Hubby travelled to Chile at the start of April, in order to visit the seriously impressive Atacama Large Milimetre Array (ALMA) Telescope in the high mountains of northern Chile. It’s all part of his work for the project to build the radio telescope known as the Square Kilometre Array in Southern Africa.
He had a great time, met some friendly people, and even experienced an earthquake! It was the 8.2 earthquake just off the coast near Iquique; luckily, he and his colleagues were in the mountains at the time, quite some distance from the epicentre, so they were spared the serious damage on the coast. But he did experience one of the numerous large aftershocks a few days later in Santiago, just before he flew back home. It certainly made the trip a memorable one!
But the main reason why we will never forget this trip is that, when hubby finally reached OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on the morning of Sunday, 6 April 2014, after more than 24 hours of travelling, he was dismayed to find that his suitcase had not arrived with him. 😦
Not only did it contain all his best and smartest clothes – it was an official business trip, after all – as well as some gifts for loved ones back home, but little Edward T Bear was also tucked inside!
Admittedly, that had been my fault: I had snuck Edward into hubby’s suitcase, because I couldn’t travel along, and thought that hubby could take some fun photos of Edward in various places along his journey – rather like we’ve been doing with Flat Kathy, who even has her own blog.
However, it didn’t quite work out that way. I guess some people feel self-conscious when they have to do posed photographs of adorable fluffy teddy bears in public places – okay, I can understand that ;-).
So the only photo I have of Edward T Bear is this one, taken in Santiago:
Of course, on realising that his suitcase was AWOL, hubby immediately laid a complaint, or whatever it is you do, with SAA‘s offices at OR Tambo to ask them to locate it. Alas, it is now Wednesday night (he arrived in the country on Sunday), and there is NO SIGN of the missing suitcase. We’ve been checking the status on the ‘World Tracer’ website, but there is no news. And in this case, no news isn’t good news.
SAA maintains that they cannot even trace it ‘on the system’, and surmises that it probably never reached Sao Paulo in Brazil, which was his intermediate stopover.
Which means that, when hubby checked it in on Saturday morning at Santiago Airport in Chile, the airline – LAN – didn’t put it on the flight. Or, even, registered it on their system.
How that is even POSSIBLE, is completely and utterly beyond me.
Surely, when you plunk your suitcase down on the counter at check-in, and they weigh it and wrap that little sticky thing around it, and then send it off on the conveyor belt to the black hole from whence it’s miraculously ferried to the correct airplane, it must be on the system?
Phoning the airport in Santiago, and the airline itself, hasn’t been fruitful – the 5-hour time difference between South Africa and Chile complicates things, as does the fact that NO ONE seems to speak or understand English. It’s not even certain that we have the right telephone numbers.
We’ve also been Googling lost luggage problems with LAN and trying to figure out how to locate our suitcase – and Edward T Bear, of course. It seems that LAN has the most appalling track record for losing luggage and employing indifferent, uncommunicative und unhelpful staff. There is a veritable avalanche of people expressing frustration, helplessness, outrage and despair, at their failed attempts to be reunited with their treasured possessions.
It seems that the only solution is to go physically to Santiago airport and nag and harass the staff there in Spanish until they find your lost luggage. But we’re a long way away, and don’t speak Spanish, so we can’t. 😦
And as the days pass, our chances diminish.
On the off-chance that there is ANYONE – preferably fluent in both Spanish and English – reading this blog-post at Santiago Airport, could you perhaps pop on over to their lost luggage counter and see whether you can find hubby’s suitcase?
We would be eternally grateful, as hubby has run out of suitable clothes to wear to work – and Edward T Bear is no doubt very homesick indeed.
What we’re looking for is the slightly smaller brother of this Paklite suitcase – it also has an orange TSA approved lock, and a colourful (blue or purple?) ribbon or something wrapped around the handle, to help us identify our suitcase quickly on the caroussel at the airport. It definitely has a big address tag, so I don’t know why no one has looked at that and said to themselves, “Hey, this suitcase belongs to someone! We’d better go and check where it should have gone!”