So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Timor not the on the map
Timor not the on the map

Two days ago I was climbing the Eiffel Tower. Two weeks ago I was on a boat cruise around the canals of Amsterdam. Two months ago I was in the far north of Norway, experiencing the midnight sun. In stark contrast, I’ve spent most of today at airports and on planes. It’s one of those days we all have from time to time: it’s been one of those days I’ll never get back.

Although the alarm went off at 7.30 this morning, I stayed in bed a little longer. With nothing planned for the day except catching a flight at 2.15 this afternoon, I saw no real reason to get up. And besides, it was nice just to lie back in bed and look at the window and to listen to the sounds of Paris.

Thanks to the good advice of my friend David, getting to Charles de Gaulle airport was a simple affair via the metro and RER. I caught the metro to Gar du Nord, and then the RER to CDG for only eight Euros, half the price of the advertised shuttle service at the hostel. And all I had to say was “Bonjour, Charles de Galle SVP, Merci” and hand over the cash. The airport was another story.

As yet another baggage check-in queue was closed while the queue got longer and longer, the tall French woman behind me whispered in my ear, “Welcome to France”. By my reckoning, about half the attendants at the Lufthansa check-in this morning were dealing with customers, the rest had “something else to do”.

Frankfurt from the air
Frankfurt from the air

And then, of course, we had to go through a length queue for check-in again for the elevator to the security check-in. And then there was another lengthy queue for check-in again to get through security. And then, after that, there was another lengthy queue for coffee as well. It was a wise move, I think to to the airport several hours before my flight was due to leave as a precaution against lengthy queues.

And with quite some to pass the time at CDG, I went through my receipts, throwing out the pointless bits of paper and keeping the bits of paper that have some treasured memories. There’s some receipts, some cards, a few tickets, mostly from Sweden, as it happens.

The flight into Frankfurt was pretty good, as I enjoyed really terrific views of the nearby landscape as we landed. The only memorable thing from the flight was noticing the map in Lufthansa’s inflight magazine needs a little updating. If someone from the airline is reading this: you need to know East Timor has been independent from Indonesia for quite some time.

Catching a flight with a German airline to Hong Kong is not without some interesting cultural identity issues. About half of those on the flight are Asian, while the other half is probably mostly German. Subsequently, I’m assumed to be German, and although the flight information has been given in German, Chinese and English, all of my dealings with the flight attendants have been in German.

Well except one which happened when I was woken from my sleep. Forgetting where I was I said, “Merci” instead of “Danke schon”. Tres embarassing. After travelling around for the last ten weeks, though, my mind is awash with a number of different languages. As I’ve gone from country to country, I’ve sometimes had to think hard about the culturally appropriate greeting is. Is it “Bonjour”? Is it “Guten Tag”? Is it “Hello” or the more generic Europeanism of “Hallo” (which can sound like any one of several languges).

The entertainment on this flight is also a combination of cultures, with movies from both Hollywood and Hong Kong. There’s also been a “Video Hits” style program featuring some of that really wimpy, bland Chinese pop that makes some of the older-style Eurovision fodder seem avante garde by comparison. The one saving grace was that one of the singers, Gene Gao who is supposed to be completing a Phd at Beijing University, according to the host, is a bit of a spunk.

I’ve just had dinner which was quite good, a beef goulash. They’ve also been pretty generous with the wine. Unlike the last Lufthansa long-haul flight, I don’t think I’ll be left starving, though I have saved a chocolate bar just in case.

My body clock tells me it’s still Wednesday night, but the actual clock tells me it’s already three o’clock in the morning in Hong Kong. The weather forecast also tells me it’s about 30 degrees with high humidity. Thus, I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep before my arrival at about 10.30am Thursday local time. Fingers crossed.

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