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AFC 2005 - L' Epilogue?

A report on the 26th AFC Congress, September 30 - October 2, 2004 – VICHY, FRANCE

 by George J. Reclos, Frank Panis, Francesco Zezza, John Reclos, Sonia Guinane & Dave Tourle

This was the third time in a row that we would be in Vichy and we were all a bit skeptical about it, mainly because of the short duration of the meeting and the cost which sky rocketed this year. We knew that our beloved friends Patrick and Anne wouldn't be there, but our British friends Sonia and Dave would, which made this visit a must. We also decided to add one more day and arrive there on Thursday so we would have an extra day to see each other. The high cost would be spread over a three day period so it would make (a bit) more sense - if the term "sense" can be regarded as compatible with the word "hobby" ! Sonia and Dave helped us to manage many things so we can say that they, along with our will to meet again were the driving force behind this trip. Of course, planning is one thing; reality is another. Although we had booked everything long before the event (flight tickets, hotel rooms, cars) a lot of things happened which managed to spoil this event to some degree. To start with, Frank and Hilde didn't find a room for Saturday night, so they would leave on Saturday evening to Belgium. Well, this still left us with two days for the whole team plus one extra day with our British friends.

However, here is the time point when, like the ancient Greek tragedies, God's will decided to come on the stage in the form of Alitalia. After spending one hour to pack our fish for this event in Athens, adding oxygen pills, double bags and rubber bands, we drove to the airport where we realized that our flight to Milan was delayed for an hour. Unfortunately, the other flight, connecting Milan to Clermont Ferrand was not delayed so there was no way for us to catch it. The staff at the desk did their best, even examining exotic solutions like a flight to Lyon or to Paris with a night spent there (special thanks are due to Mrs. Alessandra Dimaggio who spent more than an hour trying to solve the problem). However, no matter what they did, nothing could work since we preferred to stay in Athens and take care of the fish in our tanks than in Paris struggling with bath tabs. In the end, we got our luggage back and headed back home. I could see the SMS messages from Francesco telling us that he was already in Milan about to embark for France and we really felt our adrenaline levels rising. Sonia and Frank also called us to ask when they should expect us in Vichy. I can tell you that when they heard us saying "after 24 hours" they were really surprised. Francesco finally made it in time.. so we were the only ones left behind (it seems that I have grown a special personal relationship with Alitalia, whenever there is fish involved). You can read the Italian report on this event here !

Frank > Traveling almost as long as staying in Vichy to see our MCH friends may sound crazy, but this is what we did. After all, seeing each other for 2 days is always better than waiting another year to meet again. We had to drive the same 870Km with our car over Belgian and French roads, but this time we chose the Metz-Nancy-Dijon-Macon route instead of driving through Paris. The main advantage was that we saved 20 Euro in Péage. We faced no serious problems during the trip and only had a short delay caused by a  traffic jam. The last part on secondary roads was a bit tiring though, as the sun was shining in our faces. Especially Hilde got very nervous that last hour. During the trip we sent some friendly teasing SMS messages to the Greek team, but didn't receive any answers. At arrival we checked in at the hotel and took a small rest and got freshened up. Again we tried to contact the Greek team, but also without success. We started fearing for the worst, but decided to go to bed. After all we would have the whole next day to spend with our friends. We got up early and went to the desk to inform about the others. The staff showed us an email from George saying that he would arrive a day later... DAMN!!! There was no news from the Italian team  either, so there was nothing else to do than taking our breakfast and contemplating about how we would spend our day. There we saw Sonia and Dave whom we had already met last year, and we greeted each other heartily. They also knew that George, Christine and Johnny had a delay, but nothing more. All of us wondered what was going on with them. As soon as Sonia and Dave finished their breakfast they left. Hilde and I stayed a bit longer at our table and much to our surprise we saw Francesco, Stefania and Leonardo showing up. YES!!! At least MCH was partially joined. This changed our moods in a very positive way! We catched up on both our fishy matters, talked about the kids and many many other interesting things. We missed the Greek team badly though.

George > Back to Athens, we released the fish in their tanks again (three 100 liter tanks, one for the P. sp. Andapa, one for the small P. damii and one for the large ones) and we just let them rest. At that time we realized that we were out of oxygen pills but the shops were still open so we decided to go and buy an oxygen cylinder (see photo below). In fact, we bought a 12 Kg one just to be on the safe side. Next morning we woke up quite early, prepared the two suitcases from the start, netted the fish, filled their bags with oxygen, closed the (double) bags with double rubber bands, placed them in black bags, wrapped them with clothes and towels and closed the suitcases again. We arrived at the airport confident that this time everything would work Ok for us and the fish - and it did.

This year, you will see some changes in the report we have created for this event. Instead of those huge photos, we decided to use our web space in a different way so we will include more fish photos at a resolution of 600 pixels across and will only comment on a few of them. Thus, we will include 70 pictures of fish and only 28 photos of the event and our preparations... The whole report will download in 40 minutes with a 56 Kbps connection, so please be patient.

Since we had run out of oxygen pills, we decided to invest on an oxygen cylinder. After spending about 200 Euro, we were confident that our fish would travel under the best possible conditions. You can also see the bags at right and the canisters with aged water at left. Nothing left to chance.. Photo by George Reclos.

Stefania, Leonardo, Francesco and Hilde taking a walk around Vichy on Friday morning. We were re-packing our fish at about the same time !! Top photo by Frank Panis; bottom photo by Francesco Zezza

While some guys had a nice time in Vichy, enjoying their walk and playing with their son.. ..  Photo by Frank Panis

.. others were still waiting in the Athens airport to embark. Alitalia upgraded our tickets to business class but we would still prefer to be in Vichy one day earlier even if we had to fly on the wings. Photo by George Reclos

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