Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ramsey Vents and Eats Waffles

Due to the snafu with our flight from Dulles, we were unable to get any of our clothes last night in DC.  But we were assured that during our 26 hour unplanned stopover in Brussels we would be able retrieve our bags, so that we could get showered and put on some clean clothes.  United did not want to guarantee us accommodations in Brussels but after some belligerence we were given an assurance that we'll probably have a room when we get to Brussels.

This morning I logged into United's site and reserved aisle seats towards the front of economy class for myself and Erica.  When I got on the plane though, I realized that our seats had been changed to the back row of the plane, with me sitting in a window seat.  Despite having plenty of open seats on the plane, it took a certain amount of conflict to convince the stewardesses to find me an aisle seat.  I have to say they were really friendly, but it was a bit off putting that they were worried about being disciplined for giving me a replacement seat (that was empty) for the one I had reserved that morning.

We arrived safely in Brussels this morning around 6:30AM.  We spent the next 5 hours waiting at the airport for our bags to come out.  Which was just as well since the hotel did not have any open rooms because they were all filled with United passengers who had missed connections the night before.  Best we can tell the watches and clocks used by the folks at Brussels airport do not operate on a linear time scale.  Five minutes is apparently longer than an hour but sometimes shorter than 15 minutes which ranges from half an hour to 2 hours.  After hours of waiting we did retrieve some of our bags.  But unfortunately for Mike, his bag is still MIA.  As well as our med kit which is a pretty serious issue.  We have been assured that they know where the bags are (somewhere in Brussels airport).  The baggage attendants have told us that our bags will make it to Yaounde because they know exactly where they are.  Unfortunately in the 18 hours since we arrived they have not been able to bring them to us at the luggage desk, or our hotel that is literally across the street from the baggage claim.  At this point I've stopped giving them the benefit of the doubt, and I'm getting nervous about our tool bag, which we agreed to leave checked for the flight to Yaounde.

Honestly, this might be the worst air travel experience I've ever had.  United Airlines has failed on just about every front.  Missed flight, missed connections, missing bags, last minute changes to our seat reservations, etc.  All along the way the employees have been very nice, but somewhat clueless.  Thanks to the US and EU passenger rights laws, they were forced to put us up in a hotel and give us food vouchers.  Unfortunately the food vouchers didn't cover one meal at the hotel in DC.

So as it stands we have already lost two days of project time.  And without our med kit we stand to lose more days waiting for it in Yaounde.  I'm not sure United could pay me to fly on their airline again.  Luckily for them I'll be eating my words when I have to fly home on United.

Mannekin Pis
So in the mean time we've been trying to make the best of our time.  We did get to spend some time in central Brussels which was really beautiful.  We did a rapid speed tour of Brussels, and managed to visit three churches, Mannekin Pis, Brussels Town Hall and some parks along the way.  We also had a delicious Belgian waffle for lunch out of a waffle truck (a great idea for back home!).  I had been hoping to get some Belgian fries, but Dr. Steve had a bit of a scare when he couldn't find his passport.  Luckily for all of us, it was back in his room.
La Fontaine Egmont et de Hornes
We also had some constructive conversations over breakfast about future EWB-UD projects.  With the Cameroon and Guatemala projects coming to an end, the chapter has been discussing a lot of great project ideas.  It should be exciting to see what the new project(s) end up happening.

So tomorrow morning we expect to leave for Yaounde, arriving that night.  We are all excited to get to Bamendjou and finish the project.  I'm personally excited to get back to Bakang and see all the work the team has done since I was last there and also to see how my work has held up.  We're also excited to reconnect with all the community members who have helped make this project happen.

I imagine our internet access will be getting scarcer in the near future, but we will do our best to keep the blog posts coming.

- Ramsey

1 comment:

Nura said...

new project in tunisia!!!!