Dear Family and Friends,
I have to say, Ethiopian Air is the worst airlines in the world. When I arrived in Addis I had every flute checked in customs. Customs wanted to know why I only bring flutes into the country and I responded because I am a flute teacher and I teach the flute. A little frustrating but ok, I understand they are just being careful.
I spoke to my husband and shared with him my hassle with customs and said, “Surely since I have already had my flutes inspected and they allowed me into the country I shouldn’t run into any more problems.” NOT!!! I got back to the airport; the same people that checked me out to Addis were checking me into the airport. Once again my suitcases with the flutes came up as a red flag and they asked me to open the suitcases and show me what’s inside. I looked at them with confusion but did what they asked.
In order for me to get as many flutes into one suitcase I had to strategically pack the cases to fit as many as possible into one suitcase. Ethiopian government had to check every flute in those suitcases again. They asked the same questions that they asked me not even 8 hours previous. I did what they told me and I was passed into the airport. I went to check in for Ethiopian Air. Here we go again. The suitcases exceeded the weight (which was different from the information on their website and I even called the airlines to make sure I was in compliance the day before my flight). The check-in clerk told me that they could only accept 30 kilos and I had exceeded that amount. They asked, what’s in these suitcases? I responded flutes, so I had to open the suitcases while they checked out every flute. I breathed a deep breath and let them investigate the instruments and told them I teach a flute school in Adigrat at St. Lucy’s Primary School. They told me because I had exceeded the weight that they would send one suitcase today and the other suitcase tomorrow. Now I’m getting annoyed. I said, “according to your website and the person I spoke with Ethiopian Air assured me that it is ok for me to exceed the weight a little bit and I only need to pay for the extra amount.” “I have to take this suitcase with me today; it cannot come tomorrow as I will already be in Adigrat this evening.” The clerk could see I was getting mad and said, ok, this one time I will let you. I thought to myself, what the heck, you did this the last time I was here. I guess I will hear the same story the next time I come back.
The situation got worse. As I went upstairs in Bole International, I checked out the screen to see if my flight was on time. Last time Safia and I had to wait six hours for our flight. My flight was on time. I wanted to call Safia and gloat over the fact that I was on time. But I looked at my watch and noticed that it was 3am in Seattle so I decided not to.
At Bole International, before one can take a domestic flight, you have to go through customs to screen all baggage that is carried onto the aircraft. Again I was pulled aside to check my bags. Again, every flute in my carry on was looked at. Did I mention to you that as each flute was checked the officer would open the case upside down? Not only did I have to repack each time they investigated my luggage but I also was catching the instruments from hitting the floor. When it got to my flute I said, “Don’t touch it! I will open for you.”
I was waiting for check in with my ticket and to get my seat assignment. The clerk called my name and checked me in. Of course my name was red tagged again! I’m not kidding. They asked you have a piece of luggage that is suspected and we need you to go downstairs to get it cleared before we can put it on the aircraft. I looked at the clerk and said, “You have got to be kidding me? I already have cleared that suitcase 3 previous times, seriously?” “I told the clerk, you better not make me miss my flight, that will get me very, very upset.” The clerk could see I was annoyed. I turned around to walk with her to the place where they had my suitcase. As I turned around I saw everyone looking at me. They all had concerned looks on their faces as if I was a terrorist. I began walking with the clerk pulling my carryon and laptop. The clerk told me I could leave my carryon and laptop with the guard. She assured me they would be safe. So I did. We walked and walked to the other side of the airport, through some doors, and down several flights of stairs. The clerk was walking so fast that it gave me asthma. We walked out to the tarmac and there stood my suitcase with the customs officers. They asked me to open it, I did, again every &#@! flute was looked at. Examining each one, asking why I’m taking so many flutes, the same questions, the same procedures, the same opening the cases and the flutes falling out. Now my patience has had it. I yelled at the customs guard to stop it, be careful, these are instruments for students at a school. The guard looked at me, although an adorable Ethiopian woman, said, “We have never seen flutes like this, so we wanted to see them.” “Really?” I looked at her. “The only reason I am going through all of this is because all of you are curious?” “Yes,” she answered, “we wanted to see what they are, thank you for showing us.”
As I walked upstairs I thought to myself, next time I’m shipping the damn flutes. This is ridiculous.
I returned to my gate and took my carryon luggage. The guard, which is the same guard from the first time, told me I had to put my luggage through the scanner again. Now I want to swear at this person. WTF? I thought to myself. I did, whatever, I’m almost done with this.…..
When I walked to the aircraft I was extremely annoyed. My nesfala was wet from the torrential down pour of rain from going out to the tarmac the first time around. I could have cared less that I was in a low cut tank top. I took off my nesfala and boarded the plane. Because of all this stupid chaos I was the last to board the plane. All the seats were taken (I found out that I really don’t have a seat assignment) and all the space overhead was filled and nowhere to put my carryon luggage. The flight attendant told me to stow it under my seat, it didn’t fit!!! She could see I was completely annoyed, ready to cry, so she took my carryon and stowed it with her luggage. She was very nice. The poor man that I sat next too could also see I was really frustrated. As I sat down my purse, laptop, and head pillow fell all over the place. The sweet man tried to pick it up for me but I was so mad I told him to leave it alone. Poor guy. Later on the flight, after I calmed down, I began to speak with him, he was a very nice person. A professor at the Mekele University, I believe he said geography, but his accent was so strong I really couldn’t tell.
I met up with Faviano, our driver, he was loading my luggage; the nice teacher came over and made sure I was taken care of. By that point, I shook his hand and hugged him Ethiopian style and thanked him for being so kind to me. Faviano and I drove off to Adigrat…