Flying to Algeria I had mixed emotions. Thrilled to be going to do a job I adore, there were a few loose ends that weren't entirely tied up in regards to my conditions there.
Invited up to the cockpit on the flight, French registered aircraft, French crew, who often speak to Algerian ATC in French. Not sure who was more shocked, that the captain put me on the frequency to first contact Algiers ACC or the Algerian controllers hearing clear English from a female voice!!! The F/O repeated our greetings & we approached Algiers & it's bay on a fairly clear day.
Greeted by some colleagues at the airport, we drove across town to my new abode. I found myself sleeping in a room that was (& would later be) a classroom on a childs bed with a matress that fitted 70% of the bed frame. Being rather tall, it was uncomfortable to say the least but I kept quiet for a while.
The situation got worse on an almost daily basis; repetitive menu twice a day from a filthy square hole known as the kitchen. I was moved to another room, where the windows were so rotten, the rain created large pools of water around the room. Although water was also an issue, not knowing when there would be water to have a shower I was continually juggling my life around to remain partially happy & totally sane.
I've painted a horrible picture. It was terrible but on the upside I have to say that the Algerians I met were the most wonderful, hospitable people. They agreed that they couldn't live in the conditions I found myself incarcerated in. They were shocked by the situation; the only time I was genuinely happy was when I was instructing training courses.
However, I was also happy when I left Algiers & headed east to the town of Setif, about 4hours away by train. Spending the weekend there with a colleague & seeing the incredible Roman site of Djemila was a fantastic escape. On the return train trip to Algiers going past beautiful countryside, I received a phone call admonishing me for leaving Algiers without permission & being a troublemaker having taken a colleague with me.
Of course, my wanderings now seriously curtailed made life all the more difficult. I had forfeited my usual trip down to W.Africa & to do more for CREER to go to Algeria (money was also an issue though!). By the time Christmas day arrived, I was probably at my lowest point in as long as I can remember.
Suddenly a few things fell into place. The course I was instructing was due to finish on 5th January, my best friend & 777 pilot had a trip to Accra on 8th January & the students from the Aviation Club Ghana were asking me to speak at their conference. Between the flight timing & the course finishing to make the flight I made it clear I would leave Algiers on 6th January. It gave me time to fly home for 15hours to change suitcases, fly to the UK & spend a night with family there before continuing onto Accra ...
I was free!
The final weekend in Algeria was New Years; with Algeria having a Friday/Saturday weekend, we also got Sunday as a public holiday. I decided to go off & visit the beautiful town of Tlemcen in the west of the country near the Moroccan border. Absolutely stunning, myself & a colleague spent 24hours there after a long day travelling via Sidi Bel Abbes. The following day we met up with the third member of the team who got to Oran by train & together with an Algerian colleague & his brother saw out 2011 in 'Le Titanic' ... an aptly named Spanish influenced bar restaurant!
Saying goodbye to the Algerians that I had made friends with was no mean feat, if it wasn't for them, I would have left weeks before! I'm indebted to them for being the wonderful group that they were!