After a long day of swearing in, celebrating, and then saying goodbye to many of the friends I made during training, we were up bright and early on Thursday to catch our 7:30 flight. I was excited, and a little bit nervous, to finally get to my home for the next two years. After waiting in line, and being cut more than a couple of times, we made it to the check in desk only to be informed that our flight had been over booked and we did not make the cut because a commandante had showed up last minute and taken our spot on the plane. As we were informed by the Peace Corps travel specialist, this is more common than you’d think, and is the exact reason you really need to get to the airport early in Moz.We, along with a cute Portuguese family and about 10 Chinese businessmen, were rescheduled for the 5pm flight to Nampula.
When we received the news, we couldn’t do anything but laugh because it seemed this would be our first experience with LAM that lived up to the nickname many volunteers have for the Mozambican airline, Lost Around Mozambique. In light of this experience, I would like to dedicate this blog post to some of the things that kept me laughing throughout this experience with LAM:
- The irresistible LAMwitch – every time you fly with LAM, regardless of time of day or duration of the flight, you receive a complimentary meal, which more often than not includes a juice box, a muffin, and a cheese and polony (worse version of bologna) sandwich. While not the best thing I’ve eaten, I guess I appreciate the gesture of offering a cold fake meat sandwich?
- Inefficiency for the sake of seeming more legit – When we finally got on a flight that afternoon, I was surprised to see that after checking in we had to get on a bus, because as far as I could see, the only plane we could’ve been getting on was about 100 feet away and easily walkable. I assumed this bus was taking us to a different plane, far and out of sight, but was thrilled to realize that we were legitimately taking a ~15 second bus ride to the plane rather than just walking. But at least the bus was air conditioned!
- Baggage claim – my enjoyment of this may be amplified by the exhausted delusion I have felt by the time I have arrived every time I’ve flown with LAM. Regardless, the baggage claim situation at Mozambican airports has quickly become my favorite part of traveling. There are a number of factors that make this event so special, the first and most important being the types of luggage you see on a flight in Mozambique. People will use anything from coolers, to cardboard boxes, to egg cartons as luggage, all wrapped at the plastic wrap station of the airport. The unusual sizes and shapes of the luggage, combined with the luggage chute and belt makes for some of the best entertainment I have found in Mozambique. Oftentimes, pieces of luggage with get stuck, causing a huge road block until a piece big and heavy enough comes along to break it up, often resulting in several pieces of luggage falling off the belt. People will then wait until the entire plane has unloaded waiting for their luggage, only to realize that it fell of the belt as one of these road blocks 10 minutes ago.
All in all, my first “bad” experience with LAM in the end wasn’t all that bad. I got to spend an extra day in Maputo eating pizza and burritos and drinking coffee milkshakes with some of my best friends in Nampula, and we even got an extra day of per diem to stay the night in the hostel in Nampula City!