Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

"You're going to fly from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville?" The oil guy from Queens had been incredulous last night. "Don't you know that planes here have a terrible safety record? One in three has a problem."

I don't believe that one in three planes has a problem in Congo. Three planes left the hour I was sitting in the airport, and they left on time. But anyway, I think I convinced him of my point a moment later.

"What do you think are the safety records of the trucks and buses I've been traveling on?"

He laughed, seeing my point.

"Still, you have balls."

My balls, bag, and I walked out of the Swedish Mission early on Mother's Day, started hiking the few blocks to the main street, but we were picked up by a taxi after less than 20 feet of walking.

We went to the airport. The airport! Wow. Things work at the airport. Mostly, I mean. The cafe had a nice sign advertising breakfast options, but all it really offered was an egg and baguette. The other options were fiction.

I sat in a waiting area, watching John Stewart making fun of Osama bin Laden with French subtitles. I glanced around to gauge the reaction, but no one else was even looking at the television.

"I guess I'm not getting any frequent flyer miles on Trans Air Congo," I thought.

The trip that would have taken two days by truck took an hour by airplane. I could get used to this.

I negotiated a ride to Hippocampe with a taxi, and we pulled into sleepy Brazzaville before noon, breaking down about a mile from the hotel.

The taxi driver looked back at the oncoming traffic—there was none on this Sunday morning. He got out, pulled up the hood, and got to work on trying to replace a bit of tape that had worn out.

I was about to volunteer my travel duct tape when he hailed a second taxi, apologized, and paid the man to take me the rest of the way to Hippocampe.

Where I checked in, enjoyed their wi-fi and hot water, A/C, then turned off the toilet water supply so I didn't have to listen to the water run all day and night.

Hippocampe is also a good Vietnamese restaurant. And when a man came to my door in early evening to ask if I wanted my dinner to be chicken with ginger, rice, and fruit salad, I decided I was quite pleased with my decision to hang around and do nothing all day.

I'm not a mother, but I have a mother, and she'd strongly suggested that I take the plane to Brazzaville for Mother's Day. Relaxing downstairs at Hippocampe with my laptop and some ginger chicken, I was happy to have listened to her.

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