PNG report #10

July 17

Early this morning we checked our bags into the airport for the flight back to Port Moresby. (Tomorrow we will be heading to Australia for another week before going home.) Once the bags were checked in, we went back to the house – the drill is to wait until you hear the plane coming in (the airport is right next to the mission) and then drive back to the airport to get on the flight.

Several of the women came to see us off – Noreen, Ruth, Roslyn and Margaret (our pal from the mountain walkabout) – as well as most of the national nuns. They have been so welcoming and giving – the goodbyes were tough to do.

The plane made it in after lunch and we dutifully headed back to the airport. Some of the women and nuns had walked on ahead just to see us off. Lots of hugs, some tears, just a little bit of a wait while the plane unloaded – and then we were off.

Port Moresby felt twice as hot coming back to it as it had when we left. We were met by one of the nearby priests and (as we had been cautioned to do) reconfirmed our flight out for tomorrow. Good thing we did!

The flight to Brisbane had been changed from 3:30pm to 10:30am. PLUS, did we know that our flight home from Brisbane to LA had been cancelled by Quantas and we were now scheduled to go Brisbane-Aukland-LA-San Francisco-Cincinnati?!?!?! OH! It doesn’t sound good! Will have to deal with that when we get to Brisbane.

In the meantime, we enjoyed the evening with some fellow travelers from Australia, had a good meal and hoped for the breeze to continue through the night.

July 18

Knowing that it would take only 15 minutes at the most to go from Xavier Institute to the airport, we were picked up at 7:15am – and arrived at 9am after the most horrendous traffic jam ever in Port Moresby history (or at least known to the priest driving us)! Traffic just crawled. We finally reached the turn-off to the airport to see a barricade that had been moved and uniformed men standing on the side waving people through. Hmmmm…. That should have been a warning.

When we pulled up in front of the International Airport, there was a crowd of people in front of the doors – and no one going in. Turns out that the air traffic controllers had gone on strike that morning. One guard, definitely drunk, told us no one would be flying that day.

People are eternally optimistic, though, and we decided to stay… just in case. The priest left to do some errands, promising to return to collect us if indeed no flights would be going out. After about a half hour of sitting outside, the doors opened and we were able to get boarding passes for our flight – with no indication as to when the flight would actually leave.

The waiting areas filled as people kept coming in for their scheduled flights. The priest found us trying to stay cool (no apparent air conditioning was on in the building) and again offered a ride back to Xavier Institute if it was needed. Miri and I persevered; flights were eventually announced and the gates were opened with Air Nugini providing juice and cookies to keep everyone happy. We finally left about 1:30pm, arriving in Brisbane later than expected but earlier than we had previously told our hostess to expect us.

A quick air train ride into downtown Brisbane – just to show Miri a bit of the city before it got dark, and then a cab ride out to The Gap and we were able to settle into my friend’s home for the next couple days.

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