A funny thing happened on my way to Africa on Friday.
We thought something was strange when wouldn’t check our bags all the way through to Bangui, CAR. We arrived in Paris OK, knew we didn’t have much time and got our checked bags from American fast. By the time we got to the check-in point for Air France we were two minutes too late. They would not let us check in. TWO MINUTES… We went to the Air France service desk and they said sorry and quoted us a price of about $2500 to reschedule to the next flight. Then we thought “what if just one of us went right now, without checked bags? ” Well, AF allowed that. With a tried and true scientific method we decided Ken should go.
But wait, some of you don’t know I’m on my way to Africa and or why???
It all started when I was a we little… we’ll fast forward to 2010. John Pepper with had come up with a great idea for teaching driving and entry level maintenance skills for 4X4’s and motorcycles for missionaries heading overseas. It had a slow start, maybe because I was helping him with bits and pieces along the way. Eventually the training started to include nationals who were helping Wycliffe and SIL in their home countries Bible Translation Organizations. JAARS started to do fund raising and provide funding for the nationals to buy 4X4’s and local motorcycles. Then JAARS would send trainers to help teach safe driving habits and vehicle maintenance. It was a big hit. There are way more requests for help than the funding can provide. Almost a year ago JAARS asked if I would go to Central African Republic in the fall of 2016 to teach the motorcycle course in French. CAR is a war torn country and the trip was called off due to security problems still brewing in the fall of 2016. We rescheduled for June of 2017. The capital city of Bangui has been declared a Green Zone, meaning the city is safe for Humanitarian and non-governmental organizations to enter and begin working again. Our flight date was set for June 8 departure and a June 23 return. This brings us back to the on going story…
Ken was able to contact Travel from his cell on his way to the gate and they went to work on trying to fix our problem. Ken gave Siama Travel my cell number and told them to call me as soon as they had an answer. AF said the ticket reschedule must be completed before the plane departure or we loose my ticket as a no show. I couldn’t get my phone or computer to connect, so I was unable to connect with Siama and made the executive decision to reschedule myself. When I got back to the AF counter, the AF agent, said they found a less expensive way for me to reschedule and now I just needed to pay 315 euros to change the ticket. That’s about $350 usd. I did it. Then I started staying at the airport at 40 euros a night. It’s the cheapest thing around the Paris airport and very nice for the price. Toilet and shower are down the hall, but at least they have one. I leave for CAR Tuesday morning. I’m planning to be at check-in three hours before departure. Once I got my computer and phone working I sent an email to Siama Travel explaining what I did, they said that was all they could find as well, so I did exactly what they would have done. We’ll have to talk to them about the too tight of scheduling problem and the not getting the bags checked all the way through. For some reason, on this flight to CAR check-in closes 1&1/2 hours before departure. Go figure.
So just what does one do with a four day layover in Paris? Well let me tell you. First one gets out the map to see what is nearby. By God’s grace, I see a motorcycle race track just a half mile from my hotel and it looks like they are having an antique motorcycle show on the Saturday I’d be there. That took care of Saturday. Now that the important stuff is planned, there is all that old stuff downtown that millions of people a year go to look at. I suppose I should go see what all the fuss is about. There is a free shuttle bus between the hotel and airport. At the airport I can get planes, trains and Bus’s to go about anywhere. For the sum of 27.30 euros (I’ll let you figure out the USD equivalent) I got a round trip rail pass into town and a 24 hour use any public transport ticket. Knowing one should not beat that offer with a sharp stick I bought it and went into town. You know how hind sight is always 20/20. If I had actually known I was going to be given this opportunity, I would have scheduled a group tour and spent the day getting smarter. But instead I just flew by the seat of my pants (again) tried to learn how to use the map system in the new smart phone I got the day before I left. It was very trying… My next best ideas was to follow the largest group of people leaving the Metro. Once they noticed they were being followed they split up and I ended up at the back door of an extremely large and old looking building. I figgered it must be something of significance. But the door was locked. I mulled around a bit and others came towards the door, but disappeared into a small side door before reaching the big one. I nonchalantly slid in behind them. It took me into a really big courtyard. Somebody of royality and a whole lot of money built this place. Nice stonework decoratively laid all over the ground and a big fountain in the middle. There could be two football games being played in there at the same time. Or one really nice motorcycle racing flat-track. Across the courtyard, through some giant iron gates, through a tall arched breezeway and into another courtyard of even large proportions. This one had 4 or so glass pyramids pointing up out of the ground and thousands of people milling about. Wait a minute, I’ve seen pictures of this place before, its called the Louvre. I think its a giant underground art museum. After walking the full length of the grounds ending up at the Arc de Triumph, I could see that there was some foresight in building this setup. It kinda reminded me of the Washington DC buildings and monuments setup. So this is where they got the idea for DC.
I didn’t actually go inside of anything. I just got the travel systems and understanding of how it all works coming here as a tourist. So that someday when Judy and get to come back here we won’t be so nervous about what to do and getting around. We might do it as part of a big tour group… or not.
Its Tuesday morning and I’m at the airport on my way to CAR. Of course everything went great today, not a hitch in the system. So I wait and write. This will need to be continued…
Jim McCabe the Adventurer