Today was spent traveling. We left the hotel at 6:30 AM, and went straight to the airport, of course the usual mayhem. One guy checking all the papers in front of a small entrance into the room where the check-in counters were. And the traffic jam that ensues from this poorly placed checkpoint. We managed to check in rapidly enough, and then proceeded to have our papers, and tickets and bags checked four times in rapid succession, with very un-subtle hints about whether we had cash, or money, or whether we were transporting currency, or whether we wanted to buy them coffee, or whether we felt we could let go of a little money and did we have money, and were we carrying cash.
Below is a picture of Congolese paperwork, from a window into an office in the Brazzaville airport:
After the last useless check, we found a quiet place to sit, and I curled up on the benches, already sick, and fell asleep for a good hour. We boarded a little later, but not before standing with all our carry-on luggage in our hands, in a cramped crowd, precariously balanced on steep stairs. Yes, that’s where they chose to check our papers again. While we were walking down the stairs. The lack of intelligence of officials in Congo is staggering.
One of them stopped me and pointing to my current 3-month Congo visa practically yelled at me: “Where is your visa?” I looked at him and pointed, “right there”. He said “that’s a 2007 visa.” Completely stunned, I took the passport from him, looked at the visa, handed it back to him with my finger on the 2009 date and said “it’s 2009, read it!”. His tone totally changed and he smiled, a little surprised, and said “wow, you’re smart” and let me through.
We were so late leaving, and arriving in Douala, and the new passengers were so late getting onto the plane, that we barely had fifteen minutes to transfer planes in Casablanca. Of course, we still had to get boarding passes. We ran through the airport halls, and were stopped by guards who told us to, get this “Take.off.your.glasses” before going through the doors to the transit area. They had to repeat it twice because it was so weird. In the end, they needed us to take our glasses off, so the infra red sensors or whatever could trace our profiles without the glasses. Very strange.
We got our boarding passes and ran through the airport, again, arriving to the top of an escalator and all falling one on top of another, suitcases and all because this, my friends, is where a Moroccan safety official decided he would best be able to control our papers. At the very top of the escalators, almost causing an accident of monumental proportions. He finally agreed to listen to us and move his checkpoint away from the top of the stairs of death.
The rest of the trip was OK, but it was only 2 hours long from that point, not enough to make up for the 12 hours of insanity up until then. This is a picture of sunset over France.