The Brussels airport was not as small as my chatty single serving friend implied. She was my seat buddy, we had three seats with just the two of us in them so I had plenty of space to toss and turn. My seat mate, Tidy (not her real name, it’s more complicated than that but when she introduced herself, I thought she said Tidy) works in Brussels as a lobbyist with the EU. She was…what a stereotypical New Jersey Jew? Sort of. We talked about Israel for a bit. I felt uncomfortable and played the apolitical role. Though I think she could tell I was faking. “Oh of course, both sides are to blame…it’s really the government’s that are the problem here.” You know, stuff that’s obviously true but involves an admission of guilt. But her rant and my political banter reminded me how important it is to think of the individuals involved in these geopolitical quagmires. So often, we can just write off a leader as the source of some conflict, but it really requires internalized fears (or whatever) by a large population. And she wasn’t a radical anyway so the only uncomfortable feelings were from me not knowing how much I could say of my own opinion. She also thought Gordon Brown was a very big deal and is concerned that the conservative party will take over the UK; “not that that’s necessarily bad” she said. And from her explanation, it doesn’t seem all that bad.
Anyway. After that conversation, I got off the plane at Brussels, stumbled around a very confusing airport, admitting to everyone I saw that I spoke English, managed to go outside, have a cigarette, go back in, find my way to security, push my way through security (why can’t they just queue??), find expensive internet, use it for an hour and then find my way to my unmarked gate. I had to go through three check points after security…don’t know why…and after the last one I realized that there was no getting back out through the airport. The No Re-entry signs were clearly marked on the side I was now sitting. But low! What do my weary travelers eyes spy? Beer and cashews! So I proceeded to have a breakfast of beer and cashews, the salesman saying “I would love to have a breakfast like this.”
Following the deliciousness, I waited for my plane with the others, some going to Monrovia, and some continuing to Cote d’Ivoire. My luck ran out and I ended up sitting next to a chatty UN peacekeeper working in Cote d’Ivoire. He was a Bangladeshi frat boy who obviously hadn’t talked to many American women, let alone women older than him. He constantly tried to explain things to me, things like “this is your passport,” “are you sure you can stand in that line?,” “In Cote d’Ivoire, it is very hot.” Granted, his English was probably not as good as he would have liked but at this point in my trip, a chatty UN peacekeeper was the last person I wanted to be sitting next to. But the fates were against me by this point (I’d already been spoiled with beer and cashews) and who would be sitting next to me on the plane, who I had somehow managed to lose while boarding? Bengali frat boy.
Besides his constant jabbering, which dissipated when I told him how tired I was and fell asleep, the flight was smooth. Apparently I just need to be sitting next to someone whom I really don’t want to talk to in order to sleep on planes. Tidy was not nearly as annoying. Luckily, he stayed on the flight, though required a toll of two photos of me before I could get out of my seat (I was by the window). I don’t really understand his interest, as I was rude to him and looked like crap from two days of travel.
After that, the Liberian airport was hysterical! Something I’ve noticed is that the buildings here, those that aren’t very small and one room, are mostly cement with plaster covering, wooden door frames, and as many windows as will fit in a wall. The airport was just like that, only without any windows. I went through customs which consisted of a lady unceremoniously unzipping, opening, and closing my bag without really looking, and I had to fill out a form explaining why I was in Liberia. I forgot the address and had a mini panic but faked it. Then, out of nowhere, a man in uniform came up to me with a sign on my name on it. I hadn’t even gotten my bags yet so I was very confused. He disappeared as soon as I told him that yes, I was that person. I waited for my bag.