Friday, June 25, 2010

Coming Home Crazy Part 1

It is dark outside with the clock ticking a few minutes past 4:30 am but my body thinks it’s 10 hours later like it’s dismissal time at school. We decided to segment our journey home with a four-day stopover between Frankfurt, Germany and Gent, Belgium. I will be devoting a separate post to Gent when I’m more mentally together.

We checked in our bags at Brussels national airport, put or computers in the locker, and took the train into the city to for the afternoon.  

The Saint Michael and Saint Goedele Cathedral in Brussels

 Manneken Pis in Brussels aka the world famous peeing boy!

Belgium is known for Chocolate and Beer, here is the best of both worlds

For the record, if you have never flown another airline outside the United States, you are missing out. Ana and I learned that reality on the flight to Guadalajara, Mexico 5 years ago when we were fed a hearty meal including an open bar on a mere two hour flight. Three years ago on the last leg back from our honeymoon on the American Airlines flight between Chicago and San Diego we were given pretzels and water by a rude flight attendant. I’m not implying that all domestic carriers are as bleak; Southwest, Frontier, and Jet Blue are all fairly decent and I would pick them in a heartbeat over the likes of Delta. Board a plane in Laos, Thailand, Kuwait, Beirut, etc and not only do you get a warm meal and friendly service but stainless steel utensils to eat with. Compare that to American, Delta, or United who offer a light snack on a four-hour flight! I know some of you naysayer are going to say that the cost is built into the ticket and I would be a fool to say it isn’t but you aren’t really paying more, you’re just getting less. I remember an episode of 60 Minutes back in the 80’s with the CEO of American Airlines; during the interview he had mentioned the money the company saves by not painting their fleet but the part of the piece that really stuck out was the airline had the two black olives removed from their salads they served and saved two million dollars annually! Now if you want a sandwich on the four-hour flight to Chicago you can buy it for $6.

 The Grand'Place-Grote Markt-Market Square-filled with Guild houses, town hall, and King's house. It was pretty amazing to walk around.

A glass Delirium at Manneken Pis bar to watch team USA beat Algeria. As a side note working in Egypt we have learned that the Algerian team are cheaters and lowlifes. Their fans don't fare much better. Brussels was littered with Algerian fans as we walked through a North African neighborhood hoping to get out undetected. After the game on the way back to the train and there was a group of Algerian fans running around acting as if they had won the match. They went up to a guy playing guitar for pocket change, kicked his guitar case and stole his money then wanted to fight him. Locals had to step in. Such awful people, F**K Algeria! 

Cool painting on the wall...the husband is coming home, the wife's lover is leaving, and the grim reaper is coming for the wife.

Our itinerary out of Frankfurt read Lufthansa but in reality it was a United Airlines plane and flight crew. This meant only one free checked bag, $6 wine, plastic forks, and passionless flight attendants. I knew we were heading back home.


After the eleven-hour flight we were treated to customs and sent to secondary. Prior to arrival I had the feeling we might be in for a long Q&A session with Homeland Security; vacationing in the Middle East and a Communist country will earn you that privilege. After the first customs officer scanned my passport his eyes grew wide and he picked up the phone and mentioned something about the opera before hanging up and sent us to the second set of doors. The waiting officer yelled for us to go down the hallway to secondary. We walked into the secondary room and had two eager and friendly former San Diegan officers waiting for us and they compiled quite a list of information of how we got our jobs, where we live in Egypt, do we speak Arabic, the address and phone number to where we are staying…many of the question were asked repeatedly. Next we were sent to have our luggage inspected and round two of similar questions and ID checks. He was the serious type and cracked a smile when he saw the Islamic Barbie (Fulla) we brought for Ana’s mom. So there you have it, slightly short of having chip implants, we are being monitored.   

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection approved!

My cousins Mel and Rose leant me a book ten years back about an American teacher’s (Bill Holm) experience in China…from his perspective it was the teacher who got the education. I never made time to get through the entire book, but this summer and maybe even today I might hit one of the used bookstores in Hillcrest to find a copy of Holm’s Coming Home Crazy, because that is exactly how we feel. 

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Bob. I think Ian has a serious girlfriend. You know what that means!