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16. Au revoir, Mauritius


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Port Louis, Mauritius
Thursday, November 25, 2010

This time, I drew the drapes tightly so I would not be awakened by the light. It worked. I was not awakened by the light. Instead, I was awakened by my long-standing idiosyncrasy of being--what shall I call it--tense on "get-away day." The anticipation of the impending journey gets my mind on the destination at the expense of the present. I was awake at 5:45.

I had asked the hotel the night before about securing a late checkout for this day. I am supposed to be out of the room by noon but I would like to keep it until I am picked up for my Port Louis tour at 2:00pm. No.

I had a big breakfast and returned to the room to pack. Once I was all set to travel, I headed to the beach for a last walk and then to the lounge where WiFi is available to check email. I ran into Donna and Matt, who are also leaving today, and we had a farewell lunch. They are the nicest young (28) couple.

Picked up by "John," we drove through the old part of Port Louis, a city on this island. It is much like the old part of every city in the world. There is a fortress atop a hill overlooking the city and their weekend horse racing track; it is unremarkable. There is a newly redeveloped waterfront that is much like the newly redeveloped waterfronts of every city in the world. It, too, is unremarkable. There is an old market. It is much like; oh, well, you get the picture.

I got to business while in town. Pepsi has a presence here but Coke still dominates. Coke's advantage is clear: it is distributed by the brewer of the top selling local beer: Phoenix. Pepsi does have some creative on-premise presence and has done a bit of signage with local bodegas as well. My favorite on-premise promotion of all time was sighted here: Just Say GNO. GNO? It stands for Girl's Night Out. Attract the ladies and you will have attracted the men. Brilliant.aa4c3930-3015-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpgaa896940-3015-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpgaa4904e0-3015-11ea-b63e-ab448738f224.jpgaa495300-3015-11ea-8cec-9d4679a1377d.jpg

I arrive at the airport extraordinarily early for my 10:35pm flight...at 5:30. I am apologized to by several people telling me that I cannot check in for two more hours which means that I cannot gain access to the Air Mauritius Business Class Lounge. As soon as airline people who have said I cannot do something leave their posts, I ask the next airline person. This tactic works everywhere in the world. When one airline employee--it makes no difference which airline you are dealing with--when one airline employee says, "No," find anther airline employee and smile even bigger and ask again and you will eventually find an airline employee who says, "Yes." This even occasionally works in the United States.

Anyway, I got checked in and made it through customs and security and into the lounge. It isn't much but it is more comfortable than anywhere else in this small airport. And, I have made one more discovery. Until this point, I was under the impression that everyone in Mauritius was kind and warm and happy. Well, that isn't true. The two servers at the Air Mauritius Lounge are surly and rude and grouchy. My faith in human nature has been renewed. Yes; there are mean people everywhere.

Of course, no one here knows it but today is Thanksgiving Day at home. Mauritius seldom gets American tourists so they know very little of us. The reason? Mauritius is wonderful but no more wonderful than many or most Caribbean islands and is one heck of a lot further away. I asked a few Le Meridien employees how many Americans they remember meeting and they mostly said five or six...in the last few years.

Upon awakening, I began to consider all the things for which I am thankful this year. There are many.

I am thankful for my son and my daughter. They have held me close to their hearts during this most trying year of my life--and theirs.We are closer now than we have ever been. I love them more than they can know. Their partner and husband have been equally caring. The rest of my Russell family has rallied around me with no concession or stipulation. Andy has been there for me in ways that I cannot describe even though his years has been more trying than my own.

I am thankful for other friends who have not let their suffering with my divorce alter their affection for me.

I am thankful for Chalise (for those of you who don't know her, it is she from whom I am buying my new home). She is an amazing woman in so many ways and I will find a way to remain close to her after she leaves Kansas City for her Sarasota condo. She means a great deal to me...she alone knows how much.

I am thankful for Gloria who has been and is my dear and close friend and confidant. For those of you who don't know her, she lost her husband of 41 years to cancer and we have shared our losses and, I think gained much from each other. She means a great deal to me...she alone knows how much.

I am thankful for everyone at ej4 and BeerCampus and P1 Selling for their support, their dedication to excellence and their creativity--all of which has culminated in making me look good in front of our many clients. I am thankful that they run the show in my absence and have embraced the idea that they do not need me to thrive.

I am thankful for the Regency where I live and for the staff there who has welcomed me, cared for me and smiled at me every morning of my residence. I intend to spend the rest of my life at this Plaza Condo Extraordinaire moving from 1005 to 1502 in just over a month. Life there will only get better.

I am thankful for being able to get into 32 inch waist pants. I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful to have gotten through that most miserable hemmorrhoidectomy--a procedure which I cannot recommend to you while, at the same time, I also highly recommend to you.

I am thankful to have nearly gotten through this most miserable divorce process--a procedure which I cannot recommend. One thing I know: divorce itself may not be as bad as divorce lawyers. Debi and I have paid their bills while they prolonged our (my, at least) agony. I am thankful that Mockingbird is sold and closed and now, sadly and happily, a part of my past.

I am thankful that Debi has a new home and is happy to be moving on without me.

I am thankful to be embarking on a new phase of my life. I intend to live it for me while still practicing, as best as I am able, my STUN process: Satisfy the UnMet Need. Now, I shall endeavor to STUN others and also myself...wherever possible.

I am thankful for IRAs and 401(k)s without which my financial situation now and in the future might very well have been perilous.

I am thankful for Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Larry and Larry and VIcki and Clare and all the rest there. They have shown creativity and trust and leadership and they use ej4 as it should be used and they, with their caring about and attention to quality, have made me and the rest of us at ej4 better.

I am thankful for places to walk and places to run and places to eat and places to check out books and places to get take-out and places to just be--all within walking distance of where I now live.

I am thankful that my Republican friends embrace the likes of Sarah Palin because I rest assured that such support will ensure that President Obama will have four more years to try to dig us out of the mess that George Bush and Dick Cheney got us into.

I am thankful for the 66 countries to which I have now traveled. I am thankful for The World's Greatest Travel Agent, Kathy Sudeikis, who flawlessly put this odyssey together and who will now, I hope, find a way to get me via Iceland to (maybe on a cruise) Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, (and from there then maybe overland via train) to Estonia, Latvia and Poland and then flying home (maybe connecting via Portugal) in, say, June, 2011. Are you reading this WGTA?

I am thankful for elephants.

I am thankful for friends who have tried to help me find a new church home even though that has not happened yet.

I am thankful that the Chiefs don't disappoint me this year. They have already surpassed my expectations.

I am thankful for the internet and the fact that you can access it even on an island without electric lines in Namibia and how it allows me to stay in touch and share and communicate and keep up with work so that I am not overwhelmed upon my return.

I am thankful for the one who telephoned me--what was it?--four times, to check up on me during this journey. Nobody ever did that before.

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.

Did I mention that I am thankful for Cianán and Megan? Oh, yes; I mentioned them first. I shall now mention them last because they are, first and last, my most cherished support and source of great joy.

Oh: I am thankful that my flight to Paris leaves in three hours and that I have a business class seat.

Posted by paulej4 14:06 Archived in France Comments (0)

18. 25,000 Miles?


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Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Friday, November 26, 2010

My flight from Paris to Detroit, wouldn’t you know it, departed from a different terminal than the terminal from which my flight from Mauritius arrived so I had to, Guess What? That’s right: clear immigration and customs and go through security again. Oh, well, it ate up a chunk of the six plus hours layover I had to endure. The Air France Business Class Lounge was fine but I couldn’t get WiFi to work there so I didn’t do what I had intended which involved spending time catching up with the world on the internet.

As I write this portion—this final portion—of my commentary on this African Adventure, we are on Air France flight number 378 over the Ocean Atlantique traveling at 545 miles per hour at 35,000 feet nearing landfall over St. John’s, Newfoundland. It is very turbulent, more than the occasional bumps we’ve been having. The captain has just made an announcement—in French—that sent the cabin attendants scurrying to their take off and landing positions where they have just strapped themselves in. They appear to be—not concerned, actually—but irritated. Those “jump seats’ are stiff and straight and uncomfortable. I don’t know that I’ve been in this situation before (where the captain deployed the flight attendants in their formal emergency positions). I’ll let you know if anything unusual comes of it.

I was just listening to a song on the aircraft system with these lyrics:
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
It’s a mistake"

There are 1,865 miles to go before landing in Detroit and we’ve come 2,120 miles from Paris, according to the video screen that tracks our progress. The business class cabin on this day after Thanksgiving is virtually deserted with only seven customers filling the thirty seats. Everyone is sleeping except for me. No; wait. One guy back there isn’t asleep after all. He must be lying down watching a movie because he just laughed. Or, he could be having a wonderful dream of some sort, I suppose. Considering “destination time” (time at arrival in Kansas City) is now just before one o’clock in the afternoon, it doesn’t make sense for me to be sleeping. I won’t sleep tonight if I sleep now. So, I write.

This part of an extended journey is always melancholy. All the excitement of the adventure is in the past. The thrill is in the doing; not in the completing. There is a different kind of excitement when one is a few hours from homecoming after being gone for weeks. It is excitement in anticipation of hugs and familiar places where being comfortable and at ease comes naturally but life is more routine and less exciting.

But, there is, for me, a way around any sense of letdown. I will immediately begin planning my next journey. When I wrote in the last entry about the Baltic idea, I quickly got an email from Cianán saying he wanted to come along. If his busy life will allow for such a thing, that will provide excitement for the both of us.

Yes, the guy is watching a very funny movie. And, while the air is still rough, the FAs are up and about checking to see that all of us are well buckled.

There are about three and a half hours to go on this leg.

What have been the high points of this trip? Elephants. Lot and lots of elephants. If you know me, you know I love them. Rhinos. I saw more rhinos than I have ever seen before and these were close up rather than far away. Hippos. I saw more hippos than I have ever seen before and these, too, were close up. But the thing that will stick with me the longest is the thing that I had not known to do—had not known was
possible to do: leaping off a rock into Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls and not being swept to my death in the apparently rushing torrent of water. Lying on my stomach looking straight down? What a rush. What a memory.

The weather cooperated. Lodging was good to very good. Food was mostly fine. I got to do what I wanted to do and didn’t ever have to do anything other than that. People ask me how I can tolerate traveling alone. That’s how you tolerate it. You travel for yourself. If you want to sit someplace for two hours waiting to see if a great picture opportunity develops, you do it. If you want to walk and walk and walk even though it is too hot for that, you do it. If you want to go to bed early or get up early or eat late or skip eating altogether, you do it. You don’t have to be concerned with the happiness of another person when you travel alone. That is freeing.

That is not to say that I always want to travel alone. I don’t. Meal times when traveling alone are not fun. Eating alone at a restaurant table is one of the most unpleasant experiences I know in travel life...or home life for that matter. Not having someone to talk with (at something more than a surface level) is the definition of being alone; of isolation. You can read and you can write but not being able to talk and listen? Think about it.

The air has smoothed out and the movie guy is still laughing. The woman across the aisle to my right has awakened. She was busy trimming her finger nails before her nap so I was happy to have her unconscious. I wonder if she’ll be able to irritate me with some other borderline behavior during the next few hours. She is not American.

The meal stunk. The “pan seared hanger steak” was tough. I had three bites and gave up. The now mobile flight attendants have just brought me the “L’instant fraicheur.” It is a raspberry sorbet sort of thing. Lots of seeds, though. About five bites worth. Nice.

Later, before arrival, the business class menu says I am due to receive a “Light Meal” consisting of foie gras with apple and quince, salmon sandwich with guacamole, goat cheese tomato tortilla and a baked caramel apple with raspberry coulis. I wonder if the “L’instant fraicheur” is the same raspberry coulis?

We’ve now come 2,453 miles and, according to the map, have just made landfall over eastern Canada. We’ll be heading up the St. Lawrence Seaway to Detroit from here. Welcome to North America once again. It is good to be home.

TravelPod says I have been "read" on this blog 630 times. Wow. I hope you enjoyed it. TravelPod also says I have traveled almost 25,000 miles. Is that correct? I guess so. Also, wow.

This has been a three continent, two ocean adventure. May I recommend it, or something like it, to you? Sure.

Posted by paulej4 15:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

14. The Airport Grand to Mauritius Le Meridien


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Mauritius, Mauritius
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today was mostly occupied by travel. I've seen neither hippo nor elephant. But I have been well entertained, nonetheless. I hope my ramblings will be not boring for you to read. For me, they were fun to write. But, they were even more fun to experience. In this world, fun is where you find it.

Last night at the Airport Grand Hotel in Johannesburg, I worried that all my clean shirts were extraordinarily wrinkled from a very tightly packed suitcase. So, I called reception to request an iron and ironing board. One was promptly delivered to my room. I could locate, however, no electric outlet in the room into which the plug on the iron could be inserted as it was larger and of a different configuration that the plugs for the lamps, coffee “boiler” and television. I called reception and they promised to send someone right up. After a five minute search, the person who came right up called someone else and learned that there was an outlet into which the iron could be plugged in but access to it required moving the large desk/mini bar housing/chest-of-drawers/television stand away from the wall. Enlisting my aid, the two of us did that and I ironed a shirt.

I called reception to inquire if they would like to retrieve the iron and ironing board or if I should place both of them in the hallway. I was asked to simply keep them in the room and housekeeping would fetch them in the morning. Housekeeping did that; promptly at 6:00am.

No matter. The hotel is in the flight path of the Johannesburg International Airport and as soon as it opens in the morning, when the winds dictate use of the appropriate runway, the jets fly immediately over the hotel at an altitude of approximately ten feet. One tends to be rattled out of bed at an early hour. Everyone here is extremely friendly.

In South Africa and environs, dump trucks are referred to as “tippers” and traffic signals at intersections, commonly known as “stop lights” at home, are referred to here as “robots.

At the Air France lounge at the Johannesburg airport, being early for my flight to Mauritius, I asked the reception desk person to please assist me in reconfirming my onward flight from Mauritius to Paris which I was to fly two days in the future. Both verbally and in writing by The World’s Greatest Travel Agent, the earlier mentioned Ms. Sudeikis, and my tour operator, Thompson’s, I have been drilled on the necessity of reconfirming flights 72 hours in advance. This seemed like an opportune time for that exercise because I was at the Air France lounge, having been sent there by Air Mauritius, and because my flight from Mauritius to Paris is to be on Air France. Viola! Magnifique!

The reception staff said they could not help me. But, they said, they would connect me to Air France on their telephone. They did. The kind man to whom I spoke asked for my six digit confirmation number and quickly found my reservation and asked for my e-ticket number. I told him that, for the flight in question, I had a paper ticket. That, he said, would be a problem because, without an e-ticket number, he would be unable to reconfirm the flight. "I have a paper ticket number," I told him. He allowed as how that might possibly work and that he would write it down so he could check with someone later and that I should consider my flight to be reconfirmed and that everything was now in order. I am now resting easy.

The announcement, on 23 November, 2010, aboard Air Mauritius flight number 0852 from Johannesburg, South Africa to the island of Mauritius: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to apologize for all of you. The film you cannot watch because the cassette has become faulty.”

Those who arrived on time for that flight will never know of this because the flight departed a half hour early because of a possible impending storm. Our business class cabin—quite nice as this is an Airbus A340-300—seats 34 but there are only 13 of us. The economy cabin seats 264 and, it too, is only about one third full. I had been told that it was a full flight.

The video monitors in the airport announced that the flight was BOARDING. At the gate, however, they assured me that it was not, as yet, boarding. They were, I was told, testing the video monitors.

And now for a QuikQuiz: The name of the airport on Mauritius is:
A: Mauritius Port-Louis International Airport
B: Swami Vivekananda International Airport
C: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport
D: Paathshaaia International Airport

If you answered A that is incorrect as it would be too easy.

If you answered D that, too, is incorrect because Paathshaaia is the name of the inflight movie that you cannot see because the cassette is broken.

If you answered C that, sorry to say, is also incorrect because Swami Vivekananda is the name of the International Convention Centre in Port-Louis, Mauritius, and not the Airport and you can see how easy a mistake to make that would be.

The correct answer, one and only, is C: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport! Congratulations if you got that right. I shall endeavour to learn the history of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam while I am on the island and offer up an explanation of his identity in a later post.

And now, another QuikQuiz: Which of these is NOT a full-page advertisement in the Air Mauritius inflight magazine, The Islander:
A: Hair Grafting Centre in Mauritius
B: Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital
C: dentCare
D: Apollo Bramwell Hospital

If you answered C, you are correct as dentCare only sprung for a quarter of a page. Ah, a trick question.

The following is a quote from the “Once Upon A Time” column in the The Islander. “1810 is one of the most significant years in Mauritius’ history. Although the French victory in the Battle of Vieux Grand Port was something of a military exploit, it turned out to be insignificant in the long run.” The meaning of this, apparent to the writer, eludes me.

Another QuikQuiz: Which of these is or are, according to safety instructions, either in video and printed form, not allowed:
A: Smoking, including smoking of Puffway Electronic Cigarettes
B: Sleeping on the floor
C: Making any claim against the airline if the suggested RelaxFlight
methods shown in the safety video fail to prevent the occurrence of
deep vein thrombosis as Air Mauritius shall not be liable in any way.
D: All of the above.

If you answered D: All of the above, you must have flown Air Mauritius before and heard or seen these various announcements. If you simply guessed correctly, please accept my congratulations. In all my time of flying, I have never before encountered the prohibition, clearly acted out in the safety video, against sleeping on the floor.

The first officer just walked past my row, heading from the cockpit to
somewhere aft. He appears to be in his late teens or early twenties. He
has quickly returned to the cockpit. I do not know whether or not I am
reassured.

In The Islander, it is also noted that, while in flight, “you should avoid sodas and alcoholic drinks.” And, “As a general rule, beef / veal / pork, and all products derived from these, will not be supplied on our flights. Alcohol will not be used in the cooking methods / products.”

Available on today’s flight in business class are three main courses: fish, chicken and ostrich. Also available are “Tropical Punch made from sugar cane rum, Aperitifs, Spirts, Beer and Soft Drinks, and Cognac & Liqueurs.” Also, “Passengers are not allowed to consume their own liquor.”

After the fine meal service aboard our flight, and after noting the selection of wines including Brio De Cantenac Brown Margaux 2002, Santa Duc Les Garancieres Gigondas 2006, Chablis Saint Martin and Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne, each personally selected by David Biraud, Meilleur Sommelier de France 2002 and Meilleur Jeune Sommelier de France 1998, I asked for a cup of coffee. The coffee aboard? Instant Nescafe.

I love to travel internationally. I love to go to new places. I love to go to new places that most people would never dream of going. Who goes to Mauritius or Namibia? Your friend Paul goes there and he collects experiences that enrich his life and that he will recall—usually fondly—until the day he dies. These experiences give him a unique appreciation for life in America, the place where, one Zimbabwean driver asked me, “Is it true that Mrs. Palin will be your next President? She seems to me to be a nut.”

Upon arrival at Mauritius, where, by now, the sun has set and it is pitch dark, I was met by my driver who took me the hour or so across the island to the Le Meridien. The World’s Greatest Travel Agent said I should ask if an upgrade was available. So, I did. The room is nice but I can't tell about the view just yet.7bf340c0-3014-11ea-b691-c301e4bd3b9d.jpg7bc3cc50-3014-11ea-b691-c301e4bd3b9d.jpg7b2dcde0-3014-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpg6e49a220-3014-11ea-a024-f1276fa42fbe.jpg

Posted by paulej4 14:07 Archived in Mauritius Comments (0)

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