Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bureaucracy Blues

We've been really anxious over this Iceland thing. Most of the flights in Europe have been grounded for five days because of a lingering cloud of caustic volcanic ash from a volcanic explosion in Iceland. These Icelandic volcanos aren't very nice: a few hundred years ago one went off and the resulting worldwide famine caused the French Revolution. The last time this particular one blew was in the 1820's, and there was no summer that year.

So it blew again last week and European officials instantly closed down the airspace over most of Western Europe. Here's the problem: they never actually tested the ash to see if it would harm planes. Five days later they run test flights and discover that there probably wasn't a need for the ban. Millions of people have been stranded for almost a week; the airline industry has lost over a billion dollars now, and countless businesses from Kenya to Nebraska have been strained or even ruined from this little mistake. Now that the bureaucrats have realized their mistake, it still might not be until Friday until they pull their heads out and get flights fully moving again.

We are flying out tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1:00 pm, with layovers in Memphis and Amsterdam before arriving in Accra. There's a high possibility that we'll be grounded in Memphis for a few days. I'd much prefer Pediatorkope to Tennessee, I'll tell you.

We thought that was the only headache to worry about, but it turns out bureaucracy is everywhere: in order to travel to Ghana you need to pay $50 to apply for a tourist visa. You mail your passport to the Ghanaian embassy in DC, and then they stamp it and mail it back. We sent our applications to the BYU travel office weeks ago, but just found out that they sat on them until it was too late. They paid the fees to rush our applications, but the Ghanaian embassy is backlogged with paperwork right now and says they won't be sending our visas back until this morning (Tuesday). So they will hopefully be arriving tomorrow or the next day, and I have to get on the plane tomorrow. If this delays my flight, I don't know if I'll be able to get on standby or rebook.

This whole week I've been praying that the volcano would stop its antics: turns out I should have been praying for bureaucrats to do their jobs--an even more impossible request.

1 comment:

  1. We are following you! (your blog that is) Here's to a speedy and safe journey!!! Bring us back a rock!