Saturday, October 23, 2010

How I Spent My Fall Vacation, Part 1

We have returned after an extended vacation in darkest Africa. We will now endeavor to tell you all about it in a way that is comprehensive enough for our own purposes without being comprehensive enough to put readers to sleep. But if we err, fret not - we'll be back to the Afghan content soon.

So the above picture is not, in fact, from darkest Africa, but rather glitziest Dubai. Our transit time to Tanzania was significantly longer than expected.

First of all, it should not be a big surprise that Kabul International Airport (KIA) is possibly the worst commercial airport your correspondent has ever been to, beating out no small number of crummy developing-world airports. Perhaps not unreasonably, at KIA, one has to go through security to get into the airport. As in, there is only one door to get into the terminal, and you go through a full metal detector and baggage x-ray within a few feet of entering. This has the predictable effect of creating a line a hundred yards long just to get into the airport building. And then there is an equally long line to go through passport control where a couple immigration officers do a leisurely check that your visa hasn't expired, while another five or six immigration officers sit around and do nothing. Immediately after passport control is another security checkpoint.

We were still in the line for passport control when our flight was supposed to be taking off. (Thanks for the timely drop-off, motor pool!) But I guess Safi Airlines is used to this syndrome, since they held the flight at least an hour for those of us trapped in the passport line - which was great for us; maybe less great for others trying to make a connection in Dubai.

Eventually we made it though all the lines, got to our gate and were allowed onto the beat-to-hell bus that takes you out onto the taxiway to get on the plane. Which bus proceeded along, past all the planes in sight, away from the airport facilities, to the end of the pavement... and then proceeded to off-road along some dirt ruts for a while until we reached the next bit of pavement, where our plane was waiting for us. And the aviation industry is reportedly the second biggest source of revenue for Afghanistan.

In any case, with that ordeal behind us, the next stop would be Dubai, where everything would be modern and efficient and encrusted in diamonds. True enough until we went to check in for our 4:00 PM flight and were informed that it would be delayed until 4:00 AM. Ethiopian Airlines kindly bought us lunch at the food court and got us a hotel in Dubai. So we decided to do what people from all over come to Dubai for... shopping!

Well, sort of. We basically just started walking from the cheap hotel Ethiopian Air put us up in and came across perhaps the wold's tackiest gift emporium, featuring delights for young and old alike. Assuming the youngster in your life wouldn't be freaked out by these creepy dolls (they're probably somewhat less creepy when not presented as a wall of young hanging victims):

Or perhaps your creative youngster needs to be reigned in with these fascist coloring books that have one page that shows you the correct colors to use on the facing page and then a space for "evaluation" of their coloring skills on a scale of one to five stars:

Not that it was just for kids -- who doesn't have a special someone on their Christmas shopping list that might want a rhinestone-studded decorative spider for their home?

We giggled our way through the store (which was department-store huge), and spent another couple hours wandering around what seemed like a pretty ordinary Dubai neighborhood, with shops and restaurants catering mostly to the Filipino "guest workers" who do all the actual labor that the Arab oil barons won't. We then made it back to the airport and on to Addis Ababa and then Arusha, Tanzania without further incident, which is where the vacation was supposed to start in the first place, and where we'll pick up tomorrow.

1 comment:

Donna said...

Hey! We had those same coloring books in China! My kids not only did NOT color the pages properly, but they usually scribbled on the pre-colored page instead.

Enjoy the vacation.