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International Travel

We are in London, England during the 2012 Olympics. How cool is that? We didn’t actually come for the Olympics, it just turned out that our plans for being in London coincided with the International Olympic Committee plans to hold the games here, at this time. How nice of them. We are on an extended trip we have planned to take after stepping down from the pastorate of my church. We spent a month or so in Nairobi, Kenya and now are spending a month in London. Traveling internationally can at times seem romantic, and it would be pompous and ungrateful to not realize how special an opportunity it is for most of us. Once you have done some of it the charm begins to wear off a little and you start noticing some of the inconveniences. I hope my sense of wonder however never wears off. I think I go back and forth between wonder and wondering. As in I wonder how come almost every time I fly out of Nairobi it has to be late in the evening? This puts me in the conflict I have between wanting to watch all the movies I can, and eat any or all of the food that it is consumable and sleeping. My body wants and needs to sleep, my greed wants to eat, and my love of movies makes me stay up past my bedtime. Emirates didn’t make it easier by offering me 160 channels, with a choice of about fifty movies. One time I hope I can leave Nairobi in the morning, fly to Europe and spend a day or two, and fly again during the daytime. This time we flew through Dubai. My wife Joan had been watching MI: Ghost Protocal and when we took off shw realized the buidings in that movie were in Dubai. On the way to Nairobi we had flown through Istanbul. Here I am again in the Middle East, only this time not as a soldier. These two countries, Turkey and Dubai are fighting hard to capture as much of the air traffic as they can. They have produced some amazing airlines and airports. Emirates is offering seats so cheap I think everyone in the world has arrived in Dubai at the same time in the middle of the night. Dubai seems to have anticipated this as they have an enormous amount of stretch out chairs on which people can sleep. Unfortunately it is only about a quarter of what they need. I think the idea is mostly to make the transit lounge into one of the largest shopping malls you can find on the planet. I would love to buy some of this stuff, if I had room in my carry on, oh, and of course if I could afford it. How many Rolex watches do I need? We had had enough trouble making weight with our check in bags when we left Kenya. At our departure they weighed our bags and told us they were 14 kilos over. “OK,” I said, thinking that I was willing to pay a hundred dollars to cover the cost. “That will be $70.00 per kilo!” Somebody do the math. This is the point in a marriage relationship where you find out if you are a team, or if the other person is ready to leave you at an airport in a foreign country without regret. Thankfully we had gotten there early enough to spend all the time we had trying to stuff 14 kilos into our carry on, which we could barely carry, on or anywhere else. My wife Joan said at one point, “we can do this” and at that moment I decided not to leave her. I think I was writing about Dubai, and it is an amazing place of cultural juxtaposition. Here were long lines of men in white, with beards and prayer shawls heading for Saudi Arabia, women covered from head to toe with only their eyes showing. Here was some European (I hope she wasn’t American) wearing incredibly short shorts. This of course during Ramadan when Muslims tend to be extremely, well, Muslim. I thought “she is never making it out of this country.” No one seemed to pay too much notice except my wife and I. One thing we did notice was that in this huge airport they didn’t plan too well on counting stalls in the toilets. As a man I am not used to standing in a line in front of a toilet stall. I don’t even want to admit that I actually use the toilet, as if all my work could be done at the urinal. Once in Cairo I was in a stall and someone stuck their hand in the stall with toilet paper for sale. That was a hard choice, to admit I was there or accept a needed service. Now in Dubai it finally was my turn and the seat was hot. “Oh, I hate this,” I thought. Then I realized the seats were heated. For me, as an American, this was a not a psychologically reassuring moment. I mean, maybe the time I stayed with a family in Maine and they had an outhouse, now that was a place for a heated toilet seat. Of course if they could have afforded one they probably wouldn’t have needed an outhouse. The trip from Dubai to London was so much better than the one from Nairobi to Dubai. The plane was half empty for some reason and we had plenty of room. I didn’t have to fight for space with some giant of a man seated next to me, like I did out of Nairobi, who seemed to mumble incoherently for most of the trip. This meant, between him and the movies, I never slept. Didn’t sleep in Dubai, watched more moves on the way to London. I think War Horse had something to do with an escape from a prison in outer space, but I may have run things together. Finally in London, asking the Immigration officer where we could score tickets for the Olympics, who said he couldn’t get any in the lottery. He let us in anyway. To our great joy our friend Chris, who picked us up at the airport, told us he had tickets for all of us (not including the Immigration officer) to watch an Olympic football (soccer) game at Wembley Stadium. Free housing in London during the games, and now tickets. This was awesome. It was only after taking a shower to try and wake up and mistaking what I thought was deoderent for what was actually some roll-on Icy Hot, did I come back to reality; and I might say intensely.

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