Friday, June 6, 2014

Travel Day 2: Paris to Zanzibar

In Paris, I got shifted into security line after security line. What should have taken me 15 minutes took closer to an hour. CDG security seemed to have a plan that made no sense to anyone but them. Then the security agent didn’t know how to read my itinerary. He wanted a boarding pass. I didn’t have one – Kenya Air only issues boarding passes at the gate. He called a supervisor over and she okayed me to go through the metal detector. Sideways. My shoulders are too wide for French metal detectors.

CDG has the best shopping I’ve seen in any airport. Farragamo, Boss, D&G, Armani, etc. I can’t afford a bit of it but I feel richer walking around with people who can. It was about 7 am local time, so I skipped the caviar bar and found some coffee and a place to wash up. I have to dress very carefully for flights to Africa. I’ll wear those clothes for at least two days straight, maybe three including ground transportation time.  I looked a bit schlubby in jeans and an old tshirt, but I was comfortable. I’ll pack an extra shirt on the return.

When I got to the Air Kenya gate, a huge group was waiting. They were African Americans on a mission trip to Kenya. I knew they were on a missions trip just by looking at them, and I knew their trip would benefit themselves more than the Kenyans. I think after Liberia, I’ve learned to spot the mission trips. They’re excited, but terrified at the same time. They don’t want to encounter anything that says “you’re not in America” or “we’re happy with our religion, thank you”. They bring tons of luggage, and none of it looks appropriate for conditions on the ground. Moving them and all of their stuff will become burdensome. For every dollar they put into luggage allowances, gas, and porters, a child could be immunized. 

I started getting pissed with them, and then wondered if I was just jumping to conclusions. I assumed the slicked-looking and loudest-talking man there was the preacher. Correct. He was wearing a Bluetooth in his ear. I wondered if I’d gone back in time, to say 2004 when BlackBerry was still in business. I asked him where in Kenya they were going. He wasn’t really sure. He’d heard a few names, but he couldn’t remember. I asked what exactly they planned to do – medical clinic, build schools, dig wells – the usual missionary tasks. He had no idea. Then the man behind me started complaining about how the last time they went to Kenya, the burgers were terrible. Another woman told him she’d saved some Popeye’s chicken in her purse just in case. That’s when I gave up on them. 

Of course, I saw them for the next 12 hours. Some of their members couldn’t manage flights of stairs into and out of the airplane. Again, I wondered what good they could do with so little preparation. On the other hand, Africa has been handling missionaries for centuries. A little song and a little dance. The local reprobate gets "saved" on cue every week. Smiles and hallelujahs over goat stew and fried chicken. Money gets got.

I slept fitfully on the flight to Nairobi. I realized I’d slept backwards: I should have slept more on the Atlanta-Paris flight, not Paris-Nairobi. Air Kenya just installed in-flight entertainment, but all the screens run hot. The cabin was sweltering and everyone complained. I think the heat was intentional – it distracted us from the food. We landed at NBO and after a few wrong turns, I found the international terminal and my gate. The international terminal was small and cramped, full of drunk expats going here and everywhere, speaking a dozen languages or using the 15 minutes of free wifi. I ate an atrocious sandwich at the bar. After about 2 hours, we boarded the flight to Zanzibar. The plane was mostly empty. Everyone napped. The flight engineer showed up an hour late, which delayed the flight, but I was so tired I didn’t care.  I should have.

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