Flying the friendly skies (somewhere between Thursday, 2010 Jun 4, and Friday, 2010 Jun 5)

June 17, 2010
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Currently en route to Cameroon — this is the first leg of the 18-hour trip, which is American Airlines to Brussels with a three-hour layover before a Belgium Air flight to Yaoundé. Readers are encouraged to price these flights (Thursday overnight into Friday; Friday morning) and report their findings. All comments will be lovingly read but sorry, we can’t write personal responses to each letter.

I currently hypothesize that part of the reason we got up at 6am was so we could sleep on the flight, to try to helpfully transition us around jet lag. But I think I’m so exhausted that it doesn’t really much matter. Naturally, I can’t sleep. On the upside, I’m vaccinated against yellow fever. (Expect my taste in women to change.) I was reading for a while Gus’s copy of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" (which, hey! I also spilled water on), but now the lights are off and I don’t want to disturb anyone. For a while I was keeping myself amused, or at least confused, by trying to translate GMT offsets and landing times in my head (we set our watches to in-country time before we left). So now I’m writing this on my phone (which seems to have a much better battery life in offline mode). It’s currently 10:14PM EDT, and 3:14AM in Brussels.

Another reason we had so much time was to handle crises like Elizabeth A. getting sick at the airport. Current thinking is that it’s a reaction to her vaccination. A hospital came to get her. She is staying at Jamaica Hospital overnight and hopefully the Organization will be shipping her out tomorrow. So now our travel group of 43 is only 42. More about them: our group is maybe 30% male, mostly Education with some Small Enterprise Development, and has at least 6 Computer Literacy assignees with varying skills (including one EE). My favorites so far are the older ones. I ate lunch with ladies who are 32 and 36, plus there’s the married one I mentioned last time. One co-worker brought a guitar, though he doesn’t know how to play, saying "I’ll have plenty of time to practice!" (I have LSDJ on my DS, of course.) At least two are fairly openly homosexual (including the one with the guitar, which he says he borrowed from his boyfriend), and one other has a rainbow on her luggage.

I didn’t even try to get a non-dairy meal on the airplane, choosing instead to pick out bits of one of the options. I think I need to speak with the Organization’s travel agency and ask them to make this work better for me in the future.

From time to time I get a shot of terror, that I’m completely unprepared or lost, but I control these by telling myself that I’m flying in a plane, which I’ve done before, and that an experience only has as much meaning as you allow it to have. I learned from college that I don’t have a lot of allowance that way. Take that, cultural relativism.

Lastly: at least three other people here have read "And You Fall Down". I played tour guide on the bus through Brooklyn. It makes sense that we fly out of JFK because he founded the Organization. I found a grommet on the airport floor, but it wasn’t mine. Perhaps Gus will be pleased to know that one of our 43 is named Janelle. And a no-fee passport looks exactly the same as a normal "feed" one, just with a sticker on the front.

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