"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 2: Falling Prey in Frankfurt

Perhaps the world’s second-worst crime is boredom; the first is being a bore.—Cecil Beaton

Chapter TWO
Falling Prey in Frankfurt

I have discovered how to negotiate large airport terminals:   ask questions frequently.   Like, about every hundred feet, around every corner, on each level, until someone takes pity on an old gray-haired woman and walks you to your destination.   Sometimes that person will carry your luggage, too.   Gray hair rocks!

It works.   It works in the immense air terminal in Frankfurt, Germany, which is how I find myself in the right place, but way too early.   Terminal 1, Level 1, where the hotel courtesy shuttles pick up their guests.

I use a courtesy phone to let the Holiday Inn Express know I am there, ready for pick-up.   Forty-five minutes, is the response, so I go back into the terminal and people-watch for a while until my imagination gets the best of me and drives me outside again.

I admit I am not street smart.   I haven’t had to be, considering where I grew up (Anchorage in the 1950s.) After that, I moved to smaller and smaller towns until I settled six miles out of a very small town.   Even after all my international travels, I remain decidedly unaware of potential traps and pitfalls.

So, on this day when I will overnight in Frankfurt and catch the next day’s flight to Nairobi, Kenya, I’m inside the terminal people-watching and what comes to mind but the guy from Alaska who recently shot up a terminal in Florida after getting his pistol and ammo out of his luggage.   I was thinking about how diabolically clever he was while I’m watching people enter the terminal.

I know there are terrorism problems in Europe.  I know there are terrorism problems in Kenya.    I know the person in the long coat who just came through the doors could be carrying an assault weapon.    Or the woman who is fully covered could be wearing a suicide vest.    Any one of the suitcases could contain a bomb.

I look around for something to hide behind should someone start shooting.

There’s nothing close enough.   I figure I have better chances outside behind the waist-high concrete walls where I waited for the hotel shuttle, so I go outside.

My shuttle doesn’t arrive and it’s a few minutes past the time they said it would be there.  I watch the same shuttles come and go, but not mine.

A tall black man approaches and says, “Are you waiting for….   What hotel are you going to?”

Before I can catch myself, I say, “Holiday Inn Express.”  

“Come with me.   I’ll take you there.”

Alarm bells.   Should I or should I not?  “What van is yours?” I manage to ask.   He points to a brown one with an indecipherable name painted on it.   Or is it?   Is it a removable decal?

“My colleague asked me to pick you up.   He had a break down.”   I follow, reluctantly.

He loads my two bags and heads out.   I don’t say anything and neither does he.   I don’t know the route to the HIE because the only time I’ve been there, I was leaving Frankfurt.   I don’t remember it being this far away.   Why is he taking this little, remote off-ramp?   Will someone find my body before it becomes a toxic waste site?

I recall that he didn’t name the hotel but asked me its name.  Not good.   I should have made him tell me the name.   Too late now.

And on and on it goes, until he turns a corner in a forested area and there’s the familiar hotel.  I look across the road and there’s the German restaurant where I had a great dinner with Bruce, Betsey, Holly, and Andy.   Where Andy played Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Over the Rainbow on his ukulele.  

I’m safe.

My room at the Holiday Inn Express


I check in, ask for a 9 AM wake up just in case, and take a hot shower.   It's mid-afternoon when I go to bed and sleep 'round the clock, erasing 18 hours of travel time and any jet lag that might have come my way.

Good thing I left that wake-up call, because I needed it.   Packed, down to the lobby, check out and ready to go to the airport.

And guess who my driver is this morning?!!!   This time, he's in the Holiday Inn bus and not the suspicious brown one.   We have a great chat on the way to the airport.  His parents emigrated from Ethiopia and he was born in Germany.

So nice not to be kidnapped and robbed.



 Complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, Frankfurt.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 1: Is there anything more fun than getting there? Or not?

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.—Martin Buber

Chapter One
Is there anything more fun than getting there?   Or not?

As the fellow said, “getting there is half the fun.”   That’s a premise I ascribe to wholeheartedly.  Unless it is essential that I be in Frankfurt, Germany, to catch a flight to Kenya at 11 A.M. on Feb. 5, and I am facing being stranded in the Keflavik airport in Reykjavik, Iceland, or—worse, yet—on a plane to Paris.

Both of which might have happened had a gate agent not been very alert and Iceland Air not been so accommodating by waiting for ticketed passengers.

I blame the confusion of the Keflavik terminal for my confusion. 

But, let’s begin at the beginning, start at the onset, if you will.   Pass GO, and be sure to collect your $200 because you’ll need it on Iceland Air.

When I booked my tickets from Anchorage to Kenya, I started with Alaska Airlines to Seattle.   AkAir is a partner airline with Iceland Air and I decided that flying through Iceland would be a kick.   Most airlines that fly from the northern US have routes that overfly Iceland on their way to Europe, so why not have a short break, change planes, and go on to Frankfurt where I will meet three of the five people who would be my companions for the next two-plus weeks?   The flying time, about ten hours, is roughly the same, and I’d be able to see if my legs still worked after the first seven hours.

So, I’m in Seattle, ready to board Iceland Air.   There’s an guy ahead of me talking on his phone, and slowing down the whole line.   He talks all the way through the gate, down the jetway, into the plane, down the aisle—and turns out to be my seatmate, where he continues to talk about some family troubles.   Also turns out that he used to teach in Kenya.

As I board at 3:30 in the afternoon Seattle time, I am handed a bottle of Icelandic glacial water.   The label claims it was bottled at the source, which is Olfus Spring, Iceland. 

The blanket.
Somewhat defor,med by air pressure.

I am very surprised that the flight is full.   How many people go to Iceland in the winter, anyway?   Turns out, many people had the same idea that I had.   Often, using Iceland as a way-spot to another destination results in a lower ticket cost.   I used miles and my round-trip Anchorage to Iceland to Frankfurt ticket cost $399, including the $25 booking fee because I went direct to an AkAir agent, what with all the time/day changes.

The lighting above the overhead bag bins is in the varying and moving colors of the Aurora Borealis.  Nice touch.

I pull out the food and beverage menu and read it in its entirety.   Iceland Air has a great copy writer!   The airline does not feed the cattle in steerage class, though the flight is more than seven hours, so some hours into the flight, I order the winter salad and it is scrumptious.   Expensive, but scrumptious.

My salad cost just under $17!  It was wonderful.

We arrive in Reykjavik at 6:30 A.M. local time, after flying seven hours.   It’s dark.   It’s raining.   We disembark on a jetway and enter a long, wide hallway with a glass wall ahead of us.   All the glass doors are locked and I wonder if they aren’t expecting us.   Ahead of us, another set of glass doors is also locked.

Then someone discovers an opening that leads downstairs.   No escalator, just stairs, so pick up those cute wheelie bags and carry them.    I wander around, make a couple turns, and am directed up an up stairway.   No escalator; carry those darn wheelie bags.  My wheelie bag is heavy as it contains everything I would need should my checked bag go walkabout and not catch up to me.   That’s a good probability because my layover time there is 45 minutes!

Passport Control is at the top of the stairs, and once through that, I wander around some more, ask directions, and come to a hall with gates 34 and 35.   I need 36.  There's waist-high "36" signin the middle of the hallway--at the top of some stairs.

Hordes of people line both sides of the hall.  There are so many people, I can’t see any more gate numbers, so I just join one line.   Turns out, that’s the line for Paris.   The other line is for Amsterdam.

Once I reach the agent checking tickets for Paris, I’m directed to the down staircase in the center. No escalator.   Carry that heavy, wretched wheelie bag down the stairs.

Then, out onto the tarmac in the wind and blowing rain,  a hundred yards to a covered stairway onto the plane.   Pick up the stinkin' wheelie again.    What fun.

Iceland Air, though, has waited for me and the others and off we go for a three-hour flight to Germany with a full airplane.