Back Again in Africa

Hello from Maseru, Lesotho! I arrived in this small landlocked country (completely surrounded by South Africa) on Wednesday afternoon and have been meaning to write a post since then but as soon as I hit the ground things have been going non-stop. I am here to help out with starting up another new project that we recently won. My role here will be similar to the role I was playing in Mozambique back in June/July. I will be here for the next four weeks, and we hope to get a good start on the project by then.

The project itself is a rural water and sanitation project in Lesotho. Over the next 3 years, we will help the government to implement 250 water systems in 250 rural communities in the 10 districts of the country, and up to 30,000 latrines. Along with that, of course, is the softer side of capacity building, hygiene promotion and operations and maintenance training. It is an interesting project in that we are not actually implementing the project, but working side by side with the government to help them manage the project. We will have a team of people in Maseru and the districts for the next 3 years.

So far, I have only seen a small part of the city. The city itself is not big, but it has more amenities than the city where I was located in Mozambique, as this is the country’s capital. There are several decent restaurants, for example. The weather has been decent – certainly much nicer than at home! Today was a lovely sunny day with a high of probably 20-25C. At night it is cool as the city is located at 1500m, and this is also the rainy season, so it does rain quite often, but seemingly not for long periods of time. I am staying a in B&B outside the city centre in a quiet neighbourhood. My room has a kitchenette, which is great!! One of the things that is not at the top of my list while traveling for so long is having to eat at restaurants constantly, where your choice of side dish is limited to French fries. I probably won’t be able to upload any photos for at least a few weeks as I am using a 3G internet stick for internet access, and it’s quite expensive (you pre-pay by the MB).

My trip here was not the best trip I have had. It started off poorly and never really got any better! I had check in online at home so Dave and I didn’t get to the airport until 1.5 h before my flight. On a normal day at the Ottawa airport, that would not have been a problem, but it happened to be Thanksgiving Monday and I was flying on Air Canada. The result was very very long lines to drop off baggage. When we finally got to an agent, she told me she could not check my baggage all the way through because I didn’t have a visa to get into Lesotho. Theoretically, if you are going to stay in the country for more than 14 days, you need a visa. This is the notice the check-in lady got on her computer, at which point she needs to see a visa. Despite my assurances that in fact I did not need a visa (I had called the high commission twice to make sure), she would not budge. So I checked my bag to Johannesburg. I had a two hour stopover, which should have been plenty of time. Oh, and my bag was overweight so I had to pay extra…all of this was eating up time and causing me stress. I had to go straight through security and to the get for boarding.

The flight was fine – no problems there. We arrived in London on time and I headed through customs to the Yotel in T4. My layover was about 12 hours, so I booked a Yotel pod to get some sleep and possibly take advantage of the free wifi. It was a great plan – the room was quite small, but adequate. I slept for about 5hrs and had a shower (a real treat on a long trip!). I was also able to order my lunch to my room without having to leave the hotel and go into the airport to find food. The wifi also gave me a chance to get someone back at the office in Ottawa to look into whether I was going to have problems in Jo’burg due to the visa issue.

Unfortunately, at this point the trip took a turn for the worse. I packed up my things and headed for T1, went through security and waited around the airport for my gate to show up on the screen. Wouldn’t you know it, 5 min after the number was supposed to show up, the screen showed my flight was delayed. By nearly 2 hours. Not good when I had to get my baggage and check into my next flight on arrival in Jo’burg. There wasn’t much I could do about it – I asked at the desk to see if I could re-book my flight, but they wouldn’t do it until they knew for sure what time the flight took off. I was assured it would all be taken care of, if necessary, in Jo’burg. I slept for a good part of the 11h flight. We arrived earlier than expected and I had hopes that I might actually catch my next plane. I didn’t know when the next flight would be to Maseru. My bag took forever to come off the belt, but I still had 30 min to spare so I rushed to the check-in booth, where they told me it was too late.

This started my attempts to get re-booked! It should have been easy. It wasn’t. After at least 30-45 min of back and forth between the ticketing desk and the check-in desk, I was finally able to check into the next flight to Maseru, which luckily was at noon. So, I arrived in Maseru, and only a few hours later than expected, so I guess it was so bad but it certainly wasn’t a stress-free journey! Oh, and they gave me a 30-day stamp in my passport no questions asked on arrival in Maseru.

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Posted in lesotho | travel | work Submitted by Meg on Sun, 2009-10-18 14:17

pictures

Submitted by Meg on Tue, 2009-10-20 14:02.

I hope I can upload some photos too!! That would mean I should probably take a few ... haven't even thought about it yet!

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The joys of international travel

Submitted by Kim (not verified) on Mon, 2009-10-19 07:54.

Don't you just love airlines? Sorry to hear your flights to Maseru were so eventful. I think Air Canada was giving you a hard time because it would have been their responsibility to get you back home if you had been turned away in Lesotho for not having the proper visa. Hopefully your flight back will be better.

I hope you can find some free wi-fi somewhere - it would be great to see photos!

Kim

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Phew!! I'm glad you made it

Submitted by Jenn (not verified) on Sun, 2009-10-18 20:30.

Phew!! I'm glad you made it eventually!! I am looking forward to hearing more about Lesotho and hopefully, if you get a chance, to seeing some pictures.

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