Rounds three and four

Last Sunday, the consular crew came to work to process 150+ U.S. citizens who wanted to execute promissory notes in advance of an evacuation flight. We continued the process through Monday. People are stressed; while many are kind, others choose the moment to yell at my staff about all manner of things, including the fact that it rained while they were in line. Some emails we get are worse. They say a crisis brings out who a person really is. I try to remember the kind ones and forget the rest. 


We used Tuesday to get our manifests in order and make confirmation phone calls. In the middle of it all, we received word the flight had moved two hours earlier, so we had to scramble to notify everyone to come earlier than planned. We were able to enjoy a tiny bit of the evening when we got home, and had our neighbor Ian up for a glass of wine, along with Chance, his lovely blonde Lab, a former drug-sniffing dog.


Wednesday we headed to the airport before sunrise, where we boarded 250+ private U.S. citizens along with 50+ embassy personnel. It was a huge effort, made more difficult by private U.S. citizens who ignored luggage limits and also packed contraband items such as gallons of palm oil and dried fish in their luggage — all of which had to be unpacked before boarding. The flight ended up being late. As usual, John and I waited at the airport until take-off and finally made it home 12+ hours after leaving for the airport. We had food delivered from a nearby restaurant and then crashed.


Thursday was another round of building manifests and making confirmation calls for another flight on Friday, a smaller manifest of “only” 100. We were actually home by dark on Friday, after a pretty smooth check-in/boarding process. 


One thing I may not have made clear is that the only support we have at the airport are people to take the baggage and put it on the plane, and people to help the handicapped passengers. There are no ticket agents or fancy bag tags. My consular crew checks in passengers from our printed copies of Excel spreadsheets. After check-in, they move to John’s luggage check-in tables, where embassy staff checks them off a print-out, and puts a piece of duct tape on the luggage with their assigned number. It’s an evacuation charter flight – no frills, and it’s all on us.


Saturday John and I stayed home for the most part, nursing the wounds of the week and trying to re-charge. Sleep has been fitful and days have been long. 


I was back in the office for seven hours today with my sole remaining officer (the other two American officers and American associate have evacuated although they continue to assist from the U.S.). We plowed through more spreadsheets and emails trying to figure out the remaining demand for evacuation flights – and yes, there are more who want out. Next week will prove interesting as the embassy and the country go on lockdown. 


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