The long trip home

Friday, February 09, 2018
Plano, Texas, United States
Yesterday, February 8th was indeed a full day, one that blended into today, as long international travel days do.
In the morning I arranged to keep the room until 5:00 pm at no extra charge, a perk for being a gold member with the Accorhotel group. People stopped in to visit with me throughout the day. Armel and I discussed the possibility of renting a small house for the use of the church. They do need a fixed place to meet and we can rent a house full time for the same price as renting a meeting hall once a week. I looked at some options and we discussed better locations.
There were some counselling sessions as well, and I took a break at lunch and went to the Dernier Comptoir Colonial, a restaurant located on the banks of the Wouri River, the raison d’être of Douala, the main port of the country and its financial capital. I had the place to myself, choosing a table out on the jetty where a pleasant breeze off the ocean ensured comfort. It’s known as a fish restaurant, but they didn’t have any fresh fish! I ordered zebu, a common African word for beef.
The water traffic was interesting, including boys floating on glass bottomed boxes to help them spot fish. They would swim up to narrow fishing pirogues and offer help to locate the catch of the day. A fishing boat with two men in it rowed by. They watched me to see if I would try to take their photo, which people won’t let you do for free if they can help it. I knew how things went so I left my camera down, which they correctly interpreted as a show of respect. So they greeted me and ask me to wish them a good catch, which I did. They wished me a pleasant day in return and rowed off into the river.
As I was finishing my meal, an attractive and well-dressed model arrived with a photographer and assistant for a photo shoot of some sort.
I caught my taxi back to the hotel where I continued meetings and work until 5:00 when I checked out of the room. I worked in the lobby bar for a few hours, then had dinner in the restaurant before catching the 9:00 pm shuttle to the airport. This airport in which I first arrived in 1996, has undergone cosmetic changes but nothing really substantive, and it is fairly dysfunctional. The corruption level is high, so if anything is amiss with the paperwork, one will pay. Thankfully my papers were all in order. I cleared emigration, then received a plastic pass so I could go back to the Air France lounge to wait in the air-conditioning. As flight time approached, the lounge emptied and we all made our way out to the gate to go through the security drill: metal detector, hand check of carryon bags, wands and so on. We boarded on-time and took off right at midnight for the six-and-a half hour flight to Paris. 
On our predawn arrival, at 06:30, I took the train to change terminals, and went through yet another complete security check. As the sun rose I could see out the lounge window there was snow on the ground. Between Douala and Paris there was a temperature change of 60 degrees F.
On the Delta flight to Atlanta, I was upgraded for first class at the last minute, for which I was very thankful. Unfortunately the flight departed late and we had a 100 mph headwind almost all the way across the Atlantic. I should have had two hours to complete arrival formalities, but I had less than an hour. There was no pre-check lane for the checkpoint, and I watched in frustration as my minutes slipped away. I ran to the gate, just in time to see my plane pulling out. I missed it by five minutes.
After being rebooked on the next available flight, I took the train once again to go to another terminal. We boarded on time, but had a mechanical malfunction, which the ground crew checked. It was determined we needed different “equipment” as planes are called in the industry jargon. So, we pulled back to the gate, deplaned and waited half an hour for another plane to arrive.
After all this, instead of arriving at 4:30 pm I arrived more like 10:00 pm at the airport, but it was lovely to be met by Marjolaine who drove me home. As always, it’s a wonderful feeling to be home having finished a fraught but productive trip. Thanks for following along! If all goes as planned, my next long trip will be to Africa again, in about six weeks.

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Barbara Anderson

I really enjoy being able to read about your trips and become better informed of our brethren there. Pray for your safety during the travels.