Those of you who read this blog carefully will remember that the October 15th post made mention that we came back a couple days after we thought we would. And yes, there’s a story there…
Brian dropped us off at the Lilongwe airport on Saturday morning, all packed and ready to fly back to the States. When we handed the tickets to the clerk at the counter, he looked at them for a minute and then said “So, you were supposed to fly yesterday?”
At this point, all we could think was: This is not looking good! We’ve collectively traveled to over 40 countries, and this had never happened to either of us. Was he serious? Was our ticket for yesterday, for Friday?! Yes, it sure was.
The clerk was very kind. He pointed out that the schedule we had received was confusing, and he understood why we had misread it. But the fact still remained: we had missed our flight by 24 hours.
So off we went to the little office in the airport that services Kenya Airways customers. I should point out that all of our travels up to this point had been perfectly smooth – no lost luggage, no significant delays, and even good food! I was starting to wonder what the deal was with people talking about African time, about things not working, and about needing to adjust my expectations for a slower life. All of a sudden, beginning in the Kenya Airways office, all of the Africa-ness of our trip caught up with us, in a three-part adventure.
We had definitely missed Friday’s flight, but it was possible that we could still get on that day – Saturday’s – flight. It would cost $50 apiece to change our tickets, and the clerk said that we would have to be on a waiting list for the flight from Nairobi to London. We thought about this for a few minutes. If we didn’t get on the flight out of Nairobi, we’d be stuck in the Nairobi airport for about 35 hours. Between the cost of a visa, the level of crime, and the general state of nothingness in the airport, 35 hours is a really long time to be in Nairobi. We decided to go for it though, to at least get a start on our trip. Twenty minutes later, between an ATM without internet connection and a full airline waiting list, we realized that we weren’t getting anywhere that day. I grinned and told Matt: “I actually like adventures like this.” He grinned back: “Me too!”
The clerk told us that we could get all the flights from Lilongwe to Nairobi to London to LA if we booked them for tomorrow and found a place to stay overnight. He couldn’t book them for us though, and told us we’d have to get to the Kenya Airways office in the city to do that, and the office was to close in 2 hours, at noon.
Brian was our only hope for both of these problems. If we could get in touch with him, we could ask to stay another night and see if he could help us find the Kenya Airways office in town. Our first task was to get in touch with him. Brian had made sure that we had change with us when he dropped us off, just in case we would need to use the pay phone to call his cell phone. We confidently took off in search of a pay phone. We found one, but it only took phone cards. After a little investigating, we discovered that no one in the airport actually sold phone cards. Hmmm. Matt eventually found a nice lady who let him use her cell phone to call Brian. Brian, of course, was so gracious to turn right around and come back to pick us up. (Thanks again Brian!)
Our last adventure was to make it to the Kenya Airways office in time to make the ticket changes. We drove straight to the city and eventually found the office complex. Brian loaned us the cash to make the changes, and we had it all taken care of with 15 minutes to spare before the office closed! All the changes had been made, and we were set to fly out on Sunday, only a couple days later than we were supposed to.
As embarrassing as it is to admit that we missed our flight by 24 hours, we’re so glad we did. We were able to spend more time with the Biedebach family, to go to church a second Sunday, and we had some of the best conversations and connections with people in those 2 days we “weren’t supposed to be there.” God knows what He’s doing, and we’re so glad He does. We’ll take those adventures any day.