Third World Whirl

Sleeping three hours the night before international travel is really not the best way to prepare for a trip. Yet that’s how it seems to go every time for me. I get so excited and anxious and dreadful (of airports) that I wake up every half hour and then 1 to 2 minutes right before the alarm goes off. Last minute bug-eyed packing ensues and monk-like silence until I get to the airport and my gate where I find other already weary travel partners. It’s at this moment that I become energized and ready to go. I just want to be there. Wherever we are headed, I just want to be there and experiencing it. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Especially in this case. After a 2.5 hr flight to DC, we had a NINE hour layover. My God. Nine whole hours before we really begin the trip. Sigh.

Obviously, we took this moment to cruise the town. DC is a pretty interesting town to burn a few hours in, moreso than say Effingham, Illinois or Flint, Michigan. There was an easy bus to downtown DC and the Mall where all of the Smithsonians and Museums are located. I have to say I like DC. Lot’s of history, mass amounts of tourists yet not touristy, clean, orderly, with an undercurrent of energy. We lunched at the Union Station on some greasy chinese food that was situated next to a cajun stand and a greek stand. It was like a food court on steroids. I chose the “world-famous” whiskey chicken and proceeded to burp and hiccup for the next 4 hours like a giggling drunk hobo. By the time we got back to the airport we had walked our asses off and were ready to crash into the luxurious ethiopian airlines plane. 

I guess the immediate thing that stood out to me when we boarded the airplane (aside from body odor) was the fact that Christmas music was being pumped through the cabin. There’s a moment right after you board a plane and get your carry-on bag (which easily exceeds the maximum) into the overhead compartment that you drop into your seat with your complimentary pillows and blankets either bulging uncomfortably beneath you or being held in your weary hands and your mouth hangs open as you blankly stare at the new people coming on board, fruitlessly hoping that no one will sit next to you so can lay down during the flight. Now imagine a reggae version of ‘White Christmas’ blaring above you. I guess this is a good example of international air travel. 
Well, the flight was long, with a stopover in Rome to refuel and for some airport employed romans to rush on board and clean out the lavatories for an hour before lifting off for the remaining 6 hours. I sat next to a nice, small ethiopian man who was a janitor in Wisconsin. He hadn’t been home in 2 years and was anxious (i think?) to see his wife and children.

Some time throughout the flight, which was horribly orchestrated to have meals right in the middle of a good sleep session, breakfast was brought to us. I was only 2 hours or so in to my Ambien sleep pill and had a general feeling of ‘wtf?’ circulating through my dreary conscience. If you’ve ever taken ambien and get woken up it definitely feels like your drunk. Your movements are sluggish and retarded and you can’t figure out exactly what’s going on. Supposedly you’re supposed to have amnesia with Ambien as the label specifically states that you are more likely to: 1. Sleepwalk 2. Sleeptalk 3. Forget things 4. Have Sex. All if you are taking ambien cr. Seriously. Long story short, I slept-ate my breakfast and then druggishly knocked my tray on to the ground when I was finished. The lady across the aisle kindly picked it up for me and in a fairy-like voice she said, “You can sleep.” Thank you, my kind ethiopian sleep fairy.

And then…

Ethiopia was not cool. The temperature was cool. Cooler than I expected but the place itself, not that cool. Granted, our ethiopian visit was contained to only the capital city of Addis Ababa – a stinking third-world city like all third world cities I have visited thus far. Lemme say something about this; large third world cities are all the same. You drive down the street and see the exact same things, smell the exact same smells, and hear the exact same sounds (with maybe more curry and overall freneticism in India). You will drive down a street that is stocked to the gills with shitty little shops selling electronics from two decades ago. All of the signs will be in pidgen-english with the squiggly forms of the national language stuck small underneath. Carbon-monoxide from cars that haven’t been checked for emissions since Lyndon B. Johnson was in office will overwhelm you while all sorts of burning smells creep in through the windows. People will stare in to your van/bus/suv window as if they’ve never seen one before and, inevitably, you will see at least 28 acts of public urination; this time in the middle of the street in a pothole the size of maine – 7 or 8 dudes had set up their very own lemonade stand and were letting their freak flags fly. Inevitably, you will arrive at your hotel which is either a literal palace or some weird variation of an american hotel. The hilton that we stayed at was the latter. It looked like somebody’s grandpa’s basement in the lobby and everybody was smoking. It’s at this moment in your travels after having been through the rigamoreau of travel, customs, stupid airport officials, airplane seats built for pygmies, guess-what-the-airplane-food-is, arrival-shock of all your senses, and lastly a cloud of cigarette smoke in the place you’ll be sleeping for the next 3 nights that a single tear slips out the corner of your eye. You either collapse right there or suck your nuts up into your body cavity and push through like the kickass world traveler that you are…. so, I collapsed. Well, i waited until I was in the hotel room. I didn’t really have a breakdown i just passed out fully dressed on the bed… only to wake up 3 hours later, like a chipmunk in the middle of winter who thinks that it’s the first day of spring.




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