Friday, May 9, 2014

"The Climb"

Le Chatau de Chillon
I should quickly mention that the last few days I was in Europe were great. My family took the time to travel around Switzerland where we toured a chocolate factory and a cheese factory just up the street from each other. We explored Geneva and its old city center. We explored the Roman ruins just below street level and once again bought chocolate. We explored not one, but two ancient castles, and walked the streets in Medieval Bern. Also, as a nice little break, we stop by the Bern Switzerland Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because, let’s face it, when you are LDS (Mormon), traveling abroad, that is just what you do.

Bern Switzerland LDS Temple
I needed to take that second to remember all the fun I had just a few days ago because the last 24 hours have not been so glamorous. Don’t get me wrong; I do not regret deciding to do this internship/study abroad/tour in Africa, but sometimes, traveling just sucks. This sort of traveling isn’t what the great poet, Miley Cyrus, describe as “The Climb” where you are somehow expected to learn something. Save the learning for anywhere except for the airport. This sort of travel is the hot and sticky, “I haven’t bathed or brushed my teeth in over 60 hours”, just get this over kind of traveling. I am that type of guy who gets to the airport with plenty of time to spare because airports and buses stress me out. This stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I am always aware of where I am and what is going on, but I do tend to gnaw on my fingernails to the point that they start bleeding. Maybe I should stop that… anyway, here is everything that happened.

Swiss Chocolate!!!
Thursday May 9, my mom and I drove our rental car from Geneva to Paris (about a 6 hour drive) to make it to Charles-de-Gaulle International before our flights left (my mom is taking a few days London, because, let’s be real, she wanted to, and she does what she wants). After we returned our rental car, we realized that we would have about a 20-minute walk just to check in. That would be fine, except when you are carrying almost 80 extra pounds. After lugging everything to check-in and dropping off my bags, the security line was beautifully short, BUT I happened to be randomly selected for a more “extensive” security check. Basically, I had the delightful experience of being felt-up by a 5’2” man of Indian descent.

At this point, I still had my happy travel smile on. I had about and hour and a half or so before my plane boarded, so I sat down and I read (I’m reading Cloud Atlas, I highly recommend it). I was able to enjoy my book for about 30 minutes before two different couples (one Spanish and the other appeared to be Korean) sat on either side of me. Before long, they are not just kissing but full on, body-on-body, thrusting, grunting, slurping, and many other things I would rather not mention. I looked around the terminal and an older couple sitting a few rows away gave me the “for you own good, Get Out Now!” look. I quickly headed to the bathroom to wash away the not-so-dry sex I just witnessed in the middle on an airport terminal.

My flight to Amsterdam boarded without any other major incidents but it was clear that the light rain would delay our flight. Our fifteen-minute delay didn’t seem like much but then before landing, we were informed that we would have to circle around Amsterdam for about 20 minutes and taxi for at least 15, my one and a half hour layover quickly became significantly shorter. Just as a side note, you know you are in trouble when the captain actually tells passengers to run to their next flight. I had to cross what seemed to be the entire airport, cursing at every turn to find a new security line or sign telling me my gate was just around the next turn (when you’re late, nothing is ever just around the corner).

 I boarded the plane headed to Nairobi to find it only two-thirds full, which was great because I needed to relax. The flight start out okay, an eight-hour flight is child’s play. Then, suddenly, the entertainment system cut out. All the sudden, everyone on board was forced to talk to each other. I normally wouldn’t complain about this except in the seat across the aisle from me were two very talkative people very close to my age. I will share a secret and admit that I dislike people my age. I associate with them often. From a distance they are great, but eight-hours is a long to listen to a very loud German young adult and a very sweet, innocent, “progressive” girl from Georgia discuss American politics. Thankfully, I found a way to sleep through about 3 of the 8 hours but burying my nose in my book is really the only way I survived the moments I could force myself into a slumber. It also appeared that they are planning to “multiply and replenish the Earth” (that means they also want to “knock boots”, “Prego her Eggo”, etc.) during their stay in Kenya. I mean, they have now known each other for 8 hours so that is totally kosher, right? It is funny that the vast majority of my travel today has emphasized how much I don’t understand about the way other people approach relationships. Anyway, that will have to be a different post.

My little cabin until Sunday!
I have never been so grateful for a crappy airport. The air conditioning worked and I could enjoy not being forced to talk to people, which I guess is all that really matters in life. My last flight took me to Malawi (finally). I was actually really surprised when I landed. I knew that I would have to wait for the planes with the other people to arrive but while I waited, the people were so incredibly kind and loving. Even after I turned down a taxi driver’s persistent asking if I needed I ride, we just sat and talked about our cultures. We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some food.  It was fun just to walk up and down the aisle and explore. This definitely feels like where I need to be right now. The journey wasn’t some metaphorical ascension to some deeper knowledge about life, but I think my time here in Malawi might just serve that purpose.

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