We are all at the gate about to leave for Uganda!
Simply maneuvering the panels and equipment across time zones and oceans has already been a learning experience. We would not have been able to bring our solar panels and packs to this point, overcoming various obstacles and challenges, without the help of a few wonderfully giving human beings.
Leaving Denver International Airport, our oversized and severely overweight boxes were tagged and shipped with the help of Holly A and Patty C at United Additional Services Counter along with Jerry Martinez, the ramp supervisor.
Upon arrival in Belgium two days ago, the solar panels were left up against a wall near lost luggage. Unfortunately, the panels are bulky and heavy or else we would have easily taken them outside and found a locker. Instead, we scrambled unsuccessfully to find a luggage cart. We were told there was nowhere to put the panels even if we could move them somewhere else. After an hour or so of confusion, a security guard, now hero, at customs, Dirk, selflessly provided skilled help. Dirk is an extremely kind and dedicated man. He quite literally sprinted around the airport finding a luggage cart, translating between French and English, checking flights, and manually lifting panels around. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts. Eventually Dirk found where we could store the solar panels at the Brussels airport. This, especially in light of terrorist attacks there a few months before, was no easy feat.
With Dirk, Brussels Airport Security Officer
After a 48 hour layover in Brussels, we came with a resolute attitude back to the airport. We easily collected the panels but then were met with the same dilemma of being unable to move them. Using a two-leveled luggage rack we maneuvered the panels to an elevator, unloaded them, reloaded them, put them on another elevator, and reloaded. Then they wouldn’t fit through the door into the first security checkpoint we so rolled one across on a makeshift rack of 2 small carts on top of another box which was extremely unbalanced. I am sure that at one point Mr. Boyce had a panel supported upon his back alone.
We again were incredibly lucky to meet wonderful people at check-in willing to help. Miriam at Brussels Airlines checked our baggage and tickets and was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She quickly called her supervisor to ensure that our baggage would be checked to Entebbe even though they were outside of European size regulations. Cedric, a Brussels Air supervisor, could not have been more accommodating. “The U.S., they send me goats and solar panels. Goat I sent back. [sic]” Luckily, he didn’t send back the solar panels! As I write our six solar panels and PV supplies are (hopefully) being loaded onto our plane. We have an 8 hour flight and a host trip of experiences ahead of us. I am infinitely grateful to the people whom we have encountered for working to make this journey possible.
Miriam, Abbie, Cedric, and Lauren ready to send off the panels to the plane to Uganda
More adventures to come,