My fall festival trip has begun. My wife and I just returned from our long European trip a week ago Friday, so I didn’t have too much time before leaving in this one, and the time was very full. I was to have left on this trip five days after our return but due to a delay which will be explained momentarily, it ended up being six. In those six days I spoke in East Texas, recorded a sermon in French for the Feast of Trumpets and another for the opening night of the Feast of Tabernacles, recorded an edition in In Accord in both English and French, including providing and sorting all the video and still used, and made a live presentation on sermon preparation to our pastors during a continuing education teleconference. That’s in addition to other pre-feast preparation like approving subsidies for French African sites. It was a busy six days…. As Manuel Iturra and I often joke in the office: No pressure!
The itinerary for this trip has also grown increasingly complicated as it's gone along. I approved an itinerary that would have me arriving in Mauritius, my first stop, on Friday morning, leaving Sunday morning for onward travel to Burundi. I bought the tickets. Then Kenya Airways cancelled almost everything for the Sunday. My travel agent and I reworked the itinerary, now I would have to leave Saturday (today) afternoon and travel all night to arrive in Bujumbura before the start of the Feast of Trumpets. Not good but at least we’d have Friday. That cost more, though we’ll get a partial refund for the previous, unused tickets
Then the courier service I used to obtain my visas, dropped the ball. They informed me the week before last that my two visas were in my passport and that it would be shipped last Friday, so I would have it Tuesday, after the long weekend. Then the agent forgot to give it to FedEx, for two days. So it wouldn’t arrive until Thursday morning. My travel agent and I had to work up another itinerary. She was able to convince Delta to waive most of the fees, but we still have to pay $250 more to make the changes, and now I would only arrive in Mauritius Saturday morning at 05:30 and would have to leave at 16:30. That’s my shortest visit ever in Mauritius…. The passport arrived as promised.
And then we drove through a terrific downpour on the way to DFW to start this trip, and the rain delayed the initial departure to the point I could not make my connection in Paris. The only way to arrive Saturday morning, meant a switch to American Airlines direct to London Heathrow connecting to an Air Mauritius flight to the island. Since there is no agreement between the two I would have to collect my bags at Heathrow, get them from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 (that’s a 20 minute trip by shuttle or taxi), and check in for the next flight within four hours. No perks on either airline (and for frequent fliers those few perks are precious).
The flight to London left late (of course) so at LHR, I had only two hours to clear immigration, collect luggage, clear customs, take a taxi to Terminal 4 check in and clear emigration. I had just enough time. That was one night on a plane.
The Air Mauritius flight left at 4:30 pm, and lasted 12 hours. It’s a long way from Europe to Mauritius. With the time zone change, I arrived in Mauritius at 08:00. That’s night two on a plane.
By the time I cleared immigration (they found it strange that I flew all the way to Mauritius, so I could transit through to Johannesburg, only eight hours later) and picked up my rental car, it was 08:40. I drove on the wrong side of the road to the Prodigues’ house arriving at about 09:00. They were kind enough to let me use their shower, so I could freshen up and change after about 30 hours of travel in the same clothes. I know I wasn’t smelling like roses, and the change felt wonderful!
We shared a nice meal that Saloni had prepared, curry and beef, and talked of current events and Feast of Tabernacles planning. Though my visit would be quite brief, they were very thankful and expressed this several times. Someone said these visits are regular proof that they’re not forgotten.
Finally about 2:00 pm, I said goodbye, wished them a fine festival season and asked them to send me some photos that I can use in our French calendar.
Driving quickly back to the airport, I dropped the car, and headed to departures where I learned my flight to Johannesburg will be delayed two hours. From there I should connect to an 11:00 pm flight to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (that will be night three in a row on a plane – a new Meeker record), arriving early morning and from there a 12:10 pm flight to Bujumbura, where I should arrive early in the afternoon, hopefully still conscious and coherent. I will rest in the afternoon and prepare for the trip up country for the high day.
I have an extra suitcase with me, full of eyeglasses, toothbrushes and Church literature. An extra suitcase costs $100 to check, and it costs 35$ to buy a lounge pass, which would allow me to get some work done. When I found out South Africa was offering an upgrade to business class for under $250 including an extra suitcase and lounge access, it seemed a no brainer to me, so that will be a mercy during the 4-hour flight to Joburg, during which I suspect I will sleep.