Out of Africa - Into France

Trip Start Sep 08, 2013
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Trip End Oct 04, 2013


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Flag of France  , Rhône-Alpes,
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday was overcast and foggy in the morning once again, but the day cleared quickly. We had breakfast at 7:30, everyone but me had bouillie: a dark brown meal mash served like a cereal in a bowl. I stuck with my toast, butter and honey, and that most important of morning food-groups: coffee.

Services began pretty promptly at 9:30. After hymns, a prayer and a vocal solo, I spoke again, this time on the work of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah in rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonian captivity, and parallels for our time.

After the service, I repacked to get ready to leave, and then Guy, Pierre, Koffi and I drove over to see the famous waterfall just outside Kpalimé. I had seen it from the paved road several times but had never gone right up to it for a closer look. A distant relative of Guy works at the small cold-war era electricity generator ( a gift of Yugoslavia) at the falls, so we could park there without paying any self-declared parking attendants. We walked up to the falls which are quite impressive, even at a low-water period like now. Children were playing in the pools at the bottom and enjoying the shower of cool water which offset the ambient heat.

After taking some photos, and shooting some video, we drove back to the hotel and loaded out my luggage. I said goodbye to everyone, and wished them a fine rest of the festival and then Guy and Pierre and I headed into town to look for a batik table cloth for my brother and sister in law. They were hoping for a red one and we checked about four different establishments without success. I asked Guy to order me one for my next trip and we started the drive to Lomé.  Ninety minutes later we arrived, and I was dropped off at the Sarakawa hotel where I planned to have dinner and from where I could get a taxi to the airport.  I waited in the air conditioning and used the wifi until 7:00 pm when I could walk out to the Sika-Sika restaurant which is just off the beach. I could hear the huge breakers pounding the sand in the night, as I quickly ate a pizza and contemplated my last evening in Africa for this trip.  At 8:00 I hired a taxi to take me to the airport. The driver was experienced and knew how challenging this run can be at this time.

Traffic was heavy and the moto-taxi drivers as aggressive as usual. There is no expectation of waiting one's turn or fair play or any of that. Most drivers will risk causing grid-lock for a small advantage in moving forward, and fairly often they succeed both in moving forward and in causing gridlock.  This evening they completely locked up an intersection and each succeeding rider blocked it a little more, since the cars couldn’t move without hitting a motorcycle and they didn’t want to risk that.

My driver was intent on getting me to the airport and wasn’t in the mood to be played. One moto-taxi driver pushed him a little too far and he nudged into him, causing the bike to slowly fall over. "Uh oh" I thought, this would likely cause a confrontation. The moto-taxi driver actually looked a little sheepish, which indicated to me he knew he really had pushed too far. But that didn’t stop other drivers from gathering around us and banging on the car to intimidate my driver. All I could do was my part: remain calm, look as if nothing unusual was happening and keep looking ahead - and slightly board by the whole thing. That was my goal; I’m not sure I entirely pulled it off.

The banging subsided and perhaps having gained some new respect my driver was able to move forward and finally clear the intersection. I arrived at the airport about 2 hours before takeoff, not too bad, and gave the driver a 3 dollar tip for his trouble – I’m sure he was pleased.

I pulled my suitcase up to the official at the door and waited for him to peruse my passport and itinerary and finally wave me through. Multiple flights of people had to pass one by one through each step of the official processes. One official at the door; one x-ray, metal detector security check (belts, shoes off etc.). Then to the check-in counters of which I counted only three, then back to one official to double check papers, two booths for passport control, and two lanes of the final security check (belts, shoes off etc.) then, finally, ahh, into the departure area. My Delta frequent flyer card got me in the business class lounge for a brief rest in some air-con, then back out to start the boarding process, which was only slightly organized chaos.

Another security check, this time done by Air France, had agents rifle personally through our carry-ons, then there was a finally paper check at the stairs leading up to the main hatch. We were all coated in a fine layer of sweat by the time we sank into our seats. I was interested to see I was seated in premium coach, for which I had not paid: a little more seat and leg room, better head phones, an over shoulder reading light, and being seated farther forward where egress is quicker.

As soon as the flight took off for the six hour run to Paris, I prepared for sleep. Since I had eaten, I could skip the dinner and try for another hour’s sleep. I think I slept about three hours on the way to Paris, where we arrived at 6:00 am.

After showing my papers to the agents standing at the end of the exit ramp I was allowed to head to the shuttle area which would take me to terminal G, a new terminal for domestic flights on smaller commuter airplanes. I spent the three-hour layover in the crowded Air France lounge full of a cross section of people who fly often enough to merit such a perk (such as it was). As it was, it was overcrowded. The passengers outside the lounger actually had more space, but not the free food and beverages or the extra status (for which, in my observation, people will put up with unusual things sometimes).  I had some tomato juice, and a cappuccino and then left the dubious haven for more elbow room.  The flight to Clermont-Ferrand left on time and landed on time a little before 11:00 am. There were no customs fellows on duty which was fine with me, so I took my suitcase and headed to the car rental counter.  A few minutes later I was on the French autoroute cruising toward our festival site at Saint Jean-la-Vêtre, where I arrived about 12:30.  I had hoped to sneek in unobtrusively – so I could shower and change before being observed, but the entry to the reception area where I could snatch my key, was in clear view of the restaurant where everyone was gathered. So my stealth approach was a failure. The warm greetings from old and new friends however were heartwarming!  My wonderful wife came and kissed me and we walked to our apartment where I could make myself a little more presentable before going for a bite of lunch.  I slept in the afternoon to try to get rested and adjusted and felt more-or-less together by dinner time when I could really go around and greet everyone.

Things are off to a great start here at this site, and it’s so encouraging to see so many old friends from Europe, the Caribbean, and North America as well as Asia and New Zealand. This is a wonderful time of year!

And I’m sure I will sleep well tonight!
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Comments

Tess Washington on

Glad that your African trip was a success and you made it safely to the Feast site in France! Your vivid description of your exit from Togo makes one feel that flying in the US is a piece of cake! Thank you Mr. Meeker for the work that you do with our African brethrens!

mary hendren on

Hello Joel,

It's great to hear that you are safely in France enjoying the Feast with Marjolaine and the brethren. As always we appreciate your daily blog and the glimpse of keeping the Feast in Africa. It was lovely to picture the children playing in the water pools at the base of the falls and to know the brethren had a wonderful start of the Holy Days there.

Mary

Ted Franek on

Great to see you made it safely to France and through all the hassle of the airport regulations. That fruit of "long suffering" shines through in all of your travels through Africa and now to France . Thank you for all that you do for the brethren there and the rest of us as we learn so much from following you on all your travels.

Beverly Lofty on

Thank you soooooooo very much for the time you take to write to us about your "adventures" :-) love reading them :-) you paint great pictures of the places you visit :-) please tell Marjolaine we say HI and we will miss seeing you when we return to Cincinnati :-( but then again, we may have the pleasure of meeting up in Dallas :-) Bev Lofty

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