As I descended the stairs of the Air France flight to Douala, I was accosted by a wall of heat and humidity. We dragged our bags across the tarmack, up two flights of stairs, and down the unlit passageways leading to passport control. There are no escalators, no moving sidewalks, no air conditioning and barely enough light to see. I didn’t bother stopping to show my yellow fever certificate and no one even noticed. I knew I was back in Cameroon.
The flight was half full of oil platform workers heading to the coast and to Equatorial Guinea, another wealthy dictatorship.. as we all know oil companies just want to drill… and do well in countries with dictatorships. Just keep throwing the money at the bureaucrats and there are no rules.
Waiting at baggage claim I began chatting with a young Lebanese engineer who swore he could fix anything.. He had come to repair engines for oil service company Schlumberger and said
he was lucky to have a job. Most of his friends were out of work. An American environmental researcher I had met on the plane joined us and we waited and waited and waited for our bags.. hers came first and then his…My bags never came.. Air France had no idea where they were. They filled a missing baggage report
and told me to keep in touch.
Myself being a world traveler, I always put in my carryon luggage clothes I would miss dearly, a hair brush, toothbrush and paste, camera and computer gear and all my documents. By some miracle I was able to skype my brother who immediately got on the phone with Alaska and Air France.Neither had any trace of my bags. Yes I would collect thousands for my loss from my insurance but money would not help while I was here for 2.5 months..
Visiting European friends who had lived in Cameroon for eight years, an amount of time I could not fathom in this country, I was given a pair of sandals and German sunblock as I started collecting supplies to replace the ones lost. I had accepted the fact that my luggage was gone and I would have to Fed Ex a bag to survive here. And then my obsolete Nokia cell phone rang. My bags came from Paris. I made a deal with a cab driver sitting in front of one of the $200 a night modern hotels, to take me to the airport. We parked at the underground garage, I was not afraid. My driver was short, chubby and spoke French like the Cubans speak Spanish; I agreed whenever I couldn’t understand anything.
One of the suitcases had the outside pocket torn apart. It must have pissed off whoever took the bag and found out it was filled with plastic garbage bags and one cheap pair of flip flops. I will never know what really happened to my bags.
My Italian friend emailed when he found out my good luck.
I am so happy for you and your Alessi coffee machine..