While the whole world is talking about COP21 and Climate-Smart Agriculture this week, I decided to write on a completely different topic. Not that I am not interested in the climate negotiations taking place in Paris (I am following it closely on Twitter), but this one is a long-overdue post that I’ve meant to write months ago.
Trip to Burkina Faso
It’s December 2014, and I’ve just bought my tickets for my next holidays to Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in West Africa. I was booked with Turkish Airlines and it was the first time that I was going to fly with this company. My only reason to choose them was the price. Return tickets from Amsterdam to Ouagadougou were around 600 Euros, which was a good deal for me.
With my bags packed, passport and visa in hand, I was all set to fly to Ouagadougou via Istanbul on 7th February 2015. On the first flight itself, I was pleasantly surprised by the service and hospitality on board. Starting from the plane itself, to the food and crew, everything was perfect. Having visited over 30 countries, trust me when I say that it is not easy to impress me. But with the special attention of serving Turkish delights (sweets) as welcome treat on board and the homemade lemonade as soft drink option on the menu, Turkish Airlines really won my confidence.
During the transit in Istanbul, I could not help stopping by the Duty Free shop before running to my boarding gate to buy some Turkish delights for friends and family. It’s only later that I would realise that it was a really bad decision…
Close to midnight, I finally landed in Burkina Faso. Escaping from the cold winter in the Netherlands, it was a complete bliss to feel the warm breeze embracing me on getting off the plane. Going through immigration and custom was quite quick, and I was happy to get out of the airport.
The next morning, I took a tour of the city by motorbike (the most common means of transport in Ouagadougou) and met some friends. In the afternoon, I had a meeting and just before going out, I discovered that my wallet was not in my bag. Panic struck me and I could not remember where I might have left it.. In Netherlands? In Turkey? Or somewhere in Burkina Faso itself?
After thinking hard, I remembered that I last used the wallet at the Duty Free shop in Istanbul, and I might have left it on the counter at the cashier. My first instinct was to call the lost and found department in Istanbul and see what can be done. Unfortunately, the lady who took my call was speaking Turkish and language barrier did not make it possible to communicate further. Next, I wrote an email to the same department, with the description and content of the wallet.
My main concern at this point was not the wallet or money in it. My residence permit for the Netherlands (without which I cannot take my flight back to Amsterdam one week later), my other IDs and credit cards were in that wallet. With this situation, my mood was spoilt already, but I went for the meeting that I had, just to keep my mind away from this trouble for some time.
And a Facebook message came
When I got back, I went to check my Facebook profile and there was a message in my inbox. The message was from a Turkish Airlines employee, who found my wallet at the Duty Free shop in Istanbul and informed me that he has given it to the concerned authority. This was the ray I hope I needed. The wallet had not been stolen and there were still chances that I recover it.
But I could not wait to go to Istanbul to get it as I needed the residence permit in the wallet before boarding the plane on my way back to Amsterdam. The fact that the guy from Turkish Airlines had filled out a form when submitting it, describing the content in it and sent a copy of that form to me, it made it easy for me to try to get the wallet to come to Burkina Faso.
So, I went to the Turkish Airlines office in Ouagadougou and explained the situation to the staffs there. Fortunately, they said that it was possible for them to do it for me, provided I write a letter to them, giving authorisation to transport the wallet from Istanbul to Ouagadougou.
Wallet in hand
As they promised, I received a call some days later from the Turkish Airlines office informing me that my wallet had arrived in Ouagadougou and I could pick it up at their office.
It was the officer in charge of transit who received me in his office and I was asked to check the content in the wallet and write them down for their records. Having travelled to various places before it, I had all kinds currencies in there (Euro, Mauritian rupee, Ghanaian Cedi, Pound Sterling, Kenyan Shillings etc.) and had to write down each one of them. At that moment, I was thinking why I did not remove them before… It took some time, but after a while, I finished all formalities, and had my wallet with its contents intact in my hands!
“You have been very lucky. 95% of people who lose their personal belongings don’t get it back. We are happy that we have been able to get your wallet safely to you,” said the Transit Manager at the Turkish Airlines office in Ouagadougou.
Indeed, this experience made me realise how lucky I have been. But most importantly, it made me realise the power of Facebook and social media. Sometimes, we just don’t realise how our online presence can be in our favour (or sometimes play against us – but that’s another story). Having my real name and photo on my Facebook profile, has allowed me to track and get back a lost wallet in another continent. When traditional methods of communication (phone and email) did not work in my case, social media came to the rescue.
With this, I would like to thank Turkish Airlines and it employees for their professionalism with which they have dealt with the situation. And of course, I’ve always been a big fan of Facebook and it’s just another example how it is making a difference and impact in our lives.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my first travel blog. More will be coming, stay tuned! 🙂