Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kigali Airport

As I was leaving Rwanda for Ethiopia, an incident at the Kigali airport left me with a deep impression and even more respect for the Rwandan people.

We had to go through security check when we entered the airport.  I had to place my  suitcase and my backpack on the track that led into the scanner, take my laptop computer out of my backpack and place it in a tray, empty my pockets and put everything in a tray, …   It was a bit of a hassle but I had done it a hundred times before and I managed it without too much trouble.  

We then went through passport control.  No problem.  

We had arrived at the airport more than 2 hours ahead of the time of departure.  Then we found out that the plane was delayed for more than an hour.  So we had more than 3 hours to kill.  But we had time so we were not worried.  I went to the lounge to see what was available.  It was already midnight and there wasn’t much left.  So I had a coffee and read some newspapers.  

When it was about time to board the plane we had to pass through another security checkpoint to get to the boarding gate.  I had to take my laptop out of my backpack again.  Except that my computer was not in my backpack!  Where could it be?  Had I lost it?  Did someone steal it?  What a disaster!

My colleague tried to help me recall what happened.  I remembered that the last time I saw it was when I took it out out my backpack at the first security check point at the entrance to the airport.  I did not remember putting it back.  So I might have left it there.  Would it still be there?  Could I get out there again?  It was already way past midnight, would someone still be there?  

We rushed back to passport control.  An officer was still there.  I explained my situation. He told me to leave my passport with him and to get to the first security check point to see whether I could find my computer.  I rushed down the stairs.   I was glad at that point that the airport was not big.  

As I approached the check point, I could see a computer sitting on a small desk next to the scanner, and two officers, one female and one male, were standing around.  I explained that the computer was most probably mine.  They asked me to prove it.  I suddenly realised that I had no ID on my body.  The male officer asked me what was in my computer and what would appear on the screen if they open it.  I started to describe the mail program, the Safari browser, …  I gave them my name and assured them that my name would be everywhere in the computer.   I was probably not very coherent at that point.  I don’t think I was panicking but I was certainly excited.  The man spotted my boarding pass in my shirt pocket and pulled it out.   Then we opened the computer and of course everything was as I described.  They gave me back my computer and I breathed a big sigh of relief. 

It was only then when I noticed that the security officers were smiling and friendly throughout the while time.  The immigration officer was also helpful.  Everyone was behaving honourably and respectfully, while dong their jobs.  

I couldn’t help thinking that my computer had been sitting there for 3 hours, with few people around.  If it happened in some other country, I probably would not be able to see my computer again. 

Ever since I came to Rwanda for the first time in 2013, I have always had great respect for the people here.  This episode just enhanced that respect, tremendously.   Thank you so much, my friends.

No comments: