So, will the airline count an over-sized shopping bag stuffed with tiny Christmas presents as a “personal item”? I’m going to say yes, because this stuff is not going to fit in our carry-on bags, at least if we want to bring clothes too.
Yes, I know that wrapped gifts are on the soft list of “Things to Not Bring on an Airplane.” As in, they are technically allowed but likely to cause delays, headaches, and tearing-of-hair in the security line. But what can I say? The children have been busily working away at them since Thanksgiving.
Every day I could count on having a few mysterious hours of silence, as they emerged from their rooms only in search of more scotch tape, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and other sundries. I haven’t recycled a cardboard box in weeks, because any box that comes in the mail or is emptied of pasta is immediately requisitioned for reuse in one of the ever-multiplying packages. We’ve gone through who knows how many rolls of wrapping paper and tiny bows this Christmas.
More than once in the weeks leading up to Christmas I gently suggested mailing the dozens of presents to the various parties, but since we are flying out to Utah to meet up with my side of the family tomorrow, Axa and Raj had their hearts set on hand delivering everything. Tony’s side of the family is coming out for Axa’s baptism in a month, so they’ll be presented with their gifts then.
Quite a few of the presents, though, were intended for internal Familia family distribution. It was so fun to see what they had been working so hard on for all these days. I, for example, received this lovely collage from Axa:
Tony got this snazzy construction paper spider and web, conceived and created by Raj:
In case you can’t tell, the spider is cleverly “waterproofed” in several layers of scotch tape.
And for Raj, Axa created this classic duo out of pipe cleaners:
I’m thinking it’s pretty obvious who they are, but if you’re having trouble, those are light sabers they’re holding. Do you love the cape? It just melts my heart to actually see the stuff they spent so much time making over the past several weeks.
I’m sure there are some equally delightful treasures in all those presents we’re taking on the plane to Utah. So even if worst comes to worst and TSA makes me painstakingly unwrap all forty-seven of them to prove that they don’t contain meat cleavers, lacrosse sticks, BB guns, saws, nunchucks, fireworks, bleach, or (gasp!) unidentified gels and liquids, it will be worth it to do it for my sweet little elves. Merry Christmas!
December 27, 2012 2 Comments
When I was dating Tony, one of the interesting things that he told me about himself was that he had lived with his family in Indonesia as a teenager. While living there, they spent a summer visiting family in a little town in Idaho, where their exotic expatriate exploit made them instant celebrities. An article even appeared in the local newspaper about the American family who were living in Southeast Asia, and had now brought their international selves home to grace tiny Aberdeen Idaho.
It became an even better story after the same thing happened to us. In 2008, we moved our little family to Chiusa di Pesio, Italy so that we could reconnect with our Italian roots and claim our long-lost Italian citizenship. It was the first time such a thing had ever occurred in Chiusa, and our very existence there caused something of a sensation. It seemed that everyone had already told everyone else our story. Still, in due time, we were visited in our home by a local reporter, who wanted to publish an account of us in the weekly paper, just in case someone had missed it.
We were flattered, but a little embarrassed, especially after we read the article, and she gushed so liberally about us. Still, it was quite a novelty to read a story about ourselves in the newspaper in the first place. I mean, how often does it happen that you end up in the paper just for being you?
Well, not as infrequently as I thought, apparently. A few weeks ago I was contacted by a reporter from the Daytona Beach News Journal. He had stumbled upon my blog, and remarked that he thought we didn’t really fit in here in Deltona. In fact, he went on to speculate that we probably weren’t going to be around long. I guess reporters can say anything.
Mark turned out to be very nice, though, and we spent a lovely morning chatting. It’s not every day that a captive audience spends an hour and a half listening to your life story, acting really interested and even taking notes. I found I enjoyed it thoroughly. Yesterday, we bought a paper so we could clip it out for our scrap book. And since our family scrapbook only exists in the form of this blog and our family website, here it is:
If you can’t read the small print, the full article is here. Mark took some liberties with the quotes, and bit more with the facts, so if you know us well you can amuse yourself by spotting errors. But at least when he quoted my mom he got it perfect.
August 21, 2012 2 Comments
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I am a sucker for expat memoirs. So I picked up this one as a matter of course, without even glancing inside the cover. Maybe I should have looked a little closer.
As an author, Eloisa James’ normal genre is romance novels. But I don’t think even that explains the bizarre format of this book. It is, I kid you not, a compilation of her Facebook status updates for the year she spent in Paris. This means that the entire book consists of disjointed 5-10 line paragraphs. There are a few longer sections (of 2-5 pages each), which I paged through and read. But the rest of this book is virtually unreadable.
If you have a hankering for Paris, instead check out Adam Gopnik’s delightful memoir, Paris to the Moon.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Tony and I watched the movie that is based on this book, and he asked me to check it out for him. So of course I ended up reading it myself too. This did turn out to be one of those cases where the book was better than the movie, mostly because the plots were very similar, and the movie was visually stunning. Nicole Kidman was lusciously villainous, and Pullman’s alternate-reality-London was gorgeous.
My favorite part of the book/movie was the premise of people’s souls (called “dæmons” in the book) walking around outside their bodies in the shape of animals. Sort of like a cross between a best friend, a smart pet, and just a really good justification for talking to yourself. All in all, this was a fun book, but nowhere near as profound as it was trying to be.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This one was OK, but not nearly as interesting as the first one. I personally think that authors who are working with multiple universes should just stick to one or two, because there’s not really time to develop the differences in more universes, and they end up being boring caricatures. Also, the plot in this one kind of meandered. In fact, I can’t even really remember it a week and a half after finishing the book.
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This trilogy was already mediocre by book 2, so the only reason I read this one was that I was sick in bed, and it was the closest thing at hand. Unfortunately, even just compared to books 1 and 2, The Amber Spyglass is exceptionally bad. Not only does the narrative fall apart, but Pullman’s already thin allegory crosses over into pages and pages of downright preachiness.
Evidently, some Christians have objected to the series (and the delightful movie based on The Golden Compass) on philosophical grounds, but I object to it on purely artistic grounds. Still, if your teenager is reading this and your family is not atheist, you might want to have some discussions about the author’s rancorous portrayal of both religion and God.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am, of course, still reading this series. One of the things I love about it is that I am still looking up new words (with the touch of a button–I love my Kindle!). I highly recommend reading Trollope to anyone preparing to take the SAT or GRE.
I’ve also unbent my feminist ire a little. In Phineas Finn, bad husbands are given no quarter, and the woman are portrayed as well-rounded, complex characters. Trollope is still not exactly progressive, but he might not be as bad as I thought. Plus, I’m even getting interested in 19th century British politics. Who’d have thought?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This replaces A History of the World in 100 Objects as my bathroom book. What a wonderful, informative, fascinating book. Whether you need to know what picadillo is or how to pick a good kohlrabi, if it has to do with food, it is in here.
Today I perused the cheese glossary, and found that I’ve tried 47 different kinds of cheese. There are also glossaries of sausage, shellfish, sauces, pastas, and herbs, among others. And then there are the many tips scattered throughout the book for ripening persimmons, creating a quick brown roux, and six steps to the perfect hamburger.
With gilt edges, a ribbon bookmark, and profound culinary quotes beginning each chapter (“Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks.” — Judith B. Jones), this is a book to be treasured, read, and referred to often.
August 9, 2012 2 Comments
I have not always been a friend to Facebook. I am way too old to have grown up using it in high school. Actually, I’ll admit it, I’m even too old to have used it in college. I found out about Facebook from my kid brother long after all the cool people were already on it. I finally broke down and joined on 12 November 2008. According to Facebook, that important date (which appears prominently in my snazzy new Timeline) ranks right up there with being born and graduating from college.
Like most users, I experienced the initial infatuation with Facebook, as it put me back in touch with various long lost friends. And although I never took photos of myself kissing Zuckerberg’s photo, I do have warm fuzzies over Facebook’s important role in the Arab Spring. Since then, however, my feelings about Facebook have deteriorated from sarcastic ambivalence to downright hostility.
However, Facebook has recently undergone a rehabilitation in my affections. Here’s why:
I never experienced small town life until we moved to Italy, and lived in a beautiful little village on a mountainside, with a river running through it. If that sounds just unbelievably romantic, it was.
There was a church bell tower that chimed the hour, a tiny, cobblestone village square, and a picturesque castle up on the hill, within whose ruined walls we once held a very memorable family home evening.
But what was really a change for us Southern Californians was the fact that everybody seemed to know each other. And not only did they know each other, but they seemed to actually have time to talk. They would have lengthy conversations with anyone they met while out and about in the narrow, cobblestone streets. Which generally happened several times a day.
The result of all this, as anyone who has ever lived in a small town knows, was that everyone also knew everything about everyone else. Especially about the bizarre Americans who had dropped in from nowhere claiming that their great-great grandfather was Italian. We even got written up with embarrassingly complimentary exaggeration by the local newspaper.
At first, it was startling to realize that my everyday doings were common knowledge, and I should consider pretty much the whole town friends (or at least acquaintances). But after a while, I got to kind of like it. It was something feeling like you belonged somewhere and would leave a real hole if you went away. And sure enough, eventually, we did go away. In fact, we’ve moved several times since then.
From my peripatetic perspective, it’s near impossible to picture living my whole life in the village where I was born. But I have to admit that the idea fascinates me. What if all my favorite people did live in the same little village? What if I had the chance of bumping into them every day on my way to buy bread before dinner? What if I casually knew what was going on in their lives, whether I’d talked to them lately or not, because word just gets around in our little town? What if?
Here’s the problem: my favorite people are scattered all over the world. Everywhere we go, I meet new people that I’d love to have as friends forever. By now it’s far too late for all, a majority, or even a reasonable plurality of my friends to live in the same geographical area.
And here’s where Facebook comes in. In a kind of a virtual sense, Facebook allows me to have that sense of community I crave with people who, in Goethe’s words, “though distant, are close to [me] in spirit.” Because I want to know more than just the “important” things that turn up in a yearly Christmas letter. I want to hear the little, mundane things that make up the majority of our lives. I want to know the funny thing your kid said, what your new hairdo looks like, and that mortifying mix-up that happened at work today. You know, the instagrams of life.
Really, what I’ve noticed lately is that a few minutes spent on Facebook is a bit like that walk to the bread shop in Italy. I can climb a volcano in the Philippines with Jerry. I can peek in on Erin’s lovely picnic in England. I know what Shelly got in her CSA basket in Washington this week and what Kelly in Utah thought about Spiderman. Jo Ann keeps me posted on how much garbage has been thrown lately on our beloved Tunisian beach. If I’m lucky, sometimes Carla even gives me a glimpse into the life of that lovely little Italian village.
So while I may never transplant my life permanently to a tiny village where everyone knows my name, maybe I don’t need to. Facebook is my global village.
July 12, 2012 4 Comments
I realized the other day that there’s not enough time in a lifetime to live all the places I’d like to live. In fact, it’s a good thing inter-planetary space travel has not yet been invented, or I would be completely overwhelmed by possibilities. My blogger friend Amira (who presently lives in Kyrgystan) is doing a series on all the cities where she’d like to live. Some of them are so obscure I have to look up what country they’re in. Of course, I had to look up Kyrgystan when I first “met” her too.
It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who can’t help viewing every international vacation (and every National Geographic article, for that matter) as a house-hunting trip. My travel dreams might not be quite as exotic as Amira’s, but in the course of the last several years since we decided we were an international family, Tony and I have researched mundane things like housing, raw milk availability, and homeschooling laws in quite a variety of different possible destinations. Besides the ones where we’ve actually ended up living.
Here’s my shortlist of places I’ve never been but know I would love to live.
I hope this doesn’t sound morbid, but I first became obsessed with Norway last year, following the horrific shootings on Utøya Island in July. Although I’m not really a party person, the Norwegian Labour Party might possibly come closest to a political ideology I could feel comfortable espousing. Norway is full of natural beauty, both in the countryside and wild places and in the many urban green spaces. Norway also has a high standard of living, a Scandinavian sense of organization, and a cool climate. What’s not to love?
I watched this little video and was sold on Costa Rica. Besides the fact that I already speak Spanish, and it’s pretty cheap to live there, 99% of their energy comes from renewable resources. If that’s not the wave of the future, I don’t know what is. Costa Rica is the go-to destination for retirees and other sun-seeking expats looking for a quaint paradise with good infrastructure. I really love tropical fruit and tropical beaches, but there aren’t that many tropical countries I’d like to live in long term. Costa Rica might be an exception.
Well, technically I have been to France. Nice is the preferred airport for international flights out of our little corner of Italy. So I’ve glimpsed the fabled pebbled beaches of the French Riviera out of the window of a bus various times. My most vivid memory of Nice is sitting on a huge cardboard box (filled with my belongings) in the train station, with seventeen pieces of luggage piled around me, deathly ill in the middle of a move from Ireland to Italy. So no, I don’t consider myself to have really visited France.
But who hasn’t dreamed of living in Paris? Ever since I read Paris to the Moon, I’ve pictured us there. I’ve even found my perfect apartment, in the 8th Arrondissement, right next to Parc Monceau. Now all I need is my perfect income to support a Parisian lifestyle.
Why Turkmenistan? I’m not quite sure. It just really fascinates me. We want to adopt internationally someday, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching different countries, during which research Turkmenistan appeared on my radar. Unfortunately, it’s well-nigh impossible to adopt from Turkmenistan. In fact, it’s hard to even get a visa to visit Turkmenistan. Maybe that’s why it attracts me: the lure of the forbidden. And the interesting tidbits I’ve read about the country. Bizarrely, the former President-For-Life (who died in 2007) authored his own book on Islam. Just like Qaddafi! The book forms the basis for the educational system of the country, and knowledge of it is required to even get a driver’s license. The Akhal-Teke, a beautiful breed of horse with a metallic-sheen coat, also originates there. Turkmenistan is one of those countries that feels like a “black box,” tantalizing in its mystery and oddity. I’d love to see what it’s really like there.
Will I ever live any of these places? Who knows? But this is my favorite kind of daydream.
What’s your dream destination?
April 11, 2012 7 Comments
In honor of the holiday, I thought I would share some of my favorite photos from the summer we spent in Ireland.
For sheer beauty, I’m not sure if any countryside can compare to Ireland’s. It is so, so lush, even in the dead of summer. The quaint low rock walls everywhere, the charming steeply-sloped roofs, and the green, green, green of everything make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
All that green does come with a price tag in precipitation. So rain boots were standard attire when going out.
I believe the fields of Ireland were the origin of Axa’s frog-catching obsession.
We met an assortment of other small creatures in the long, wet grass.
Our friend Rory is an amateur history buff, and knew all the cool sites in the area, like this gorgeous decaying Regency manor house.
He led us on all sorts of illicit expeditions. Here he is helping me under the fence at one site,
And in the window of another.
Nearly every town seems to have its own monument to the potato famine. This is one of the more haunting, along the River Liffey in Dublin.
Here’s a less sobering shot of the River.
One of our favorite pastimes was picnicking by the 200 year old Royal Canal. Yes, that’s authentic Irish soda bread that I made myself.
They still use the canal today.
A friend at Church asked Tony to baptize him. The baptism was performed in a nearby Loch, and it was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever seen.
Happy St. Patrick’s day to all our Irish friends!
March 17, 2012 1 Comment
Well, we’ve already accomplished our New Year’s resolution — a new job. It took us a little farther away than we anticipated, but we’re always up for that. So we have a new home too. And we’ve finally unpacked all our furniture and belongings and books!
It’s certainly not our farthest move ever–a mere 2500 miles. As I write from my long-neglected roll-top desk, it’s a balmy 75 degrees outside. Axa has already caught a number of frogs and lizards. The beach is a half hour away. And just as a bonus, we don’t have to decipher rental contracts or public transportation systems in a foreign language.
Have you guessed it yet? How about if I add in that we’ve been cautioned against bears, coral snakes, fire ants, and alligators? Yep, that’s right: we’re living in Florida! A couple of weeks ago Tony was offered a job out here, and off we went.
Fortunately, moving on short notice is one of our areas of expertise. The children didn’t blink an eye at seven hours in a plane. In fact, they begged for more. And after a little over a week, we have a house, a car, three library cards, and everything nearly unpacked.
Home, sweet home!
February 3, 2012 5 Comments
You know what? I don’t think I have 22 hours worth of memories from our last 22 hours of traveling. I know I wasn’t sleeping for most of it (sadly), so I must just have selective amnesia. Or maybe nothing really happened.
Here’s the little I remember: We ate guacamole in the Chicago airport. It was as good as I remembered it. (Also, I made a bowl of guacamole yesterday at my mother-in-law’s house, and ate the whole thing myself. I might do that again today.)
Airport security is as paranoid as ever in the U.S.A. At least we were only flying the week of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and not the actual day.
The pilot on our Chicago-L.A. flight invited my kids into the cockpit, flipped all the switches and lights for them, and had a fun little conversation. I’m pretty sure Raj’s ambitions have now switched from fireman to pilot. Axa, however, still has firm career plans as the owner of a gelato shop.
Raj spilled one entire glass of orange juice an hour into our trans-atlantic flight, but most of it ended up landing on the plastic bag containing the airplane pillow, blanket, and earphones, and I was actually able to take it to the bathroom and pour it down the sink. Miraculous.
I have now seen both Thor and The King’s Speech, although I did not watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Reviews will be forthcoming.
I wish I could say I kissed the ground, or had any real feelings at all upon entering the United States. But I didn’t. I just feel kind of numb looking back over the past 18 months that we’ve been away. It’s been quite a wild ride. I look back at everything we’ve done, and wonder how it all happened. Answering the questions of the quizzical officer at U.S. passport control just made it all seem more unreal and unbelievable.
I can’t really make sense of the whole picture, but I remember the individual moments, vividly. Walking along the Arno in the rain. Catching frogs in Ireland. Building an igloo in our front yard in Italy. Standing inside the Roman amphitheater at el-Djem.
I wouldn’t really say that coming back here is like waking up from a dream. Because I feel like I’m still somehow stuck inside the dream. I keep looking around for something I think I’ve lost or left behind, like my passport, or that extra carry-on bag, or my travel neck pillow. But really I think it’s myself I’ve lost.
I can’t really say where I am now, and I have no idea where I’m going. I just hope that I’ll find myself again somewhere, sometime.
September 9, 2011 3 Comments
In what we all now recognize as my hopelessly unrealistic fantasy-land of trip planning, our overnight layover in Rome went like this: Arrive at 7:00 p.m., hotel shuttle picks us up, we check in, and then go out for pizza and gelato. We retire early, wake up to a nice breakfast, and then get shuttled back to the airport for our noon flight.
As you know from yesterday, contrary to the intelligence given us beforehand, general strikes in Italy actually do affect international flights. Considerably. Ours finally left Tunis at 10:00 p.m., a mere 5.5 hours late, and arrived in Rome just after midnight. This of course (among other things) precluded pizza and gelato. Fortunately, our lucky business class tickets also entitled us to a sort of cold dinner in the plane, comprised of such delights as palm hearts, petrified turkey, and canned pineapple.
In Rome, the real fun began. Although our terminal boasted eight luggage carousels, all were empty but the last one, which was scheduled to receive baggage from all incoming flights, and was surrounded by crowds several layers thick. Fortuitously, there was a small playground right next to that eighth carousel, into which Axa and Dominique plunged with an energy level mysteriously attained by small children only after midnight following many hours in multiple airports. When they were tired of that, they began weighing themselves and various other items on the gigantic scales, which I had to eventually put a stop to after a few narrow misses as they raced recklessly across the crowded hallway with rolling bags in tow, nearly crashing into several luckless fellow sleep-deprived passengers.
Like most airport luggage carousels, this one had the requisite abandoned bag that rides forlornly round and round forever, just to give everyone hope that their own bags will eventually also be disgorged from the bowels of the aircraft. This abandoned bag was cocooned in plastic, but both the plastic and the bag had split at some time during its journey, and large quantities of a shiny, viscous brown material were oozing out. It added materially to the surreality of the moment, as I tried not to imagine what bizarre or disgusting substance had been ensconced in the bag, and how long the poor bag had been circling faithfully in the vain hope that it would be reclaimed, while the brown material slowly hardened into a crust around it on the carousel. I’m sure everyone else watching that bag go round and round was hoping like I was that their own bags would not come out straight on top of the abandoned one, becoming repulsively contaminated with unidentified filth on contact.
While I waited vainly for the luggage, Tony called our hotel to let them know we were in, so they could send the shuttle. Incredibly, he was told that it was too late for the shuttle, and we would need to get a taxi. That was strike one against our hotel, the “La Melis Airport Bed and Breakfast.” But we gamely took our bags (which had finally arrived) out to the taxi line, where we were informed that those taxis only went to the city center. Unfortunately, we had purposely booked a hotel near the airport, so the taxi driver who was at that moment in the act of loading our bags into his taxi immediately unloaded them and pointed us vaguely over to a different spot where he said we could get a more local taxi.
By this time it was approximately one in the morning. We did find a place with parking stalls marked off for taxis. In front of it was a small group of tired and depressed-looking travelers waiting for these ephemeral local taxis. We parked our luggage carts and waited too. For what seemed like a very, very long time. Finally, Tony went to see if he could pay one of the original taxis extra to take us to our objectionably close hotel. Axa went with him because she had to go to the bathroom. I spent the next twenty minutes keeping Dominique from climbing on luggage carts, fences, and any other conceivable climbable object, including tired travelers. Until he decided he needed to go to the bathroom too. Finally, a couple of taxis pulled up, and the other travelers kindly offered to let us take our manic children away in one. Too bad Tony was still gone, and had the address of the hotel in his pocket. Luckily, he came puffing up with Axa at the last moment, and we loaded the bags and set off.
The taxi driver laughed when he saw our “hotel.” The “La Melis Airport Bed and Breakfast” is a normal Italian house that has been converted into a tiny cheap motel. Here’s a peek at the supremely efficient and elegantly installed air conditioning unit, just to give you an idea of the general feel of the place (picture taken in photobooth just like yesterday’s, since I don’t even know where the camera is packed).
When we finally showed up at the hotel around 2:00 in the morning, the front gate was open, as was the front door to the building, and there was a light on. But there was nothing resembling a reception desk. We walked around, looking for someone, anyone, and calling that we were there for several minutes, before I finally decided to try one of the three numbered doors, figuring that perhaps they had just left a room open for us. To my horror, the unlocked door opened to reveal a man sleeping on a bed just inside the door. I quickly closed it again and tiptoed away, hoping I hadn’t awakened him.
He emerged, awake, and actually expecting us. Turns out he was a fellow guest, who had been recruited by the off-location owners (I kid you not!) to let us in when we arrived. There was an uncomfortable pause when the poor guy requested cash payment on the spot. When Tony and his mom had made the reservation on Priceline the week before, they’d assumed that the requested credit card had been charged when they booked the room. Apparently, it hadn’t. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that we hadn’t expected to do much shopping (i.e. none) in Italy during our overnight layover, and hadn’t changed enough euros to have cash for a hotel room. And no, our poor fellow guest could not take a credit card. After a frustrated middle-of-the-night conversation with the “hotel” owners (in which it also emerged that although the establishment is called a “Bed and Breakfast,” they actually don’t serve breakfast at all), we settled on paying the next morning when (if) the owners showed up to take us to the airport.
I hurriedly brushed the children’s and my own teeth and put them to bed. Axa went straight to sleep. Raj rolled around maniacally for a while, and finally passed out. Tony eventually reappeared after his phone call with the owners. Honestly, my only consolation was the thought that at least I could blog about the whole thing tomorrow, so my sufferings had not been quite in vain. Pathetic, I know. The worst part about the whole thing was that after all our tribulations, we had only accomplished one measly hour of actual flight time. Thirteen left to go!
When the owners showed up the next morning, they and Tony made up after the previous evening’s verbal scuffle. I had been putting the kids to bed at the time and hadn’t actually participated in the conversation, but I should probably be sorry for my uncharitable thoughts. Anyway. Turns out the “shuttle” service is just the owner’s husband in the family sedan (when he feels like it, of course). He did take us to the airport in the morning (breakfast-less as we were), and we even managed to fit all our bags (and ourselves) into his car at once (barely). I guess all’s well that ends well, kind of. In the end, though, I can’t really say I would recommend “La Melis Airport Bed and Breakfast.” Consider yourself warned.
Stay tuned for what I hope will be the thrilling (or better, the completely boring) conclusion to THE LAST TIME I WILL EVER TRAVEL UNTIL TECHNOLOGY HAS ADVANCED FAR ENOUGH TO RENDER AIRPLANES OBSOLETE.
Beam me up, Scotty.
September 8, 2011 2 Comments
If only the world would listen to me. As he mentioned in the comments this morning, Tony did call Tunisair to confirm our flight. They said everything was fine. And when we arrived at the airport, our flight was listed as on-time. In fact, they didn’t get around to changing the flight status until it was already past our 16:35 departure time, and there was no sign of the plane even landing, let alone anyone boarding.
Our first clue about the trouble should have been that while we were standing in line to check in, the Tunisair staff told the front of the line something that caused a massive stampede over to another check-in desk on the other side of the room. Fortunately, Tony and I are old hands at making the most of a Tunisian line (because if you don’t make the most of it, you’ll stay at the back no matter how long you are in line, as everyone else somehow worms or pushes past you). As we normally do in these types of situations, we split up with one child each. He and Axa strategically maneuvered toward a good place in the now amorphous original line, while Dominique and I joined the stampede.
Tony did better than I did. Stampedes are a little intimidating for me, especially when I and every other stampeder is pushing a fully-loaded luggage cart. Fortunately, Tony’s line turned out to be the right line. The stampede line was the people whose flight was supposed to go to Rome this morning. Surprise, surprise for them (and Tunisair too, apparently); there is a general strike in Italy today, and their flight was cancelled. So it looks like our plane will be pretty full. Due to Tony’s maneuvers, we were only three people from the front of the line now. Despite the lady at the desk poring over each passport as if they were written in Chinese, taking multiple breaks to chat with co-workers, and being limited to two-finger typing, it only took us about an hour to finally get checked in.
We made our fastest time ever through airport security, mostly due to not packing as many weird things as normal, and not taking out our laptop, removing our shoes, or having our clandestine yoghurt, water, and toothpaste-in-container-too-large confiscated. Score! Our bags were not even searched. I don’t remember the last time that’s happened. Is this a Tunisian thing, or have regulations just become more lax since I last flew, seven months ago?
We had one tense moment when Dominique had to make an emergency bathroom stop as we were rushing to our gate for our (so we thought) imminently departing flight. We screeched up to the gate with a bare half-hour left before takeoff. I was sure the plane must be at least half-boarded already. So much for the fact that business class tickets had been the cheapest we could find. We weren’t going to get to board early anyway. However, when we screeched up to the gate, we just saw a bunch of bored Tunisians sitting around talking. There was no sign of the plane, or even anyone sitting at the desk, so we sat down and had the snacks we had been promising the children. Then I did another bathroom break, this time with Axa.
After a half hour or so waiting (by this time it was fifteen minutes past the scheduled departure time), people started congregating around the desk. We were sitting right next to it, so we had the luxury of eavesdropping on a half-dozen identical conversations about when the plane was leaving (the woman who was by now sitting at the desk seemed quite annoyed to have the same question of her asked over and over, but it didn’t occur to her to make a loudspeaker announcement about the now-obvious fact that the plane was late). The first people were told it would be an hour late, but this quickly mushroomed to four. It was pretty obvious to me that what had happened was that the plane we were supposed to take couldn’t leave Italy until after the strike was over, and would not be showing up here for two hours after that. Why Tunisair hadn’t foreseen this, especially after the morning flight was cancelled, I don’t know, and will refrain from speculating.
The room was so full of conversations between animated travelers that I couldn’t hear myself think. The children were getting increasingly rambunctious. The next four hours stretched before me like an endless wasteland. Just as I was about to utterly give up hope, the woman at the desk glanced at our tickets, saw they were business class, and told us we could go wait in the “privileged” lounge. Hallelujah! (As you can see, we’re not very experienced posh travelers, or we would have certainly had this idea on our own.)
Plush leather couches, big flat-screen T.V.’s (playing cartoons!), snacks, and free WIFI internet. It was like walking into paradise. Looks like the next few hours might be bearable after all. And somebody in Heaven must be watching over me.
September 6, 2011 3 Comments