After the back-and-forth journeys between Kelowna and Vancouver, and a ten-day road trip through the American West Coast, I’m in the airport waiting for my flight to Jakarta with a stopover in Taipei. An Indian mother is taking pictures of her son in the animated plastic boat sculpture, Naomi Campbell is testifying at the Hague, and I’m sitting alone, eating a sandwich, somewhat intrigued by the BBC feature on the Charles Taylor trial. The knowledge that I’m off for a year of travel is a bit unsettling, but how else can I go on but to trust that I’m never given more than I can bear? It’s 1:30am.
A note about flying
I love to travel, but I hate to fly. From the anxious preparation and waiting to being cramped in confined spaces with stale air, there isn’t much appeal in the actual flight itself. This is why I generally subscribe to the policy of entering the aircraft at the last moment, so as to not prolong the sardine can misery. This rule of thumb, however, overlooks the passenger variability – namely, that some (young or old) punk has taken your seat and corrupted your 13 hour living space. On the flight to Taipei some arrogant boy with an undeserved sense of entitlement had the gall to try to convince me that an A ticket was an aisle seat. When I persisted to tell him otherwise, he reluctantly left the seat with an exasperated sigh. No better was young punk #2 in the middle seat, who had no concept of space and kept falling asleep on my shoulder, or kicking my legs. So do I then enter the plane when called, so I may establish my authority over my space?
My experience with aeronautical seatmates has, for the most part, been rather negative. Some, at least, have been humorous, like a flight from London to Dubai, where I was sandwiched between two, shall we say, portly women, one of whom drew this fact to my attention and expressed her sympathies for being stuck between “two big ladies.” She was on her way to serve in Afghanistan. Most of the time, however, the grumpy British man, the crying baby and the mother that won’t pay attention to him/her, the Filipino lady with a mountain of shopping bags on her lap, the snoring Chinese man, and the alcoholic American (these are instances from my flying experiences, not stereotypes) aren’t funny. At any rate, it is perhaps too much to ask for amicable seatmates, like expecting to win the lottery.
I’m watching the sun rise from the Taipei Airport. The 4-6am window seems to be the quietest at airports. A baby is trying to interact with me, but I think there is a slight disconnect between us. He gives me his water bottle and I give it back. This happens two or three times before he tires of the exchange process and proceeds to stomp on the metal vents on the floor. Taipei has blue skies; I’m thinking I should enjoy this while I can.
The empty children’s area at the Taipei Airport.
A little girl in a polka dot dress with hello kitty slippers has sat next to me. She’s eating a pineapple tart. I covet it. She just got up from her seat, and left one there! Oh, she’s back. She took her tart. Now it’s all gone.
Everything feels more accurate now that a horde of Taiwanese people have taken over the seating area, with their babies, children, uncles and aunts and all. Also, groups travel in matching comme des garcons t-shirts. Identification? Done.
After a two-hour wait in the static line at customs, I make it out of the airport and meet my parents. It’s unfortunate that corruption greets you immediately at the airport – which, I suppose, is common practice nowadays. The traffic is worse than Bangkok, but we eventually get into the hotel. At night, it takes over an hour to get back after dinner, as taxis refuse to stop by the mall. We take the equivalent of a Tanzanian dala-dala, or a Filipino jeepney, and connect with a taxi further down the way.
Fresh fruit for breakfast.
Today we leave Jakarta for Medan. Our flight is delayed a few hours. I meet my cousin when we arrive before midnight.