I should have just titled this one, "You Are Never Going to Believe This." Maybe I should start from the beginning.
So, Ahn wanted me to teach this class in Africa. I actually love this kind of thing, so I said yes. Then, he wanted me to teach starting May 22. That is really only a problem in that I am required to go to Graduation at Gateway on May 20 and, well, Africa is kind of a long ways. I only found one flight I could take. It departed at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday. Graduation was at 10 a.m. So, as long as Dr. Iorg didn't get too long-winded, I could probably make it.
So, my best girl picked me up in the morning at 8:30, I checked my bags at the airport, and headed to graduation. We stood in the parking lot dawning our academic regalia--which is kind of a nerdy thing to do--and went to find our place. Lisa said, "You know everyone is going to talk to you after graduation."
"That may be," I replied, "but we march out first, so we are doing to have to just keep marching all the way to the parking lot." I was hoping for an 11 a.m. end; we went until 11:30. Connor said the final "Amen" and the faculty followed the President into the lobby. Lisa and I marched right past the rest of the faculty and the President, right into the parking lot. I pitched my robe in a carry-on and we drove to the airport. I made it with enough time to try the Schlotzky's pizza. (Spicy and greasy; skip it.)
My flight arrived in Salt Lake City with just enough time for me to get from one gate to the other. They were starting to Board when I arrived at the gate. Which was sort of a false promise. I mean, most of the time when you board an airplane, it means you are about to fly on it. In this case, it just meant we were going to sit on the runway with no air conditioning. Honestly, we started to pull out to the runway and the plane blew a breaker or something. The lights went out, the AC went out, the coolio little movie screens went out. I should have offered to change the breaker; it only takes 10 minutes at my house. But somehow it took us nearly two hours. They kept coming on the intercom to updates us. Hey! I just thought--Why did the stinkin' intercom work?
Apparently, they had to steal a part from another plane--I'm kind of hoping it was one from United. Kind makes the whole thing more fun if you put the mechanics in camouflage and have them sneaking onto a competitor plane to steal a part to get my flight on its way to Paris. The behind the scenes story is probably not nearly as Hollywood-esk.
Now, there is only one flight a day from Paris to this part of Africa. I was starting to think about the Tour Eiffel and some food on the Champs Elysees before bed. I sort of look at forced delays different than most people, huh? I arrived in Paris at 2 p.m. on Sunday, feeling like I had been stuffed in a box overnight. A small box. The flight to Abidjan left at 2:30 p.m. Ok, stranger things have happened. So, I wait and wait for all the people in front of me to gather their belongings and casually saunter off the plane. Does no one but me have a connection to make? Or are you all thinking about the Tour Eiffel at night?
I pass up the desk to check on your flight and head straight for the gate. Of course, it is like 12 terminals away. It is a long walk to the airport tram. Then, we stop at every terminal in between. OK, I actually was only traveling from from K to M, so we actually only stopped at L. Still, it felt intense. When we reached terminal M, I started to believe I could actually make it. I had like 10 minutes before the flight left. I know, in America they close the door in your face 10 minutes before flight time, but most cultures lack our rudeness masquerading as efficiency. So, maybe.
Then, I saw it. The Terminal M security line. There was no way I would clear security and make it to the very last gate in the terminal with only 10 minutes to go. But security went faster than I expected. And the long walk...well, not quite as long as I had imagined. At 2:30, I was walking up the gate knowing I had missed the only flight of the day. But, what is this long line I see? Must be a line to another flight. I ask. No, this is the line for the flight to Abidjan. Somehow they had not yet begun boarding! Woo hoo! I guess the tour Eiffel will have to wait for my next misadventure in Europe.
I slept hard. I was planning to stay awake so I could sleep later. But I slept hard. Before I knew it, we were landing.
Now, I had processed this E-Visa. The idea is that you go online, give them the needed information and forms, pay your fees, then you can just collect your visa when you land. Very cool idea. In theory.
I saw the sign saying "eVisa" soon after de-boarding. I got in line. It reminded me a little of trying to get a McCurry at the McDonalds in India. Lines don't really mean the same thing. I had waited about an hour when I got into the room where they were issuing the visas. Some guy came collecting vouchers and passports. I am always loath to allow my passport out of my sight, but I didn't see any other choice. I kept hearing them call names. As they did, someone would get up and go to one of the desks. They seemed to all be leaving with visas and passports which encouraged me. However, I never understood the names they were calling and I wondered if I would understand my name when it was called. In fact, I wondered if they had already called my name and it sounded more like Pu--eah Quallifu than Paul Kelly. I tried to calm myself and listen intently. And there it was. My name. OK, maybe not exactly but clear enough that I knew it was me. I tried to stand up and my knees felt like they were objecting. Guess it was being stuffed in the box. I made my way to the lady's desk and watched her as she looked over my documents, took my picture, got my fingerprints. Then, suddenly, I was leaving with a passport and visa!
The line for immigration was pretty short. I guess most of the world that traveled with me from France had thought better about the super-easy, eVisa plan. Unbelievably, the lady had a hard time finding my visa. "Don't you have a visa?" she asked. Wanted to punch her. OK, she actually asked it in French, but I got the sentiment. I opened the passport to the visa for her and she proceeded to take my photo...again, fingerprint me...again, and finally stamped my passport and waved me through. Only customs now.
OK, here's the fun part. She comes running after me. "Passport" is all she said. She took it and led me back to a different lady. This lady asked me, "Passport lost?"
Um, no, you are holding my passport. She tries talking to me, but for some reason insists on speaking french. You would think that was their language here or something. I check the screen and there is something that says "Interpol" in red and has my picture on it. Yikes!
She grabs a police man and talks to him, hands him my passport. I'm thinking he must speak English. Um, no. He motions for me to follow him, and leads me out of security. I see my contact here waiting for me. He smiles until he realizes I am following the policeman. Seriously. So, they take me up to this little office and tell me to sit down. The guy at the desk is dealing with some other international spy and doesn't have much interest in my policeman telling him my story. My cop turns out to be a pretty big advocate. He convinces the little guy at the desk to call Interpol, though apparently everyone was in bed and couldn't be bothered. So, my policeman takes me down to get my luggage. He lets us take it out to the car and load it up. I'm thinking he's about to give me my passport back and am wondering what just happened. But, despite my friend's smiles and cajoling conversation, the guy says he can't give my passport back. Something about Interpol. I finally realize that this is a local government agency and not French Interpol. Makes a little more sense to me that they are all sleeping. We walk back to the police room, cajole a little more, and the guy at the desk gives me a number. He tells us to call Interpol in the morning and then he will let me have my passport back if they say it is ok.
I know, right!?!
So, my friend tells me he will get one of the pastors to take care of it in the morning. "Don't worry."
Who's worried? I'm going to sleep.
OK, my trainer is only interested in whether I did my workout or not. Justin, dang! Did you miss the part where I was stuffed in a box!?!