28 hours in Brussels
I'd like to preface this first blog entry by saying that I was not going to set up a travel blog, as I find blogs in general to be creepy, self-indulgent and annoying, however, seeing as that I'm currently stuck in the Brussels airport for about 28 hours and being extremely bored, I'd figured I set this up in order to amuse myself. Also, my first experience here has been too awful and hilarious to not publish it on the internet.
Well, it seems as though nothing about getting to Kinshasa is easy. First, it was impossible to get a security clearance. I'm not going to get into that really, but I will say that basically my entire investigation was held up for weeks because someone misspelled my name. Thanks Mom and Dad for not spelling my name with an e!
In any case, I'm on my way to JFK, and everything is fine until 15 minutes before we arrive. My mom asks me if I have enough money in my wallet, so I look in my purse to get it out and check. However, the wallet is not there. I have left it at home. After enduring a rather lengthy tongue-lashing from my dad, "YOU'RE SO IRRESPONSIBLE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU" I realized that it wasn't that bad. I still had my passport, my international vaccination certificate, copies of my insurance card. So basically I was just missing about two hundred dollars and my ATM card. However, my dad had another copy of the card, and we got more cash from the ATM at the airport. Okay, so first crisis sorta averted.
Next crisis. We get in line to check-in at Air France, and my flight has been delayed about two hours à cause de la grève in Terminal 2 at CDG. SHOCKING. I hope you sense the intense sarcasm in my voice. I thought I was done dealing with Paris manifestations greves nonsense after I left, however, I CANNOT ESCAPE IT. But okay, so big deal if my flight is delayed two hours. Well, here is the problem, on AirFrance there is only a flight from Paris to Kinshasa like once or twice a week. BIG PROBLEM. So this is what happens. They reroute me to go to Kinshasa through Brussels on Delta. But, they put me on stand-by, and I didn't actually get a seat until about 5 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off. And by the way, being on standby is very stressful. I always used to look at the standby passengers as pains in the ass, who were constantly nagging the flight agents and making themselves annoying. But now I understand why. And boy, I was the biggest pain in the ass ever, and boy did I relish that role. Asking about every 5 minutes if they had a seat for me yet.
In any case, I did get a seat...and it was in first class!! I got seat 1B, which as the pilot told me, is the best seat in the entire plane. It was freaking kick ass. However, I've never taken a flight in first class, so I was really embarassing. I didn't know how any of the chair things worked, I couldn't take out the tray, I couldn't adjust the footrest, I couldn't get the TV out, so I'm pretty sure that the flight attendants thought I was retarded. Like really. I acted positively dumbfounded when they asked for my dinner order, florentine soup, romaine salad, beef filet with mashed potatoes and olive couscous and an assortment of cheeses for dessert. I ordered a glass of wine, which I was sure they wouldn't give to me given how juvenile I was acting (and as Cassie says I act like a 5 year old when I talk to adult strangers), but they let the wine flow! I had an excellent Italian white of which I've already forgotten the name. I also bien enjoyed the selection of entertainment, which included episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Big Love as well as Horton Wears a Who and La Vie en Rose. Also, the TV freaking pops out of your armrest! Sweet.
About my 5 minutes after I took my first class seat, I looked at my new itinerary and realized that I had only 55 minutes to make the connecting flight in Brussels. So I was like, shit fuck, I ain't gonna make it. On top of that, the flight was delayed about 2 hours because of thunderstorms, and also SHOCKING, air traffic at JFK. We started off like 30th in like to take-off. After I had a panic attack about the fact that I might possibly be stuck in the Brussels airport for a week, I took out Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, who, by the way Cassie, also wrote Into Thin Air. I hadn't ever read it, and it seemed like a good airplane read, so I dove right in. It's about this guy named Chris McCandless who was basically a Thoreau/Muir wannabe and died in the Alaskan wilderness being an idiot. I knew Krakauer was going to try and glorify him, but I've read about 100 pages so far and he hasn't convinced me that McCandless was not a prideful moron.
Okay, so we land in Brussels at around 9:55 am, and my flight to Kinshasa takes off at 10:00. Obviously, I miss this connecting flight. So I'm like, okay, well let's see what happens. So I got to the baggage thingy, and my luggage does not come. So again I'm like, shit fuck, what the fuck am I going to do. I get in the flight care line for about 40 minutes, and wait for them to tell me that my baggage should have arrived. And I'm like, so why isn't it here. And the guy is like, I dunno. And I'm like WTF. Also, he tells me that I can't file a lost luggage complaint because Brussels isn't my final destination. So I'm like, fuck this is awful. So then I go upstairs to la vente to figure out how I';m going to get to Kinshasa. First, they proposed the following itinerary: Brussels to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to London, London to Nairobi, Nairobi to Kinshasa, plus I'd be on standby. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And the the trilingual lady was like, okay well you can take the same flight tomorrow at 10 am if you want. So I'm like whatevs, but PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY LUGGAGE. So the lady was nice, and she helped track down my luggage. Apparently, they put my luggage on a different belt cause I had missed my connecting flight....I don't know why...and so it was in the lost in found. If they had lost my luggage, that would have been a catastrophe. I have no idea how they would have gotten to Kinshasa. And mind you, that is two months worth of stuff! That would have been bad times.
In any case, I'm hungry. So I sit down at a cafe and get a tea. Then I hear an American voice point to an empty chair and ask, "Is your boyfriend sitting there?" I smiled and nodded no, and he sat down. I'm really bad at judging age, like really bad, but he looked to be between maybe 55 and 65. He asked me if I spoke English, and I said yes, which was like the best decision ever. We chatted a bit, talking about traveling, politics, and how air travel is a nightmare, and I told him my about not-so-ideal predicament. This guy is a really nice guy, like a really nice retired architect Hawaiin guy, and he insists that I look into staying at a hotel for the night, and says he'll help me out. He absolutely INSISTS that I stay in a hotel, especially after the guy at the tourism desk showed us an article about how 5 women were raped at the train situation in Brussels. So I finally decide on a decent hotel that is only 59 euros a night. But the thing is, I have no way to pay for it, cause I didn't bring any euros and I only have a debit card. Plus, I don't want to withdraw a ton of euros because I won't need them past tomorrow. So get this, he OFFERS to loan me 100 euros for the hotel. How AMAZING is that? So, I'm shacked up in a hotel for the night, courtesy of this man that I just happened to meet! (I will be sending him the money back, by the way). As I said goodbye to him, he started to come at with me with a sort of European goodbye kiss (on the lips), which was uncomfortable and awkward, but I gave him my cheek and I was on my way.
Okay, so I arrive at the hotel, having taken a free shuttle from the airport to the airport hotels, and I arrive at my room. I'm feeling really gross, and I want to take a shower. Then I open my suitcase, and I notice that there is this pink gooey liquid like all over my clothes. ALL OVER. So I'm like shit, something spilled. Turns out, my ENTIRE bottle of shampoo spilled over my clothes. AGGGH. Should have listened to my mom. Damnit! Okay, so now I have to rinse out all of my clothes. But believe you me, it is not easy to rinse out an entire bottle of shampoo out of clothes. It made a shitload of bubbles. Pretty soon the sink overflowed and there were suds and bubbles everywhere. As the sink was overflowing, I moved to the shower, which went slightly better, although the suds in the shower came up to like my knee, seriously. So finally after I rinse out the last skirt, I'm thinking how can this possibly be my life.
My flight is at 10:00 am, and hopefully I'll get on it sans problemes.
Oh, and by the way, having many hours to do nothing in Kinshasa, I quickly finished Into the Wild, and surprisingly, Krakauer did convince me that McCandless isn't a total idiot, and that there is something admirable about living off the land. But whatevs, he's still lame.
So that is Day 1, on my trip to Kinshasa. I hope tomorrow goes better.