COULD IT BE WORSE? WE GET THE GOOD NEWS THAT THE PRESIDENT AND MINISTRY IN BANGUI FINALLY GIVE VERBAL APPROVAL TO OUR AIM AIR FLIGHT INTO ZEMIO, BUT IN THE AFTERMATH OF LAST WEEK’S ELECTIONS AND AN INCOMPLETE CABINET APPOINTMENT, AND AT WORK WEEK’S END, NO PAPER IS TYPED AND SIGNED PERMITTING OUR LANDING IN ZEMIO; WE HAD SCRAMBLED TO LOAD THE PLANE, AND NOW RETURN FOR A THIRD NIGHT IN THE NAIVASHA HOTEL AND A FULL WEEK WASTED IN WAITING; I HOPE TO AT LEAST LAUNDER MY CLOTHES, BUT THE HOTEL HAS RUN OUT OF WATER; WE NOW HAVE TO CONSIDER ABORTING THE MISSION AND FLYING OUT TO ENTEBBE AND A RETURN TO NAIROBI FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS TO CHAD AND TO USA
February 26, Saturday, 2011
Two things became apparent as we scrambled at 3:30 PM on Friday to load the plane after tipping Isaac Mwira for his hospitality in furnishing us another Argentine tinned corned beef and biscuits luncheon: we would NOT be going to Obo by either the UPDF or AIM Air in any case since it seems that Ambroise who is set up as our trainee was going to be there by road, but he had heard about our incarceration here and had NOT gone to Obo but was still in Zemio. For that reason we have but one option if we are going at all—we are going with AIM Air to Zemio if we can get out at all, and the last word was that the ministry had met and the president had verbally approved our departure. We scrambled to lead and pack the plane. But Jon wanted to hear the confirmation number of the approval, and be sure it was not just for this flight but a confirmation for all time that established the precedent that AIM Air would continue to furnish flights to its mission personnel into Zemio as the last twenty years had documented and would not have to go to the prohibitive time and expense of entering through the capital since an extra $6,000 would mean that Wendy Atkins could never fly out of there. So it was said to be assured, and the president was sending the matter to the secretary to type it and he would sign it. But it is late on Friday of an unusual work week. No confirmation number, paper or signature appeared by the 5:15 PM time when we would have to be airborne in order to reach Zemio by dark—so, we reluctantly packed up the plane and one more time got the Naivasha Hotel shuttle to transport us back for a third night—now marking a full week of an idle team at great expense with a chartered plane grounded at the door of our CAR mission.
We returned to the sentimental welcome of the Naivasha waitresses and the owner of the hotel and also Manassas Zindu who had been at the party of the new governor and the new appointees of the new state in the new nation. We adjourned to the Resort hotel up the street to have dinner since we exhausted the menu options here at the Naivasha. As we sat down the SUV holding the UPDF officers who had come to drink on our tab the first night were in the hotel and as the waitress Sheila brought us a second round of drinks, it appears that these were gifts from the UPDF officers! So, they seem as grateful for our prolonged visit as they had said, and as Isaac Mwira had said, he was “Ever so happy to have made connection with us and to be able to make plans to come to visit the USA and study to become the Air Traffic Controller that he hopes to become.”
I had big plans for walking fully clothed into the shower to launder all my clothes in which I have been baking each day. First bad news is that I am assigned a room without a bathroom or shower. Second bad news is that there is a shower down the hall, into which I sneaked with all the clothes that needed cleaning and got them all soaped up but then found there was no water at the time of the rinse cycle. Brittany had taken pity upon me and said I should use their shower so I tiptoed over to try to unlock the clumsy lock in these doorways with an armhole through which a deadbolt is released. I got all set for the shower in their room when I found it was the Naivasha Hotel itself that had no water. So, the only clothes I have are in a soapy wad as I type this. TAB= “That’s Africa, Baby!”
Our trip has been remarkably efficient, accomplishing more than could be dreamed possible in Werkok and Bor, but then a miracle in PiBor which was beyond belief despite the noncooperation of the established Big NGO that is there and not doing the job; we could not have asked for a better response and results in PiBor Murle/Dinka outcome for further development. So, we may have been past due for the kinds of Glitches Africa can dispense so generously. And we have been stymied in full preparation for the CAR/Congo mission as we have been knocking on the border door for a full week, blocked by a nonsensical oversight on the part of the CAR government in transition, since they just had their elections last week and no one knows who or what is to be done.
Further, we are the “Test Case”—getting the CAR government to acknowledge that they had to resolve this policy of letting AIM Air fly into Zemio instead of diverting to the capitol and that was for ALL FLIGHTS for ALL TIME, and not just clearance for this fight this time. So, our long idle time on the ground in useless waiting with the UPDF. We are getting close now to the decision to abort the mission since Scott must be back in Entebbe to get his Air Ethiopia flight home to Chad before going on to Budapest for a cultural conference there for TEAM. The very appearance in Zemio would be such a boost to JM, Ambroise and to Wendy Atkins and the entire Azande refugees from DRC, that it would be worth it just to distribute gifts of supplies, that harmonica choir of seven matched harmonicas for their church services and money for JM’s daughters to study nursing and medicine since the last cash I had left seems to have gone missing. But after a full week’s delay, a fly by that costs a lot of funds for this mission is getting to be a judgment call. As much as I do not want them disappointed in thinking they have been forgotten, simply because of the arrogance and ignorance of a faraway disinterested government glitch, we also have to make our international connections to complete the circumnavigation. So, today is going to be decision day.
MORNING IN THE NAIVASHA HOTEL, STILL WAITING
I am sitting out in the drying sun to have the soaking wet clothes I had tried to rinse of their soap as water became available in the Naivasha Hotel down the hall in the “shower Stall”. I am typing among a few interested observers. One is a young serving girl who has been fixed on me and always welcomes us warmly upon our frequent return visits to the Naivasha Hotel, now getting to be too much of a habit. She tells me she wants to become an accountant, and hopes to study—as all Africans everywhere seem to have for an ambition. Her name, furnished on a piece of paper along with a yahoo email address is Aniwasa Sepura Joseph Karaba.
The other recent arrivals are the political Big Men who have just driven up with their body guards with the same SKS automatic weapons that I could find if I rummaged in the back of my gunsafe. They are wearing black velvet sport coats in the tropical heat. It must be a burden to be a Big Man, since maintaining the image is a big sweat. They greeted me as I am obviously a Big Man also, despite the flip flops and the just washed clothes hanging around me to dry in the sun. I am literate, clearly, since I am typing in a laptop, and must be from some big international aid agency, since I am here and the leader of a team that pays me some deference. They cue in on that quickly and they wish me a good morning. They are all office holders or office seekers, and are here for the rally of newly elected governors that took place recently. It is that set of recent dry season elections that has most likely torpedoed our plans since all the wannabe officials in Bangui CAR are scrambling around trying to get a cabinet post on the newly elected government, and are lining up like good sycophants around Le Chef for handout sinecures, and no one wishes to make waves by singing a paper that is simply the continuance of policy that has held for over twenty years. So we are still in the hopeful but shortly may abort the mission due to our week of waiting. You will know, so stay tuned!