Adventures in Travel with IEP

Lehnerts and luggage left behind...
We’re here in Windhoek – all 16 of us! But it was a bit of an adventure to get here. Traveling internationally is almost always an adventure. Add to the equation a large group with a lot of medical equipment along for the ride and it’s a lot to manage. Even so, the biggest challenge is usually making sure we get everything at the baggage carousel when we reach our destination.

Namibia gets a little more challenging because we also have an overnight stop-over in Frankfurt, Germany before our flight to Namibia the next day. That means getting all of our gear through customs and into taxis to the hotel – and back again the next day. Twelve of us arrived in Frankfurt on Thursday, where we met up with another two team members before our flight on Friday.

Everything went smoothly at check-in – 14 people, 14 suitcases, and 14 boxes of equipment. We went through passport control and security with no problems. And then, we discovered an interesting challenge at the gate. It turns out that Namibia had enacted a new law shortly after our last trip. Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of it. Out travel guidance didn’t flag it and the airline didn’t have any information about it during ticketing or even the check-in process.

Most of the team was checked into the final boarding area before the Lehnerts were stopped. These kids have passports that rival global business travelers, but they didn’t have their birth certificates with them. Meet the new law. A couple of other families were in the same situation, so there was a fair bit of excitement at the gate from them.

But medical missions require all sorts of flexibility – from the initial planning right into the operating room. So, the Lehnerts handled it with class – while the rest of us watched the whole thing as it unfolded. In the end, we continued our journey while they stayed in Frankfurt with all their luggage and half our supplies.

By the time we landed in Windhoek the next morning, they’d had someone go to their house and send photos of the boys’ birth certificates. We had our own bit of fun with some confusion around our work visas but made it out of the airport in time to watch the sun rise as we headed into the city from the airport. We met up with Drs. Nyska and Palmanovich who had arrived from Israel the day before and had a good dinner to share our travel adventures.

There’s only one flight from Frankfurt to Namibia each day, so the Lehnerts arrived this morning. A bit of excitement, a little drama, but everything worked out in the end. On our previous trip, we arrived Sunday and immediately started work on Monday. This time we arrived on Saturday (most of us anyway), so the delays had no impact on our work. Phew!

So, its Sunday afternoon and all 16 of us are here. We’ve gone through all our 12 boxes of equipment to stage everything for the hospital. Tonight, we have a dinner with the leadership of United Africa Group, several officials from the Namibian government, and part of the local medical team. And tomorrow, we head to the hospital for patient screening.

Our adventure in Namibia has officially begun!