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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bad Tuesday

Tuesday started badly. My Bamako hotel’s wake up call was 2am, an hour ahead of what I had told them. More bad incidents at the airport. I was previously impressed by Mali immigration and customs’ apparent lack of corruption, having passed through this airport twice before. But this time, a group of officers were present and got every passenger, almost all being Africans who are probably less likely to complain if asked to pay bribes, into separate rooms for search. I was asked to show all the cash I had â€" it’s always a dilemma. If you tell them less and they found additional amounts, you are in trouble. So I told the truth. Minutes later, a lady officer pulled me into another room and demanded 50 euros. Bargained it down but still had to give her 20 euros. Mali is no different from other corrupt African countries. Bloody corrupt.
The plane flew west to Dakar, Senegal, and then east again to Bamako. When I arrived at Addis at 8:45pm, after more than half hour delay, I waited for 2 hours but my luggage didn’t arrive. I had to make a lost luggage report. No idea if it is in Bamako or Dakar but since I was asked to identify my luggage at the runway of Bamako Airport, I suspect it could either be offloaded in Dakar or actually gone to Addis but misdirected to the transit area. After flying hundreds of flights over the last 15 years, this is the first time my luggage didn’t arrive on no fault of mine. The only other occasion was in China in 1997, where it was due to me not properly telling the airline to check in my luggage to final destination.
It is terribly upsetting, as 1) Bamako/Dakar-Addis flights are not daily and I could potentially only get my luggage 2 or 3 days later; 2) It upsets my intensive plan for Ethiopia and surrounding countries; 3) Addis is located on the highlands and it is cold here. My sweater is in the luggage that didn’t arrive; 4) I hadn’t had my dinner and it was 11pm when I reached the hotel after wasting more than 2 hours at the airport waiting for my luggage. All the eating places had long closed for the day; 5) My silly M1 mobile does not roam here and so the airline couldn’t notify me about the luggage status. And I am told no foreigner is allowed to buy a SIM card here due to terrorism fears and that the country is fighting a war in Somalia and on the brink of war with Eritrea.
The hotel in Addis was supposed to pick me up at the airport but I found nobody and took a taxi there myself. I thought that they had given up waiting. The hotel later told me that their staff had met with a minor accident on the way to the airport and so couldn’t pick me up. What a bad day!
A pity. Otherwise, Ethiopian Airlines service was quite good. Their plane was new, with nice good leather seats and a good inflight magazine. Their promotional slogan is “Africa’s World Class Airline”. But they messed up my luggage.
I would have to ring the airline or go to the airport to check the status of my luggage, as well as juggle that with the rest of my plans, not to mention shop for various necessities.

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