Friday, February 5, 2010

Off to Peru... kinda

Having showered the night before, I woke up ready to head to the airport; I woke up at five in the morning.

Some damn fool had set the air conditioning to the coldest setting hoping that that would ensure a better night's sleep. Some damn fool. Me. For the next three hours I would wake up, consider getting out of bed and turning it down, realizing that would mean taking the ladder from my bunk, and potentially falling to my doom, grabbing another towel, and throwing it on me. Each new towel would add to the warmth for about an hour before my body adapted, and I became cold once more. There were enough towels to last until my alarm went off.

Making my way downstairs, I checked out, grabbed an anti-malarial breakfast at 7-11, and boarded a taxi. I snagged a taxi on my first try, “Airport, metered, no tolls.” There was no bartering, there was no complaining, there was just a friendly, “hop on in,” in the most perfect English I'd yet heard. I was a little bit terrified by this, but it was early, and I'd just exited a freezer, stepping into a sauna, and wanted something in between. Something that the blasting aircon in this taxi seemed to offer.

And it was lovely.

The driver was from Laos. Now, I should point out that for the last few weeks I've had people telling me, “it's not L-au-s, it's pronounced L-au.” Just for the record, he pronounced the name of his home country “L-au-s.” So who is propagating this alternate pronunciation? It's shall remain a mystery.

Getting to the airport was smooth as silk; clearing passport control was just as lovely. The only real snag was getting my ticket. I became that person you hate to wait behind. The one that turns a quick, here's my passport, give me my ticket please, exchange into something terrible long winded. Secret phone calls were made as I waited.

It turned out that I didn't have a ticket booked out of Peru home. I explained that I had a ticket booked later for Argentina. This did not seem to suffice. I pointed out that I had one for Los Angeles. This was more acceptable it seemed. Minutes ticked away as numbers, and letters were punched into computers, and I was left waiting. When she spoke once more, she asked me for my Argentina details. Apparently this was acceptable now. She then asked me for the airport code to punch into her computational machine. I told her EZE. I think that's right. I'm pretty sure. But, again, if this information is important, why trust the person giving it? And once again, if you need to use airport codes on a regular basis, why doesn't your computer have a database? Seriously people, this is not 1983. Mind you, even then such a database could have been created and used. Maybe it was, computers being all new and business like back then.

But fear not, for I got my ticket to Frankfurt, and even my connecting flight to Sao Palo Brazil. But not for my flight from Brazil to Lima. Apparently I would need to get that there. I fear delays. I was also told that my luggage was checked all the way through; probably. This was not filling me with confidence. No confidence was I filled with. But what could I do? I grabbed what I was given, smiled, and carried on.

It was time to spend my final few baht. Had I planned better I could have got a Burger King burger, and a Dairy Queen sunday. As it stood, I was two baht short, ending up with double the ice cream instead. It didn't matter. The plane would feed me.

Shortly I was on board the plane, leaving South East Asia behind me. And I was fed. And given multiple opportunities to drink alcohol. The elderly couple beside me took each and every opportunity, of which I was awake for 6 during the course of the flight, but as each time my eyes opened their glasses seemed full again, there were clearly more.

I grabbed a beer on the first two passes. These would be enough to knock me out, ensuring that I obtained some sleep on these terrible flights. The schedule was not ideal. I flew out of Bangkok at 1:30pm, would arrive in Frankfurt thirteen hours later, but time zones would make that only 7pm, it would be 10pm when I flew out, and 12 hours later I would arrive in Brazil at some other god awful hour, before trying to get to Lima (provided my connecting flight ticket can be obtained.) Not ideal. And at no point do I want to be drowsy. I'd like to stay alert – stay safe.

On the plane the first thing I noticed was no in seat video player. Great. Well, I expected this which is why i was prepared with many many books. Well, just two books, but they combined into over fifteen hundred pages of reading.

I'm still readying Red Rabbit. I hate Tom Clancy. I do. His writing is terrible, and grade two reading level, and as my mind picks up whatever narrative style I'm currently reading, I'm thinking in god awful, underdeveloped, third person thoughts. I dreamed in Tom Clancy thoughts. It hurts. But there's something that keeps me pressing on. Perhaps the ease of the reading, or the desire to just get to the end and say – there, that's it, no more. Read on I do.

Hundreds of pages flipped by, pushing me just past the half way mark. This will never end.

After meal number two I set myself to sleep again. When I woke up we were descending out of the sky, hurtling towards the ground. Somewhat terrifying when you just wake up. I struggled to put my seat belt on, and clipped it just in time to touch down. Most airlines I have flown would have woken me up and admonished me for not having had my belt attached. But not this one. What a way to wake up that would have been, Ka-Chunk.

Frankfurt airport was a treat. In a haze I walked the maze of terminals, and passed through security checks, and made small talk about Maple Leafs, and then found some tile to sit on and type. Sitting now at gate C14 I can only hope this is the right place. There are other people here which is good, but the display monitors are all off. There's also high pitched beeping that is driving me slightly crazy. I do not function well without sleep these days – which strikes me as odd, as for years I've not required it all that much. I think it's the heat. That's what it must be. Once back in my own climate, I'll revert to my normal self, yes?

Oh – and there's snow here! Real honest to god white stuff. Not The White Stuff, because that's just a die from Killer Bunnies, but white stuff nonetheless. I'm excited. I can see it through the window. People wear jackets here.

Won't that beeping stop?!

I'm pulled back to the final moments on board my flight. The lights of Frankfurt reach out below me, and it strikes me that some people are going home. Home to warm houses, and fires, and coco. Hot wine, friends, and family. The lights reach out welcoming and beckoning. On a night like this when I see snow for the first time, I wonder what home must be like; I wonder where home is.

The tile is cold beneath me at gate C14 where I sit waiting for a message to call me forth, push me onwards. So few things can mean so much to so many.

On board my next flight the woman beside me begins to chat. A twelve hour flight. This could be a death sentence. I want to read. I want to – well I can't watch movies, because once again there are no entertainment units built into these planes. It's like the late nineties. Crazy. I want me touch screen on demand movies.

But I talk to the lady beside me, who turns out to be quite delightful, as they most always are. At some point though, after dinner, I slowly fade into sleep. With all the time zones I'm crossing night and day become mere illusions. I have no idea how long I've been awake, nor how long I will sleep.

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