Sunday, December 5, 2010


So it had been more than 14 months since I had flown anywhere by myself. Incidentally, it had also been more than 14 months since I had left the African continent. I can say things are pretty much the way I remember it, but my perception of all of those things has changed. Being back in major international airports again was this weird juxtaposition of familiar images with foreign implications. It was like watching one of my favorite movies of all times in Chinese with some bad subtitles. I knew how it all worked but it all seemed incredibly awkward.

There was the initial culture shock of seeing all the different kinds of people in one place. It was bizarre to walk by hundreds of travelers and not have them even glance in my general direction. I was invisible again. No one touched me or shoved me… Especially in lines--which was another social oddity. It was weird to have people line up to buy a croissant and coffee, but have that oppressive sense that everyone was incredibly annoyed to have to be waiting for their turn to pay. As if they needed to rush past the cashier in order to make it in time to wait three hours for their flight to board. Everyone is in a hurry here. Sometimes legitimately, but also when there is legitimately no reason to feel pressed for time at all.

There were also just my own issues with accepting how functional things are above the Sahara. I spent a good 20 minutes walking around the mall inside the airport trying to work up the courage to buy a bottle of water with a credit card. I thought for sure they’d turn me down. Who spends 3 euros and charges it to a card? Well, evidently everyone in the Northern Hemisphere. And I remember it being like that too. I used to go to Starbucks all the time, buy a water, or a four dollar coffee and put it on my credit card. Nonetheless, I was seriously anxious about using the card after so long of it being an ordeal to bring plastic into the transaction equation. I felt like an idiot when I handed over the card and she printed me out the receipt without anything more than a “have a nice day ma’am”.

In short, I think this re-adjustment is going to be less of a total cinch than I initially anticipated.