Thursday, June 21, 2012

Homeward Bound

May 22 - 23, 2012
Remember how getting to Tanzania was terrible? Yeah, getting back to Germany was much worse.

Our last night in Stone Town we ended up in a hotel that was undergoing renovation and as a result, we couldn't get a room with air conditioning. The overwhelming heat prevented us from sleeping and I actually got up several times in the middle of the night to throw water on my face. At 6 in the morning we speedily ate a hard-boiled egg and some coffee and rushed to the ferry back to Dar.

I should have suspected something when the man started walking around handing out black bags labelled "sick bags", but Kira and I have both spent significant time on boats and figured we'd be fine. Hah. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Turns out when you take the ferry to Zanzibar you're going with the current but when you come back, you're going against the current. Those in the know (and who can afford it) take the boat in and then fly back. Two hours of nonstop roller-coaster like activity and everyone was sick. EVERYONE. 30 minutes in I went out on the deck and sat on the ground by the railings, trying to keep an eye on the horizon while Kira put her super-heavy-duty headphones on so she couldn't hear everyone getting sick around her. One woman on the deck would periodically make these inhuman, wild cat roar-like noises while grown men would make these queasy smiley faces right before pulling their black bags closer. It was a nightmare scene out of a movie.

Although neither of us got sick, but I felt like I was on a rocking boat for two days afterwards and our Dar colleagues kept commenting on the white pallor of our skin. Even thinking about it now makes me pale. When we arrived in Dar we went directly to our office there where we had to finalize some things before flying home that night. After spending the day there, we drove to the airport and got on the first leg of our overnight flight back.

The flight to Ethiopia went fine, but then the flight to Frankfurt was delayed. When we finally boarded, Kira was upgraded to business. When I asked the steward, "what about her travel partner?" He was like, "maybe you can pay five dollars and come for a visit later" and then open his mouth to expel this evil sinister laugh. I was SO CLOSE to punching him the face. Ok not really, but I definitely had a moment where I imagined what that would be like. He knew this flight was a stressful situation for everyone and to make such a joke was beyond cruel.

In a twist of miserable fate I ended up in a row with a mother and her four kids who spoke no English or German and were behaving like wild banshees. Turns out that several flights on this route had been cancelled in the past few days on account of storms and several people had been stranded, resulting in an overbooked flight and Kira's upgrade. I wouldn't have minded, but a lack of sleep was making me slightly crazy. Halfway through the flight we made a stopover in Sudan, where we then proceeded to be delayed by a sandstorm. A sandstorm. My first time in a sandstorm was on a rocking plane filled with wailing children and snarky flight attendants.

To add to the misery, every time something happened, the pilot would come on and in this monotonous voice (think Office Space) would start to explain in great detail what was going on: "As you folks can see, there is a sand storm. I don't know about sand storms, but obviously we can't fly right now. I talked to the folks from the airport. They know about sand storms. They said it'll probably be over in 15 minutes. Then if we can see, we should take off. After the flights before us. There are some flights ahead of us in line, so they'll take off first. Some sand might come through the air ventilation. Don't freak out. That happens sometimes. We don't think it will happen this time, but it could. If it does, please don't freak out..." on and on and on. Then again in German. On top of that, I sat next to man who kept sending wild hand signals to his wife who was sitting a few rows ahead of us, as if she couldn't understand what was going on, even though she clearly could. I didn't sleep the entire night and when we finally made it to Frankfurt at 7am, I was completely trashed. Kira, having slept in business class, asked me how my night was and I just teared up.

I walked out of the airport and to the bus home, which had just arrived. As the driver got out I asked in German if I could sit inside while he took his break. He thought I was German (he was of Turkish descent) and in a very condescending and rude manner said, "Noooooo. No, I need break. SMOKE? I need a smoke!" Then I just snapped and responded in Turkish, "Understood! I just wanted to know if I could sit inside while you did that!" and then teared up and stalked away. I think I scared him because he came back early and said, "look, look, I'm here. Do you need help with your bags? I'm so sorry, I thought you were German." Like being German made his behavior ok?! I'm exhausted, who cares if I'm German, Turkish, or from Mars? Either do something nice for someone or politely tell them you can't. No need for the attitude.

Lesson learned? Next time I have long trips, I'm traveling during the day. In retrospect, the whole situation was like a national lampoon comedy, but because I was so tired the only laughter I was capable of was maniacal, on-the-edge cackling. At least with day travel, I'll have a chance of normal sleep between my flights and can avoid the borderline crazy. The other lesson is, I am never going to assume I've just had the worst travel experience possible because as I learned only a few weeks later, it can always get worse.

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