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Friday, March 08, 2013

Late Luggage, Ghana style...

Charlie writes:

Rolling along the highway with our five bags
Rolling along the main highway with our five bags
Inside the Domestic Terminal
Back to the truck, off to lunch...

The second porter on that leg...
Back the last time...
This past weekend, a 13-member team from the Living Word
Church in Wildwood, outside St. Louis, Missouri, returned
for another visit to their friends in northern Ghana.
Mary Kay is escorting them this week, along with Nana,
the driver from the Methodist Church of Ghana. You can
read more about their trip at their Ghana Project website.

Unfortunately, there were five pieces of luggage that did not
make the short transfer interval at London's Heathrow Airport.
In fact, the team almost got cut in half when the pastor was
pulled aside for a thorough examination. The team members
were used to this happening, and were prepared to file
the appropriate papers at the late/lost luggage counter
downstairs at the Accra airport.

I should have checked the next evening to find all the bags,
but instead, Mary Kay had to remind me that the team was
looking forward to distributing some things from those very
bags to the place they were visiting on Tuesday, so I had better
go down and deal with it on Monday. The luggage handlers had
called her to confirm that all the bags had arrived on the
Sunday evening flight, so they just needed to be picked up.

Having had experience with this on a prior trip, I made
sure that I had xerox copies of the photo and visa pages
of the relevant passports. When I arrived, they were expecting
me. We were able to find the five bags based on the descriptions
on the forms and confirmed via the tags.  I signed the register,
then opened each bag for the Customs officer on duty.

Next, I rounded up a cart, and loaded the bags up for the
walk to the local flights terminal. One of the porters
saw me struggling, so came along and relieved me of the
pushing - rolling the cart right along the main road
through the airport with honking taxis upset at him.
Arriving near the terminal, my pushers got nervous and
asked for pay before they would be seen by the police
or the other porters. So that meant another porter being
retained for the last bit.

Inside the terminal, I was directed to ask at the ticketing
counters for arrangement of transport for the bags up to
the Tamale airport. They directed me to the check-in stands,
and when I got to the front of the line, they directed me
to another, and that fellow called someone, returning with
the message "we don't take unaccompanied luggage!" I begged
him to check the other carriers, and the fellow at Starbow
was willing to accept the packages. He explained that they
would be carried for a fee of three ghana cedi per kilogram,
so he recommended I weigh them first so I would know the
charges. Since they were 70 kg, I would be owing GHS 210.
However, the space in the terminal was so limited that he
would not accept them until an hour or so before scheduled
departure. Thus, I rolled them all back to the Hilux and went
to lunch. Then I bought some neon green paper and scissors
and cello tape, preparing labels for the bags to make them
easy for Mary Kay to identify at the Tamale airport.

The drop-off went smoothly, and they issued me the required
claim tags. When I asked how Mary Kay would get the bags since
I obviously was not going to be able to get the tags to her,
I was told that if she knew the numbers, and showed ID, they
would let her take the bags. So, I called her with the numbers.
The stack of luggage claim tags
All five bags made it!
The original receipt had been for GHS 410, so I requested another!

Meanwhile, up in Tamale, Mary Kay was trying to figure out
how to get to the baggage area, since that airport only
has an exit from that area, so that only passengers can enter.
The flight was delayed half an hour, but eventually it arrived
and the team was able to make their way to Navrongo, arriving
at 8:30 p.m. Mary Kay passed the phone around
the Coaster bus, and I was gratified by the expressions
of thanks from all those involved.

Later that evening, I was back at the airport (on my third
visit to the parking area, the ticket-taker took pity on me
and let me come in without paying) and visited the BA ticket
office to see about getting reimbursed for the extra transport.
"Go to our offices over domestic terminal for that, sir,"
was my advice. There, I was attended to by a friendly rep
who informed me that such refunds were not allowed by airline
rules in West Africa. [This is just one of many examples of
the special treatment offered citizens of countries with
reputations for scams and lies.] She assured me that if
proper documentation were presented in either the UK
or the USA, the airline would make good on the extra
expenses caused by the late arrival of bags.
That meant I had to make another trip down to the
lost luggage counter, and after diving into a cardboard
box under the desk, we were able to recover the original
forms. The agent went with me to the internet cafe
in arrivals area of the airport to make copies.
Now I have to remember to make scans and deliver
to the team so they can follow up once they are
back in the US.

So, a transaction that would be handled over the phone and
result in the personal delivery of late bags to the hotel
ended up taking the better part of a day. As Chip would say,
"T.I.G." (This Is Ghana).

Genesis 32:13-21 (Jacob and his luggages)
So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.
These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, "Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove."
He instructed the first, "When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, 'To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?' then you shall say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.'"
He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, "You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, and you shall say, 'Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.'" For he thought, "I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me."
So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.

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