When the pilot says ‘as some of you may have noticed, we have flown over N’djamena’ which was suppose to be our final destination. The end of a 6 hour flight, you think you are getting off the plane, then finding out there is another 1.5 hours before landing in Doula, the city we are being diverted to due to a sand storm in N’djamena. I don’t have any in flight magazines in the seat pockets but the man next to me is looking at a map, I ask him what country is Doula in? He doesn’t know, I guessed Cameroon?
Pilot says ‘we will tell you more as we approach Douala’ As we got closer he said ‘We will tell you more once we land’ after we landed… ‘we are going to disembark the plane’
Walking out of the plane there was a wall of heat and humidity!
It was dark, there were no lights, there was a airport worker laying on the ground taking a nap.
walking from the plane into the airport everyone is quiet and I feel like a lemming, just following the crowd… a typical feeling for me in the airport.
Remembering how different this scenario would be if this was a Chicago to San Fran flight, diverted to Los Angelas. People would be asking questions and agitated, talking to one another. But on this flight, there are no tourists. It’s either locals, or people who are doing work in the country… and anyone who would do work in Chad, knows that things don’t always go as planned.
People started getting up and got in line, so I followed, still no announcement. A man came around with a giant bin and collected everyone’s passports. Then they took 25 people and we walked through the very long dark hallways of the airport following a Cameroon women outside where we boarded a little bus, crammed in. Bused to a hotel, we were handed a form to fill out, while standing in line and waiting for over an hour while the one hotel worker checked in the WHOLE ENTIRE flight as I was cut in front of repeatedly, I finally exchanged my paper for a room key… still no announcement, but someone in line mentioned we were scheduled to depart the hotel around 9am and catch our flight at 11am. No mention of breakfast, or food. I made friends with Melinda and Omer and attempted to order a water in the bar that after an hour and half of waiting, jet legged, and with the time change, I finally went to bed.
A large buffet and mingling with the plane folks, I saw with a Chadian man who scoffed at my ‘no’ response when asked if I had kids. I asked how many he had…. 24! My next questions was how many wives. 3, but one died. He never went to school, but he had 4 of his oldest in college in a variety of countries and seemed to be a proud father!
We all congregated in the lobby while a bus shuttled people to the airport, one group at a time. It took 1.5 hours before we were all there, back in the small room we were in before.
It was 10 minutes passed our departure time and several of us were impressed that we were actually more on time than we expected. We finally took off at noon.
This all made me think about refugees, or people displace from natural disasters. Not that we were in a terrible place, or anything bad was happening. But just the thought of being shipped around with no word or explanation. It’s a strange experience.