After spending the last two weeks floundering between Developed World commodities and incessant complaining, I'm finally getting it together. I want to close the circuit with this final blog post, concluding my 5 1/2 month sojourn which brought me there and back again.
I arrive at the airport in typical international style, fashionably early to avoid the shattering possibility of missing a flight. Forgetting two competing anomalies, the minuscule volume of people passing through an attempted security system and the lackadaisical approach to general efficiency, I have hours to idle away in duty free. Abandoning a last-ditch effort to spend money on worthless trinkets, I read a book to pass the time.:
The airport intercom squawks an incomprehensible string of instructions to particularly nobody that turns out to be an announcing our pre-boarding gate. I shuffle around until discovering the only working officials and propose, “I am flying to London , is this the correct line?” Not until I show my boarding pass is my inquiry addressed and conveyed that, in fact, this is the only flight leaving at 12:30AM. I make a note not to show up at in hopes of flying standby somewhere exotic.:
I make it to the front of the queue, where I show my boarding pass and the security guard takes careful precautions to ensure I have sharp objects, liquids, chemicals and grenades. This is my way of articulating that the official monitoring the conveyor belt left his post to observe somebody’s bag while the rest of us slid our carry-ons through unobserved.:
: It’s Africa , so I sit and wait
I realize that I’m waiting in the wrong place and that I need to be waiting about fifty feet that way. I show my boarding pass again to relocate to the correct waiting room and attempt to recall if I’ve had to show my passport at any point so far. I can’t remember.:
11: If there is going to be one place with a/c in Uganda , I decide that it must be this room. There is no circulation, it’s pushing 100 degreesF, and there are thousands of mosquito-like insects in desperate pursuit of suffocating in my arm, leg and facial hair. The putrid consortium of various scents proportionately amplified by temperature coming from these people, included but not limited to, Brad’s odorant (without the antagonist prefix of de-), the scented tears of toddlers, typical Ugandan b/o, and the faintest, unidentifiable allusion to teriyaki wafts into my sinuses and penetrates every exposed pore on my body. I propose the World Bank invests in a/c here because the return on investment will manifest in a reduction of business men lost to dysentery.:
While picking dead bugs off the pages of my book, one lands and dies in my tear duct.:
Curious bug #2 dies in my eye. I take this moment to scream at the top of my thoughts. Part of me dies.:
Part of me comes back to life, and I wait patiently.:
12:30 AM: Time is noteworthy because it is our scheduled departure time, marked by idle passengers calmly waiting in hellish room.
12:45 AM: Flight attendants call for boarding, at which point we show our boarding passes to leave the room and walk downstairs out into a shuttle, which idles in neutral for some time until the driver shows up and drives us 45 feet to our plane. I show my boarding pass again and get on.
12:59 AM: The captain announces over the intercom that the attendants will be patrolling the aisles before take-off with a cleansing spray. We are warned that “although it is harmless, you are advised to cover your mouth and nose and if you wear contacts, your eyes.” I bury my face in my jacket and curse under the hissing sounds of disinfectant spray blanketing my airways. If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing this pre-flight ritual, I can attest that it is eerily reminiscent of the scene from Outbreak when that guy infects the passengers. However, I seem to be fine.
I’m sure by the cynical tone I’ve carried so far you’re prepared for the following string of events. For the sake of optimism I’ll try to be brief.
#1) My headphones don’t work so I have to steal Caitlin’s while she’s sleeping. Failure. Not only do I wake her up, I don’t get her headphones.
#2) The only two children in the vicinity have contracted the most atrocious cough I’ve heard to date. They tag-teamed the whole night with their phlegm filled, throaty bouts of expelling germs that would probably have been exterminated by the pre-flight, anti-bacterial cancer spray had they not been thriving within and distributed by the children.
#3) British Airways changed my itinerary at some point leaving me with a 30hr layover in London on Valentine’s Day, the same subtle change that had me leaving at 12:30AM instead of 10:00AM. Not the end of the world, except that consequently I could not check my bags through to Seattle, which meant I had to lug them all over London, which meant I also had to go through customs in London AND Seattle, which brought suspicion of my arsenal of machete, bow, arrows, and cane with hidden knife.
After collecting my bags and skating through customs, British Airways decides that they have screwed me and kindly changes my transfer to the same day, eliminating my exotic layover alone on Valentine’s Day. This is GREAT, except that it promptly leads to frustrating situation number four.
#4) I arrive in Seattle after being awake for 50 hours and discover that I have to take the light rail to my grandma’s house. After walking through with 28 kilograms including a bow and arrow strapped to my back I start following signs to the light rail, which turns out to be almost a mile from my terminal. Temporarily basking in an efficient public transportation system, I almost miss my stop, which turns out to be just a few blocks from my grandma’s house. I put one foot on the sidewalk and the clouds open up in an angry downpour, smearing my glasses and causing me to miss the street. Eventually, I end up at my grandma’s house looking (and feeling) like a wet rat.
#5) My grandma’s phone does not work, I have no cell phone, and at some point city officials elected to remove every pay phone within a 3 mile radius of Beacon Hill. I don’t have car insurance and my grandmother does not drive at night. I find myself more isolated in Seattle than I was in the Impenetrable Forest in southwest Uganda . After half-heatedly attempting to fix her phone, I give up and go to bed.
Reflecting on the previous year of my life, I fall asleep feeling surprised, relieved, desperate, alone, confused, ecstatic, hungry, alleviated, impressed, altruistic, egocentric, energized, and exhausted knowing that I was There And now I’m Back Again.