Hello Zanzibar

Monday is my flight to Zanzibar, and I’m not in the best of moods — I guess having money stolen will do that to anyone, but I was having a tough time getting past it.
So I get to Addis airport, in my little funk, and discover that they do things a little strange. Probably the strangest is how they handle the gates. My flight was Gate 4, so I go there and do the whole shoes off x-Ray line and then go into a separate walled off area specific for that gate. Not until you go through all the hoopla to get in and are stuck do you realize that all the information screens are all OUTside the gated area. And the buildings acoustics are horrible so you can barely hear that an announcement is made, much less know what it says. Which would be okay, just watch for the flight attendants to call people over, except that there are about four flights and hundreds of people waiting at the same gate and we all seem to leave about the same time. So if I’m not careful I may end up in Ougadijou or something.

So I watch (very carefully), but my boarding time comes and goes and none of the flights seem to have left. I go over to the desk to make sure I’m not missing something, and while I happen to be standing there, an attendant comes up and quietly asks a guy near me if he’s going to ZanzIbar. Like, practically whispers. He says he is, and she says to follow him, so I follow too, as does another lady nearby. We walk out of that gate, then through the whole next gated area, also full of people, down some stairs and onto a bus. I had thought maybe we were the stragglers, but we’re the first on the bus. I don’t know if they finally made an announcement or if that poor lady had to go to each person individually and ask if they are going to Zanzibar, but eventually the bus fills up.

And we sit.

For several minutes the bus doesn’t move. Then finally a guy comes up to the bus like a crazy person, whooping and hollering and practically pushes another guy into the drivers seat. That guy then starts to drive and things are going well, until all of a sudden he turns around and starts back to where we came from. Then he turns around again and we’re basically doing doughnuts. In the airport bus. Apparently he doesn’t know which plane is ours, so we drive up to about four different planes before he finally finds the right one.

Finally in the plane, I make sure it’s actually going to Zanzibar, then settle in. I got the emergency row, so I’m happily waiting for takeoff. There are three seats in the row and the guy on the aisle doesn’t show up until last minute. When he does, he’s carrying about 5 large bags of duty free alcohol and a carryon. Now, for some reason they have stored the life rafts in the overhead bins, so even before this guy, they were jammed full. So he goes up and down the aisles looking for every inch of space to stash his stuff, and moving other people’s things to who knows where in the process. Finally he’s done and he sits. The attendants come up and go through the shpiel that the guy next to me and I have already heard, about being prepared to help in an emergency. When she gets to the part about knowing how to open the exit door, he gets up and starts pulling on the door handle, trying to open it! It takes me flailing my arms and yelling “Nooooo!!” and the guy next to me practically pushing him back to persuade him that maybe it’s not a good idea. So he sits. I should mention that this guy is Asian, only because he presumably did not come from Addis, so he would have had to have been on a plane before. You’d think he would know not oplay around with the emergency exit. Maybe he was dipping into his duty free supply, I don’t know.

So, one would think that would be enough drama for one plane ride. But I’m not done! Now, a man in the row in front of us, also an emergency row, gets up and asks the attendant if his wife can sit in the empty seat next to him. While he is doing this, another flight attendant, not knowing his seat is taken, moves a lady and her friend into those seats. The other attendant quickly tells her someone is sitting there, so they explain to the lady that she’ll need to move back. She refuses! She says no, she is tired of walking and her foot hurts so she’ll sit here thank you very much, and who is this guy that he deserves the emergency row more than her, and who are the attendants to tell her what to do. No lie. So they leet her keep the seat! The poor guy gets to sit by his wife but he’s about 7 feet tall and now gets to squeeze himself into a regular row.

Now, the cranky lady has a giant purse that doesn’t fit under her seat. She tries to refuse to give it up. Then she insists on going through and taking out every item she could possibly need and tells the attendant not to hover while she does so. Mind you a whole plane of people is waiting to take off. So the attendant walks away and the lady sits on her purse! She gets away with it too, I guess the attendant figures someone else got it from her. But now they have to go through the emergency shpiel with her. She doesn’t care for it. Are you willing to help in an emergency? “Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be? I am not that difficult.” Do you know how to operate the emergency door? “Of course I do. I do not come from the jungle!” (She really said that!) The whole time me and the guy next to me are dying laughing.

So anyway, finally we take off, about an hour late, and from there on in it’s basically uneventful (except for when we have to circle the Zanzibar airport and are now doing doughnuts in the plane). We disembark, I go through the dinky airport, and meet the hotel driver, whose name is Six Fingers, for obvious reasons, and head to my hotel. There, I immediately go find an isolated spot of an amazing tropical beach and sit down to relax. Which I do for about 30 seconds until a rasta guy comes up. And I’m not being stereotypical, he said, “Call me rasta guy”. He says, “You like to chill? I like to chill too. Hakuna Matata.” And then he starts a meandering, one-sided conversation about life, the island, and, oddly, Kenyan anthropology authors. The jist is that it’s, as he says, “a pole pole life” (pole having an accent on the e and pronounced polay, I’m guessing it means laid back)

So anyway, somewhere between the insanity of the flight and my new friends Six Fingers and Rasta Guy, I forgot about the stolen money and remembered to enjoy the ride, wherever it may take me. So goodbye funk and hello Zanzibar.