the heart to tell him that she only did it because she needed to ask after her bags. Well, I guess he knows now. So the exhausted team rolled into Ahadi Lodge at 6:30, giving them a full three hours before they needed to be ready for day one of donkey work.
And while we were off doing said donkey work, Freeman was busily driving around Arusha knocking on doors, making cell phones ring, and quite possibly yelling a little. Alana’s bags were sitting precisely where they should have been, at the Precision Airline office, needing only someone to actually show up to the office in order to be retrieved. Toccoa’s bags, well, that took a little more work. They were not at the Ethiopian Airlines office. They were at Juma’s house.
According to Freeman, Juma ignored the first five calls. Then he began a campaign of calling every ten minutes, on the dot. After call 36 or so, Juma finally picked up.
“You need to bring the bags to Ahadi Lodge,” said Freeman.
“No,” said Juma.
“What do you mean no?” asked Freeman. “Do I need to keep calling you all afternoon?”
Juma sighed deeply. “You come to my house and get the bags, then. But I’m not supposed to give them to you.”
It was after a full morning and early afternoon of these shenanigans that Freeman tracked us down at our location in a local marketplace. It wasn’t too hard to spot the conspicuous team of mizungus in our matching cornflower blue scrubs, so he stopped by to let Toccoa and Alana know that, at long last, their baggage was safe and sound at the lodge. It was a fiasco. An imbroglio. A mystery and action sequence worthy of Ocean’s 11. And it all worked out.
And this is why Toccoa looks so happy in this picture. Here she is is with her baggage savior, Freeman:
And the thing is, for every Juma, there are five Freemans. This was my experience of Africa.
Pawcurious Vet Blog: With Pet Blogger and Veterinarian Dr. V