I’ve spent the last month going from Africa to Europe to Asia, and back full circle to Africa through Europe. I’ve flown airlines from countries I didn’t visit, so I feel like I’ve been on tour of the sky, a sampler of cultures from far away places through the airplanes I’ve sat on for hours on end. Its fun to compare the services, food and drinks each plane gives you, and what kind of flight attendant gives it to you. The uniforms they wear and the safety briefing announcements change, and trying to read the safety card in the seat in front of you is always a challenge, especially if the alphabet isnt Roman or they go right-to-left or up-down instead of left-to-right. You start to memorize the announcements they make, and sometime recognize numbers and words like “kilometres,” so you fill in the blanks and realize they’re discussing the hours of travel and time of arrival. Then they go into the oxygen masks and how to fasten and unfasten your seat belt, and you start to believe you’re understanding Korean just because you know the monologue by heart.
I was stressed to fly with Aeroflot, an airline notoriously infamous for plane crashes. I was surprisingly reassured by the friendliness and beauty of the Russian flight attendants, Im not sure why, but I figured such a happy plane could never crash. Turkish Airlines had great complimentary meals and Turkish wine, but EgyptAir only offered over-sweetened fruit juices and Norwegian Air Shuttle didnt even offer water to drink. I love it when you get 3 or 4 seats to yourself and get to lie down and sleep (thank you Air Garuda), but sometimes private-entertainment system distracts with a great choice of movies to stay awake and watch. The women of Sri Lankan airlines had the best uniforms, with the women adorned in turquoise, peacock-pattern saris, their brown bellies exposed around the midriff.
I flew with Sri Lankan from Jakarta to Colombo, and arrived in Sri Lanka with a day-long layover. I was given a hotel room because they had delayed the flight an extra day, and I met an English Pakistani woman who wanted to share a rickshaw and explore the beach town of Ngombo with someone. She was a tough lady, but slowly started to open up about how she had been cursed with black magic by her sisters and brothers. She explained that she had come to Singapore and Sri Lanka to speak with black magic doctors, to try and break the curse on her which had now extended to her missing son. I was feeling confused but sorry for her, until her parting words were “be careful around me, my black magic might spread.” My flight from Colombo to Paris was 11 hours straight, which was alot more than the 6 hours I incorrectly calculated with our time-zone change.
My 3 day stopover in Paris was a wonderful city get-away, but somehow so disruptive in my transition from Asia to Africa. I had an 8kg backpack full of only tropical-weather clothing, and had forgotten how expensive normal life can cost in Europe. But I warmly welcomed the organization and cleanliness of Paris, walking around in adoration of each and every apartment building that looked like it qualified for UNESCO world heritage site status. I woke up each morning a few blocks away from the Eiffel tower in a cold, clean room, and in my half-awake-state, would only remember I was in France after first realizing I couldn’t be in south-east Asia or west Africa.
I hate it when flights are delayed, unless they’re delayed more than 4 hours and you get some sweet compensation. My flight out of Colombo and into Abidjan were reported as late, but then changed back to being on schedule, which is somehow more stressful than just accepting the delay and enjoying the place you’re in for a bit longer. I got 6 emails in a 6 hour period from Egyptair quoting delays and then no delays, but then the flight boarded 45 mins early. I’ve still never missed a flight, but its bound to happen sooner or later, especially with technology like SMS notifications that tell you 4 new, different departure times when you’ve already arrived at your boarding gate and decide to wander off, only to hear your name being called over the PA system. I couldnt understand the final boarding call because it was only made in Indonesian, but after enough airports and airplanes you’ve also learned to understand what it means when your name is called over the loudspeakers, and even in the strangest accents. And that’s because its every traveler’s worst nightmare to miss a flight, especially one which you bought a non-refundable, one way ticket for.