As I write, it’s a muggy overcast morning and I’m sitting in an old cafe in the St. John’s neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The coffee is just this side of brown water and the walls are grease stained wood paneling. A mix of families and hungover hipsters wander in and out.
Last weekend I escaped on a mini vacation to reset. Since my return from Morocco I’ve had trouble truly landing and naturally turned to travel to help.
Last month I posted a glowing review of how travel is the ultimate bellyflop but not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes, like I learned on my trip to Morocco, travel is just a stinging painful flop. My trip started on time with the first leg of my trip taking me to London where I’d get my connector to Amsterdam and my last connection to Casablanca. I got into London on time but that’s when everything started going to shit.
My connection in Amsterdam was cutting it close at a mere 45 minutes. In the blink of an eye the reader board showed me my connection to Amsterdam was going to be late. Naturally I thought this would mean missing my flight to Morocco. In my sleep deprived state, sending a myriad of messages to my partner who was already in Morocco, we cobbled together a plan. I decided to call the airline of my connection out of Amsterdam to Morocco.
They had no record of me or my flight information.
All the while the reader board was pushing back my flight to Amsterdam hours and hours. Finally after hours of delay the gate for our flight to Amsterdam is announced. I approach the agent at the desk and explain that by now I’ve missed my connector and would like to know my options. To my chagrin I find out my connector flight in Amsterdam is three hours delayed thus thwarting any alternative options to get me to Morocco.
Cue my arrival in Amsterdam. Feeling more and more the effects of jet lag I plop down at the supposed gate for the connection flight to Casablanca. Did I mention I have no boarding pass for this flight? I wasn’t able to get one to print when I left Seattle and the page said to pick it up at the gate. Finally agents arrive at the security area and we are ushered into the waiting area of the gate hours behind schedule. An agent somehow knew that *I* was the one without my boarding pass and kindly handed it to me. Everyone looks haggard and tired, including yours truly.
Now inside the gate area we wait. And wait and wait and wait. I see our plane land and a cheer goes up from the amassed crowd of passengers. Surely we will be boarding soon! The best laid plans…
It becomes clear we aren’t going anywhere soon so I take out my knitting and sit with my back to the agent desk. Out of nowhere I hear a woman’s voice rising and rising until she’s shouting in a language I cannot understand but her anger was very apparent. Then all hell seems to break lose. More shouting, a huge mass of people pile near the desk and more voices join in the shouting. At this point I get the feeling we are not going anywhere but no announcement has been made in Arabic, French, Dutch or English. Shouting and the semblance of any order goes out the door for what feels like hours. The reader still shows our plane delayed but leaving.
Finally I politely ask someone if they speak English and luckily they oblige. I find out the rumor is that French air space if closed due to an air traffic controller strike. More chaos ensues, no announcement is made but the captain and flight attendants are at the agent desk now. People are shouting at the captain, the agents are scrambling and the scene unfolds into some sleep deprived comedy. Before I know it the flight attendants have gone back onto the plane and bought out orange juice, water and cups and it all gets passed around. I pass around some chocolate I’ve stashed away in my bag.
At some point an announcement that our flight was cancelled happened and I made my way up to the desk where there is no semblance of a line. I muscle my way up and tell them to send me to a hotel and find out that French airspace is closed. I am directed to wait outside for a bus that will take me to the hotel. It is nearly 1 am and all my aching body and brain want are a bed.
I’ll spare you the details of getting to the hotel and whatnot but after 2 hours sleep I was back at the airport waiting for a plane. Come to find out my partner had gotten no information at the Casablanca airport and slept in the airport waiting for me. Good news is that the strike that closed French airspace had ended and our flight was scheduled for 8 am. And it was late. We finally departed 2 hours late and will all my patience shredded into nonexistence. See picture below for an illustration of how I felt.
Finally I arrived in Casablanca and waded through customs in a fog of exhaustion to step out to be embraced by my beloved. I fell into his arms and tears welling in my eyes cried “I want to go home!”
After a full night’s rest and loads of coffee I stepped out under a Moroccan sky. I simply put one foot in front of the other and off we went on an adventure. It was a whirlwind three days and then I was on a plane back to Seattle connecting through Paris.
And wouldn’t you know it? I got bumped from my connection flight home and had to stay a day and night in Paris. I took the Metro into the city, walked along the Seine, watched couples strolling hand in hand and enjoyed the twinkling lights of one of my favorite cities whilst cracking creme brulee at an outdoor cafe.
For a much anticipated trip, there were just things I could’ve never accounted for (French airstrike anyone?!) and I was not graceful. I was exhausted, angry and anxious. I wasn’t always able to go with the flow and stretch myself. It was super uncomfortable and I didn’t always lean into it.
Sitting by the river in Paris I did have myself a hearty laugh at the absolute absurdity of the whole affair. Despite the gnashing of teeth I could still find the joy in creme brulee and feeling the brisk Paris evening air. Everything was exactly exhaustion tinged perfect.