I was on my way to Nairobi, Kenya to catch a flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar when I found out I had received an interview to work with an international human rights organization in The Hague, Netherlands.
The interview was scheduled for the next Friday evening at 6 pm, via Skype. My flight was scheduled to leave Nairobi that same morning and arrive in Antananarivo at 1 pm. I was a bit worried about cutting it too close, but I did not have much of a choice. I reassured myself that if all went relatively smoothly, I would arrive in my hotel in downtown Tana by early afternoon, and would have enough time to get settled and go over my notes one last time.
All did not go smoothly.
When I arrived at the Nairobi airpot at 7 am, there was no check-in counter for Air Madagascar and the flight was not listed on any of the computer screens. Nobody working at the airport seemed to know anything about the flight. One airport worker indicated that Air Madagascar no longer existed, which was a bit disconcerting.
Finally, at 9 am a check-in counter opened. The attendant assured me that Air Madagascar did in fact exist and that the flight was leaving on time. He printed me a boarding pass. I asked about the gate number, which was not listed.
“Oh, a gate hasn’t been assigned yet. Just go on upstairs into the waiting lounge and we’ll page you when the information is available.”
I tried to clarify. “But the flight is leaving at 10?”
“Yes. No problem.”
The flight did not leave at 10. A gate had not yet been assigned and I approached the information desk in the waiting lounge. The same agent who had been working at the check-in counter earlier had now moved upstairs. I asked him whether the time of the flight had been changed.
“Is the Air Madagascar flight still scheduled to leave at 10?”
“No, it was never scheduled to depart at 10. That is the winter schedule. We are now operating on the spring schedule. The flight will leave at 1 pm. You should have double checked online.”
“But I spoke to you half an hour ago and you told me that it was still scheduled to depart at 10?!”.
I felt that we had entered the realm of the absurd. The agent shrugged and walked away.
The 1 pm departure time was pushed back to 2 pm which was pushed back to 2:30 pm. I started to become frantic about the interview. I could not contact the organization, because there are no internet or phone facilities at the Nairobi airport.
We landed in Antananarivo at 5:30 pm, half an hour before my interview. I bought a SIM card at the airport, and decided I had no choice but to be interviewed from the backseat of a cab on the way into the city. There were holes in the floor of the cab and springs poking out of the cushions. I snapped at the cab driver as he tried to point out the sights on the way into the city.
I called the organization’s number, got through, and was promptly disconnected. I tried again and again and could not get through. Panic set in.
When I got to my hotel, I logged onto my email and there was a message from the organization indicating that they had a problem with their phone lines. They wanted to reschedule.
I was offered the job several weeks later. A few weeks ago, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends and left Tanzania for the Netherlands.