Our flights: Springfield, MO –> Dallas, TX –> Washington D.C. –> Rome, Italy –>Addis Ababa, Ethiopia –> Lilongwe, Malawi –> Lusaka, Zambia (this takes about 3 days)
We arrived in Ethiopia a day late, but earlier in the day than usual. We were greeted as we entered the Addis airport with roses and letters of apology from Ethiopian Airlines. We settled in at the Beshale Hotel for the night. I had time
for a hot shower before dinner and a team meeting. I couldn’t seem to drink enough water. In the morning after a breakfast of Ethiopian Cocoa Puffs and hard boiled eggs, I sat on the steps of the Beshale Hotel, waiting for our airport shuttle, and thought, it smells like Africa. It smells like soaps and cooking spices, exhaust fumes and dust. It’s rather distinctive, but it brings up all kinds of good feelings in me.
After two uneventful flights, we finally landed in Zambia. Festus, who has been our personal Zambian guide for every team that has come, greeted us at the airport with smiles. His wiry frame is smaller than two years ago; I think two of him might fit in my scrubs. We all crowded around the baggage claim looking for bags with bright yellow tags. . . strangely, very few of our bags circled on the belt. A few began to panic. What would we do without our supplies? Dr. Bill, our fearless leader, made a few inquiries, and he found that mysteriously, all of our bags had arrived in Lusaka ahead of us, and they were all locked up safely in the airport. We grabbed carts and took turns wheeling the baggage back to the group. This trip has never occurred without at least one person’s bags getting misplaced, but this time, every bag arrived ahead of schedule. By African standards, this is nothing short of miraculous. We knew that customs is always difficult in Zambia, particularly when carrying a large quantity of drugs and supplies. We had packed meticulously, checking expiration dates and filling out packing lists to avoid any trouble with our medications. We were allowed to take our personal baggage through without any problems, but our supplies were immediately confiscated and searched. Dr. Bill and Festus stayed with our bags, and we went outside the Lusaka airport to wait and pray. We waited for hours,
and as the Zambian afternoon turned to evening, we sang songs together, photographed the sunset, and hoped the officials would see the goodness in our plan and let us have our medicines. They didn’t. Finally, Festus urged us to go ahead to Kitwe. It is about a 6 hour drive, depending on police checkpoints and bathroom stops, and it was already quite late. So, we left Lusaka, without our medicines and without Festus, hoping he would meet us in the morning.