Day One: On the Way

So the journey begins . . . a chronicle of the end of April.

Africa, 2021 began earlier than we wished, 2:00 on Monday, the 26th. While our plane wasn’t departing until 11:40pm we had 4:30 appointments for COVID tests. Off to the airport we headed. The drive was a piece of cake and we arrived early for the test. Parking in the garage, we made our way to the testing site. We checked in and Sherry went first (a gentleman always let a lady go first). She got in quickly and her testing was done. I was next but I had to wait, 20 minutes for mine. Testing was done and we awaited for the printed copy. That was another hour but we had test results in hand and $500 missing from our checking account (It will prove to be worth every penny). Off the the garage. Oh, wait, where is the parking ticket? Lost! So our $15 parking suddenly became $35. Now off – to dinner.

We ate a nice dinner together, headed off to Kyle Moffit’s church for a ride. (Our car is left with him.) Back to the airport, check in, through security and on to the gate. Except, we haven’t mentioned to too many people that we were carrying $59,000 in cash for the ministry here in Zimbabwe. Before leaving home we filled out the appropriate form, FinCEN 105, split it up between the two of us, buried them deep in our backpacks. The xray at security detected a large, organic object which required further inspection. As the agent began digging to the bottom of my bag I warned him he was going to find a large stash of cash. He looked and called over his supervisor. She arrived and looked at the bundles. I quickly told her I had the FinCEN 105 form. She looked at it, thanked me several times for having it and prepared us for Chicago which would need to collect the form. Wished us well and off we went.

At the gate, being a full flight, they asked for volunteers to gate check a carry-on. I had packed hoping for just such a request. We had already checked the allotted bag (2 each) and were lugging around our carry-on suitcases and heavy backpacks. Thank you Alaska Airlines. Off to Chicago we head, dozing a bit. Arriving at 5:30 am Chicago time. Then the fun begins.

We depart the plane in terminal 3 gate G20. We make the walk to the ticketing area, needing some directions as the way was not clearly marked. Once to the ticketing area (out of security) we exited the terminal and caught a bus to terminal 5. Terminal 5 is separate from the rest, and it felt like we were headed downtown, standing of a bus, backpacks it tow. Off the bus to the counter for Ethiopian Airlines. We had a short line and it became our turn. “Passports please.” “COVID test results please.” It seems that without those tests, we were not getting on the plane. Suddenly $500 was well spent money (donations welcome, by the way.) Then the baggage question. Ethiopian allows 2 free bags and charges $100 for the third. “Did you pay for the third bag? Do you have a receipt?” No because we gate checked the extra bags. There was some question and debate. Finally I said, “Alaska asked us to check them. It was a full flight and it was for their convenience they were checked.” All turned out well, and we had tickets in hand. Now off to security. We have TSA pre-check numbers, but Ethiopian doesn’t participate in the program so it was off to regular screening, computer out, shoes off, no belt, liquids (lucky there cause they were in the checked bag). {This is why we payed for Known Flier.} And then there was the money! I went through the metal detector watching my bag, expecting to be pick off and account for $59,000. But no. Nothing. They didn’t see it, didn’t care, it was part of a plan, don’t know exactly, but right through we went. Off to our gate, hungry and a bit tired, with no where to get much food. Finally a cup of frosted mini-wheats and a cheese plate. Soon we boarded the plane. Off we went. Not the most comfortable flight ever but we made it. I watched a couple of movies and Sherry visited with the man next to us. Our main job, as we were next to the bathroom, was to help people who couldn’t figure out where to push the door to get in, get in.

We arrived at Addis Ababa, and made a plane change. Some time before we left I put in a bid to upgrade to business class for the last leg. Boy that was a great decision. Comfortable seats (that is an understatement) and meal served on real plates with real flatware.

Then came Harare. We exited the plane and came to an impromptu heath station. Temperature taken and turn in a form we got on the plane. They said since we were married we only needed one. No two. So we started filling our Sherry’s form, only to discover I lost mine. Forms finally filled out with help of a nice man in a yellow vest. We handed our COVID tests to the lady and she began studying it closely. (We did tests on Friday, but those were not valid because it was longer than 48 hours). I could see her thinking and doing the math in her head. The test was on Monday at 4:30, it was now Wednesday about 1:00. Before she could say anything I reminded her that Harare was 9 hours ahead. Perfect, and away we went. $500 well spent. We then went to immigration, gathered our baggage and went to customs. As I approached we were met with the question, what is in that bag. Baby layettes which I am sure he had no idea what those were. I handed him a letter we prepared which all the things in the bags. He wasn’t interested in reading it, handed it back to me, and sent me on his way.

The plan was to buy a sim card for a phone, but they were closed (I hope to get one today, Saturday morning.). We were met by our friend and off to Zimbabwe Christian College. We went to dinner, and then to bed as we had an early departure from Harare. It was a great start to our journey.