Nov 6th: Washington D.C.
From the moment I opened my eyes, I felt disoriented. Given the fact that the walls were not made of mud blocks and it wasn't 105F, I knew I was still stateside, and that this all hadn't been a nightmare. Even though I had only slept about 4 hours, I felt strangely rested.
I called the front desk to obtain the WiFi password since we would need internet access to make some more changes to our accommodations & transportation. That's when I learned the reason we didn't have access to the internet in the lobby while we were waiting to check-in the night before... Internet access cost $12/day. Uhm, notgoingtohappen thankyouverymuch.
I knew that the Sheraton had an internet kiosk, so I decided to walk down to the Sheraton and do our online business at that time.
When I got to the lobby of the Westin, though, I decided to ask if they had an internet kiosk here at the hotel, and learned that they did. No one was using the small business center, so I logged in, made some arrangements to have my mom or brother call to cancel our room for the night of the 6th, and advise our driver not to attempt to pick us up at the airport this afternoon.
I gave my mom the phone number to the hotel and our room number, so that she could call us directly to keep us posted on how things went with the changes in Ghana.
While I waited to hear back from her, I blogged about our adventures to date.
My inbox indicates an incoming email... it's mom. Our hotel, the Westin, would not put the call through, as they indicated that room # 523 did not have our names listed. They did, however, list an Emmanuel and a Jacob -- the men from the shuttle area from the night before. I can assure you that they did NOT stay in our room!
We are getting ready to leave. Joshua indicates that he'd like to go for a swim in the hotel pool before we go. Unfortunately, that wasn't about to happen. We gather up in the lobby only to learn that there are some issues with the food vouchers given to us by United. Not only did the hotel take the food voucher from me last night instead of the accommodations voucher, they could not find my food voucher and could not return it to me.
NOT that it would have done us any good... apparently, they would not honor the food voucher because United had issued "Dinner" food vouchers rather than "Lunch" or "Breakfast" vouchers.
United impresses us yet again! Bravo!
We take the shuttle to the airport, and begin the process all over again. The check-in process took roughly an hour, after which we proceeded to the security area. The check-in agents were great... we told them about our issues from the night before, and told them we appreciated how nice and professional they were, how well they handle all the complaints of issues that should be solved at the management level in order to make the process smoother and more efficient, but with management not flying economy and having access to by-pass most of these hurdles, would they ever learn what the average passenger experience?
We spoke about the issues at the Westin & Sheraton, and they were surprised, saying the Westin & Sheraton were very "nice" hotels. I told them that Westin & Sheraton were indeed *very* nice hotels, and the employees were very nice too -- very politely unhelpful. She thought that was funny and said "I love that!"
When we arrived in security, we were told that Tia and Debra's passes were acceptable, but that mine and Josh's were not.
The check-in agent forgot to take her pen and draw two lines across the boarding pass. Perhaps we had distracted her with our sense of humor. We had to return to check-in and start all over again.
We debated doing an experiment and getting a blue pen to do this ourselves to prove that the process really was ridiculous and pointless, but we couldn't bring ourselves to do it -- we felt it was our duty to entertain the check-in agents who work very hard to process thousands of passengers a day while hearing complain after complaint from every passenger.
We arrived and pointed out that we had failed the security test because the agent had used invisible ink :D They apologized profusely, but we laughed and said "No, no, thank YOU, this really adds to our adventure, and we do appreciate how politely helpful you've been!" That agent was brilliant and brought the best out in passengers. Every airport needs agents like these!
Dragging alllll our carry-on baggage, we once again head to the gate area so that we could look for something to eat. We were weak from not having eaten since arriving in Washington the day before.
We all unload our stuff at a table in the Subway restaurant, only to learn that they also do not accept our food vouchers -- not including the one we didn't have, of course.
We have to walk another mile or so (no, not exagerating) to Wendy's, which finally accepted to let us use our vouchers.
We walk back to our gate area and make attempts to contact Compassion Ghana. We were brainstorming today, and realized that rather than heading to our accomodations in Cape Coast and then connect with Compassion to head to the project, we should instead ask Compassion to bring us directly to the project from the airport, saving us much precious time and possibly quite a bit of funds too. Even more ideal, would be to switch the days of the two visits, as we planned on spending less time at each of those and it's closer. But, if we can't get a hold of someone before we leave the chances of making these adjustments greatly diminishes.
Our attempts to contact them did not work.
We sit and wait to board the plane... praying this time it might actually take off and land in Ghana and not have to suddenly detour to elsewhere like Timbuktu. Although I've always wanted to say I've been to Timbuktu, literally speaking.
We pray, and make another attempt to reach our Compassion contact in Ghana works -- praise the Lord, we reached our contact, explained the situation, and he will hire us the transportation we need to go directly to the project from the airport.
We get the blanket back from the woman we lent it (?!) to last night at the shuttle area. After yet another bathroom break, we'll wait for boarding call, and pray that this time, our flight brings us safely to Ghana -- perhaps even a little earlier than anticipated.
GREAT NEWS!!!!! They just made an exciting announcement! Since they already checked our passports and yellow fever documents last night, we don't need to haul out our passports again!!!
I clapped and cheered!
Magnet in the Gift Shop:
Flight attendant on Tia's Flight from Detroit to Washington D.C. "Welcome aboard! Your pilot will be flying you sober into Washington Dulles today." Is it a rare thing for him to fly sober?