19 November 2009

Can Turkeys Fly?

I’m in charge of organizing Thanksgiving dinner for the Americans in my office. I’m not a huge Thanksgiving fan, but events planning is part of my job, so I’m thinking of it as another notch on my list of overseas work experience: Bringing frozen turkeys into the heart of darkness.

After some research, it seemed like the best bet was to use a South African import company that we’ve used for food shipments in the past. I emailed my contact and he said frozen turkeys would be no problem. And would we like any cranberry sauce, potatoes, or pumpkin pie filling to go with them? Everyone said, “Yes!” (Except me. I ordered some South African wines—my contribution to the party—and some other yummy cheeses and meats for personal consumption.)

I collected turkey orders from my American colleagues and my South African contact collected turkeys. He’s familiar with American Thanksgiving and knows the pressure is just as much on him as on me to get it right. Americans will not be refused their perfect Thanksgiving, especially when so far from home!

From our last shipping experience, we learned what to do and what not to do in order to get frozen foods through customs quickly. We were ready for Thanksgiving Success.

Who would have guessed that a Rwandair crash in Kigali last week would have any impact on receiving our goods in Bujumbura, from Johannesburg, this week? My contact called in a panic on Monday. The turkeys were supposed to arrive on Wednesday, yesterday, a nice week early. As best as I can tell, the one Rwandair plane that lands in Bujumbura happens to be the one that crashed last week (into the departures lounge at the airport in Kigali!) and Rwandair doesn’t have a spare plane, so all their Bujumbura flights are suspended indefinitely. However, even though they knew flights were suspended, they let me contact go through all the reservations and confirmations for the cargo before telling him it wasn’t going to fly.

The other options are Kenya Airways, which is booked full this week with cargo. Ethiopian Airlines has room, but has a twenty-four-hour layover between here and Jo’burg, which isn’t going to be great for frozen turkeys. There’s a chance Kenya Air can take them for Saturday delivery, but it looks like the earliest will actually end up being Tuesday. If that Tuesday flight doesn’t come through, then I’m the Girl Who Ruined Thanksgiving, even though it really has nothing to do with me.

I want everyone else to have a nice holiday, because that’s the kind of person I am. But personally I think it will be hilarious if Africa wins this one, and we don’t get turkeys. I still have a couple bottles of wine from my last shipment, so my Thanksgiving is all set.


Nick said...

I'd laugh about this, but karma is a biatch here, so it's only a matter of time until Thanksgiving gets jacked up in Liberia, too. Good luck!

derien said...

There aren't any big African birds you can substitute? Personally I'd think Thanksgiving with emu or ostrich would be the greatest thing ever, even if I didn't like the flavor of the meat. (Actually, I'm not that fond of turkey. I can eat it the one time, but as leftovers it starts to gag me pretty quick.)

Shannon said...

So did you get the turkey shipment figured out or is it guinea fowl for Thanksgiving?

Stephanie said...

Nope, there are no other big birds here. They'd have to be special-ordered and flown in as well. Same for guinea fowl. We have chicken. If the turkeys don't arrive on Tuesday, then we'll roast a bunch of chickens. But we always have chicken. Turkey is a unique treat here, which is why it's so important to everyone.


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