Archive for March, 2010

Confession(s)

Posted in Travel on March 26, 2010 by cgeary

(written March 20 in Terminal 4 — Heathrow)

I really do miss business class travel. Mostly it is not being able to elevate my feet during flight…my ankles swell at the beginning of the trip and never really recover fully. But I also miss the room, the better food AND the lounge. (The lounge I am just going to join.) I still believe that business class is not necessarily a good use of funds – but it does make a difference in how you travel.

Doing two trips so close together has made it seem harder I think, but I am just very tired right now and am feeling like I’m not that interested in traveling any more (also a confession)…or that it is hard work and I’d rather not. But it is part of my job and because I have to work for a few more years I’m going to be traveling.

Traveling internationally puts you at the mercy of the fates….I planned this trip before the BA strike was planned and I missed it by one day…I was still worried though. Not that I’m not sympathetic but I want to be home. On the way over here it was high winds that caused a significant delay.

Looking for breakfast this morning in Terminal 3 at Heathrow I noticed that most food choices involved standing in line, getting something prepackaged, having to swipe a credit card and then carrying a tray to a nearby food court (while pulling my carryon luggage with me). What I really wanted was to sit down at a table and have someone take my order…which I was able to find, but only at one place.

I slept relatively well on the plane…easier because we left at 11:30pm and I had two glasses of red wine. So I wasn’t as tired as I sometimes am, but I have that early morning bleariness from being off my schedule, with not quite enough sleep and in an artificially lit building where you can’t see the outside…always the same time here. With a 6 hour layover but no gate assignment for the first 4 hours…

Since I have to think about something during the trip, one thing I have thought of is the way the travel world looks visually. I started taking photos of airports last trip and I think I may use this time to work on a photo project during the year…airports and hotels.

Two hotels

Posted in Travel on March 26, 2010 by cgeary

Almost all my time on my trip was spent in two hotels. One on the way there and the other in Nairobi, but also near an airport.

Views from my windows

Lobbies

Views from coffee shops

Ubiquitous television

The best laid plans

Posted in Travel on March 15, 2010 by cgeary

RDU to JFK to Heathrow to Nairobi….seems like a pretty good itinerary unless your flight to JFK gets cancelled…(actually I don’t like JFK that much, but I was willing to go with it)…high winds…everything was cancelled in and out apparently…RDU has a direct connect to Heathrow except that on certain days of the week it doesn’t get there in time to connect to the BA flight to Nairobi…but I got rerouted that way and picked up the Kenya Air flight a number of hours later than the BA flight to get to Nairobi. The downside (in some ways) was a long layover in London. Also, I had an extra 6 hours in NC. Seems odd that the extra time should seemed like a problem. I think it was just the way I get ready for a long trip…everything planned and timed and then what do I do with the extra time? I didn’t do great in NC….spending too much time at the mall before I realized I still had too much time on my hands so I did go back home to work on photographs. In London, I had troubled deciding on what to do with a long layover as well…finally decided to get a day room which ended up being less expensive than I initially thought and just cooling out in a nice place. Part of me was sorry I couldn’t let myself be more spontaneous and go into London on such a beautiful afternoon…if I had spent Saturday afternoon figuring out what to do in London it would have been a better use of my time…too late I thought of the Tate Modern…but on the other hand I get so few opportunities to just relax. I did sleep a bit.

My very first trip to London was in 1983 on my way home from my very first international trip ever which also happened to be a work trip…My friend and colleague Scott Katz and I spent a couple of weeks in Bangladesh. We traveled west all the way around the world on that trip, overnighting in Hong Kong on the way to Bangladesh. Pretty impressive for my first trip, I have to say, but I will focus on London here. Scott stayed in London only one night and I stayed on for three. I learned a lot about travel from Scott, especially about being assertive enough to get what you need/want. Staying on by myself was probably the bravest travel thing I’d ever done. I went to a show by myself (Evita)…got around on the Tube…went out to eat by myself. It was a good experience, though I was VERY glad to get home to my family as well. Travel is always like that for me…good to be there and good to be back again. But, it was a milestone for me. I’ve been to London a number of times since. I always like it…usually it seems easy after where ever I have just been…I can get around easily and see good theatre. I’ll do another post sometime later about the first part of the trip and maybe another with photos from other trips to London. I’m going to post this one now and then give into my jet lag. Photos tomorrow.

Coming home and a book review (eating animals)

Posted in Comment, Travel on March 3, 2010 by cgeary

The trip home

The trip home was a little less easy than the trip out there, but then it is amazing to me that I can leave Zambia and travel all the way back to North Carolina in the short time it takes…even though it was a bit longer than planned…but just a matter of hours, not days.

Going to Jo’berg was fine. I had a six hour layover in Jo’berg, but I managed it fine. When I got on the plane there, however, I found out that my aisle seat was in the back of my section, meaning that I couldn’t lean my seat back really at all. Plus I was next to two people who were not used to flying…older…and uncharitably I winced thinking that might affect my flight home as well. Then the pilot got on and said that because of the headwinds we were going to get to Atlanta a half hour behind schedule. I knew at that moment that my already short connection in Atlanta was likely unworkable, given the need to go through immigration and get my suitcase off the belt and then recheck it. So I was disappointed but figured there was no reason to stress about it, and I didn’t really. The thing about not being able to lean back for 16 hours is that as I tried to sleep I slumped down in my seat a bit and ended up leaning on the end of my spine — which did hurt a bit towards the end — it seems not to have had long term effects. Of course because I cannot put my feet up, my ankles remain swollen for a few days. I guess that is all I’m going to say about flying coach. My seat mates did keep the reading light on for a few hours during the middle of sleeping time and the guy next to me did leave into my seat space and if he had been an American I would have asked him to move, but I was intimidated because of the cultural differences and was just annoyed. Engaging would have been better and we finally did towards the end of trip. The couple was from Zimbabwe and had been to the States last year for 6 months…not sure why except that I think it had to do with his being a Seventh Day Adventist (he was reading a large print bible in English). He asked me about the book I was reading, Eating Animals, and asked if that included pork. When he told me he was from Zimbabwe he mentioned that there is a lot of evil in the world, and I could see where he was coming from and agreed. Though that is not something I personally dwell on.

True to his word, the pilot was right and we got in late to Atlanta. If my bag had gotten to me earlier I could have made  my 8:25 flight and the rest of the story would have been different. I ran to my gate and when I got there at 8:20 the door was closed. I got onto a 9:50 flight which seemed fine…plus I knew my bag would get there too. But it started snowing…the snow caused a problem with our crew…they had to call a new one…one pilot was late…that put us behind the queue for de-icing (in Atlanta in March!) and we left about three hours behind schedule. To their credit, they went ahead and loaded us up and to my delight, I got upgraded to 1st class. So, though I was tired…very tired…I was sitting in a very comfortable chair and had a flight attendant waiting on me. The guys in suits were having fits…on their cell phones, rearranging meetings, canceling meetings, making executive decisions and wildly exaggerating our delay. I really really did want to be home, but I knew we were going to get off the ground eventually and it was much better than sitting at the gate. I got a lot of reading done…almost finished my book. My bag somehow got to RDU before I did…I guess on another airline. Traveling mercies.

Eating animals

So, I probably will stop eating meat after reading this book. I definitely will not eat any meat that I know didn’t come from a family farm. I can (and do) actually buy meat at the local farmers market from family farms, but there are still ethical questions to wrestle with beyond eating local and supporting local, small farms. There is the issue of eating animals.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s book about factory farming of animals is set within his own family stories and how he has come to the decision to be a vegetarian. His discussion is nuanced and not at all knee-jerk. He focuses primarily on the welfare of animals — mostly the lack of it — but makes the other points about why meat coming from factory farms is bad for the environment, for health (public and personal) and for our souls because of what it does to people who work in them as well as the cruelty to animals. I’m not sure how any ominvore could read this book and not feel moved to change something in the way they eat and socialize within the context of food. JSF provides multiple points of view — letting actors on various sides of the issue speak for themselves. No one or perhaps only one person from the factory farm side would speak. It is mindboggling that this much cruelty to animals and humans goes on — unchecked — in the world. A lot of bad karma to burn up. It is sad and scary.

I was a vegetarian for a  number of years, primarily because of nutrition concerns. Then I had some gastrointestinal issues — probably from years of travel eating stress and parasites — which I tried to treat in numerous ways — but the thing that finally made a difference was the “blood type diet” which seems extreme in some ways but did work for me. I am an O+ which means I should eat meat but not wheat or dairy. Giving up wheat was hardest. Dairy — at least from cows — was not so hard. There is soy milk and I can eat goat cheese. But I do really enjoy eating beef..and my perfect dinner was steak, a salad and a glass of red wine. I don’t think I can do that any more. I can stay on the blood type diet without eating meat…there are plenty of other foods that still work for me. As JSF points out there is a lot at stake in terms of our socialization that revolves around food, so it is not just a dietary choice. It affects relationships with people and how you talk about your ethical choices and what you are willing to stand up for.

Food has always been complicated within my family. My mother did not have enough to eat in the depression. She was a home ec teacher for awhile but when she got married it was her job to feed me and she did, a lot, and there are all sorts of issues I have about eating…many I am beyond, but weight has always been an issue in my life and controlling it has taken way more energy than it should. The obesity epidemic in the US now seems emblematic of our complicated (dysfunctional) relationship with food.

So while I was reading the book I told my husband it was likely I wasn’t going to eat meat any more. We have been moving towards this for awhile…changing our diets in other ways…mostly towards local food and meat without antibiotics and hormones…but this is a further step…we’ll continue the conversation. I was glad for the chance to read this book. Jonathan Safran Foer continues to be illuminating and he is willing to take a moral stand.

Three airports

Posted in Travel on March 3, 2010 by cgeary

Zambia tarmac

Jo'berg-Airplane taking me to Atlanta

Atlanta - The weather that further delayed my trip home