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Return to Rwanda (part 1)
Monday, 08 August 2011 Written by Doug Shaw

Return to RwandaEven today travelling to Rwanda is a bit of an ordeal. Of course it is easier than in the past but it is not a hot tourist destination like Hawaii or Mexico or the Caribbean are back home in Canada.

Rwanda is marketed as an adventure holiday destination to see the mountain gorillas. It is definitely not a trendy Club Med resort type of destination as there are no direct flights nor are there any convenient connecting flights. As a result we are stuck with a 12 hour layover at London’s Heathrow Airport.

My son, Tim and I decide to spend the day walking around London. Navigating our way through British immigration was easy once we found the location. Heathrow reminds me of why I don’t play computer games – I always had a lot of trouble trying to plot a course through the maze of chambers up through the various levels and then finding my way back...

London certainly changed in the 25 years since I last visited. Surprisingly I still remembered how to walk to Buckingham Palace from the tube station. Last time I was in central London for six weeks and near the end even the Londoner’s would stop and ask me for directions. This time it was more like six hours and only the tourists would ask for my help, and then only to take pictures of them in front of well-known landmarks.

As it happened it was July 1st and Canada Day. Kate and William were on their first Royal Tour in Canada. Newsstands had cute little pictures of the couple inside of maple leafs. This quite possibly contributed to the surprisingly large amount Canadian flags being displayed in London. Many proud Canadians wore maple leaf emblazoned t-shirts. Others Canadians had the maple leaf painted on their faces. Tim and I pretended we were Americans.

We had flown Air Canada from Calgary to London. Utilitarian but bland, Air Canada is the instant Vanilla Pudding of air traffic. All the employees of Air Canada were competent and polite but forgettable. Stewardesses and Stewards were helpful – I think. Meals were … I can only say forgettable as I never took notes. Movie choices were boring. Washrooms were clean.

From London to Addis Ababa we flew Ethiopian Air. Ethiopian is not the Crème Brule (my absolute favorite desert) of the airline world but more like home-made cookies -usually pretty good but sometimes burnt or undercooked sometimes tart or too sweet. The cookies’ flavor too will vary depending on the ingredients you have at hand. All the Ethiopian Air employees were polite but sometimes lacking in organizational skills, especially during loading and unloading. The toilets were in comparison to Air Canada’s, smaller and dirtier, while the plane itself looked newer and cleaner.

Meals on Ethiopian were better than with Air Canada but is a bit hit and miss on the delivery:

“Would you like a beef or a chicken meal” I am asked.
“Chicken, please” I reply. She hands me a beef. I look up at her.
“We are out of chicken” she explains.
“Would you like a beef or a chicken meal” she asks Tim...

The Ethiopian Air coffee is much superior to the Air Canada coffee. This is to be expected for it is believed that it was in Ethiopia that coffee was first domesticated. Ethiopia grows a lot of coffee, Canada none. Again the actual delivery of the goods lacked finesse. Breakfast had been served and about ten minutes later our stewardess again pushed her cart down the aisle.

“Would you care for coffee or tea?” I am asked.
“Coffee please, Do you have decaffeinated?” I reply.
“No, I am sorry. I have no decaffeinated” the stewardess replies.

She provides me with no other option and suddenly pulls the cart all the way back to the food prep area and then disappears. We appear to be right on the boundary between two of the stewardesses’ work areas and sometimes are served by the stewardess working from the plane’s front towards the back and at other times we are served from the stewardess moving from the back to front. We are right dead centre. I wait until the other stewardess comes to us from the back.

“Would you care for coffee or tea?” I am asked by the second stewardess.
“Coffee please, Do you have decaffeinated?” I reply.
“No, I am sorry. I have no decaffeinated” the second stewardess replies. Just then my first stewardess arrives with a container of freshly brewed Ethiopian decaffeinated coffee. She fills my cup.
“You must have read my mind!” the second stewardess says in disbelief.
“I did.” said the first with a mischievous grin.

To my way of thinking homemade cookies always beat out pre-mixed instant vanilla pudding even if sometimes they get burnt for at other times you get the perfect double chocolate fudge almond mocha cookie. It is worth the wait.

(to be continued...)

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