Anonymouslemming

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Destination Unknown

It's been a while, hasn't it? In my defense, Bangui pretty much sapped any creative spirit I had, and even now it doesn't feel like I'm back to my old self yet. Hell, I couldn't even come up with individual names for all of my fleas, so I settled on just calling them all Bob... Who knew that the collective name for fleas was "Bobs"? Well, now you do!

Bangui was rough. I'm not talking Essex rough where 'three' and 'free' sound the same, I'm not even talking Hilbrow on a Tuesday night, just after the races (come naked!) rough... I'm talking proper rough. Living on 1 meal a day and 4 hours sleep a night is not something I advise you try for more than a day or two. Waking up to gunfights isn't fun either. I tried it for far too long, and I think it may have broken me a bit more than I realised at the time.

On the plus side, it was nice to hear from my work colleagues in Northcliff, Johannesburg. They assured me that we were all in the same boat and going through the same challenges, which reassured me. Oh, no, wait, it didn't - it sent me right over the edge of livid. Bunch of soft-as nancy boys who wouldn't survive a day without their TV's or their airconn'd cars.

Anyway, that's my excuse for not writing anything sooner. Sorry - beat me if you can find me (come on! I dare ya!)

I'm in Togo at the moment, but you'll have to wait to hear about that, because now you're going to hear about my layover in Ethiopia. My trip from SA to Togo involved a 5 hour flight to Addis Ababa, followed by a night's stopover, and then another 5 hour flight to Lome. You wouldn't think it, but 2 x 5 hour flights over 2 days is much harder than a single 11 or 12 hour flight.

The Ethiopia stopover was as well planned as everything else this rabble have done, which meant I had to go and find a hotel when I got there. After my experiences in C.A.R, I objected slightly vehemently and explained that if I didn't have a hotel booking in my hand on the Monday morning, I wasn't going anywhere near Togo.

This turned out to be a good thing, because they booked me into the Hilton. When I got there, I asked if I could get an upgrade based on my HHonors membership and they said sure, without even batting an eye-lid. Once I had my key, I started my hike to my room on the 11th floor. It turns out that the 11th and 12th floors are some kind of executive living area, and the reason for my hike to room 1118 is that each room is about the size of my house. When I got into the suite, I spent a few minutes looking for the bedroom. I eventually found it, drew myself a map so I could find my way back if I got lost and wandered into the living area, and ordered room service.

That only left me with about 5 hours to sleep and bathe before I had to be up and running the next morning, and all I had was the clothes I was standing in because my luggage had been checked all the way through to Lome. Breakfast was phenomenal by African standards, and I'm starting to understand why we see so many pictures of starving kids out there - all of the food is in the Hilton in Addis. Sadly, my stomach was not in love with me, so I had to make a short sprint back to my room. When I arrived, I found that it was even bigger than I originally thought - there was actually a spare bathroom right by the front door of the suite. Complete with shower. So I updated my map, and headed off.

On the plus side, not having any luggage made the transit thing slightly easier and it was a quick run back to the airport. They've got the whole security nightmare there that our American pussies, er, friends have forced on us all, but as with everywhere else it's a bit of a joke. Sure, they have the big "No Liquids" signs up everywhere, and you have to take your belt and your shoes off to go through the scanners. Twice. But hey, they don't notice the 2 x 500ml full water bottles attached to the outside of my rucksack at all. Genius!

The flight out to Togo was interesting only in that I got stuck in a window seat (yeah, the travel agent just doesn't bloody listen) next to a Chinese family. By the end of the trip, I had got involved filling out their landing cards, helped with hotel selection (isn't the plane a bit late to be doing this?) and illustrated the ancient art of leveling dodgy airplane trays.

So now I'm here in Togo, and nothing is ready for me. The server is here, but without power or networking. The SS7 (think Ethernet for telecoms) cables aren't in place, but that's ok, because no-one can find the SS7 card that they are supposed to plug into. The HLR isn't configured yet, and the project manager has run off to Benin, dumping one of his colleagues in the shit to run everything while I'm here. And while I deal with all of these small challenges, my management would like me to step out for three days to go to Ivory Coast, which has a higher alert level than CAR did, and do an upgrade there too. Not bloody likely I'm thinking!

In conclusion, I'd like to end this update by thanking all of my English colleagues for sending so many ardent supporters to the SA v England rugby match. If you could arrange for a rugby team to go with next time, I'm sure there would be space on the bus and it would be much appreciated because I took a LOT of stick when I showed up on the DZ on Saturday!

/Lemming fades away

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