Travel jitters

Maybe it was contagious – the nervousness of Axel, on the road as a consultant after all these years, or the man sitting next to me on the flight from Boston to Atlanta. He was one bundle of nerves, manifested in scratch sores on his bald head, his constant and jerky movements and talking aloud to himself throughout the flight as he wrote a very intense email to someone. I imaged it was an angry email or else something existential.

This is my 179th trip since I joined MSH, or thereabouts. After I had to reconstruct my travels for the INS in order to obtain my American citizenship, in 2005, I kept up, recording every trip since; I am now on line 179 of the Excel spreadsheet.

I used to be very nervous, each trip, as each assignment was a stretch assignment. Now they are not stretches, but interesting nevertheless. The nervousness was caught and now I try to get rid of it by having a dirty martini, not having found a massage place at Atlanta airport.

After a fitful night sleep, with alarms going off then here then there, and weird dreams, we woke up to a morning that was busy with getting ready – I have my routines but Axel doesn’t so he had to invent his. I tried to be helpful but much of the pre-travel jitters are psychic of course and no one can help.

This morning we wished Z. happy birthday in snowy Kabul, over Skype, Jo was also in on the call, from faraway, and probably just as cold, Canada. It is strange to see Z. without her scarf – I do notice that on Skype calls the girls are not covered, F. wasn’t either when we talked with her from Maine in December. While teaching them in Kabul I never ever saw them without their scarves.

And now I am getting psychologically ready for the 15 hour flight to Jo’burg. I am well equipped with sleeping pills, a fluffy neck pillow, an economy comfort seat and two awesome books: Laurie Garrett’s hefty tome about the collapse of global public health (Betrayal of Trust) about ebola, plaque and such and the inability of most governments to deal with those disasters. I am also (re-)reading Eric Berne’s seminal work on transactional analysis (Games People Play) – one of the more practical books about communication.

Axel should by now also be someplace over the Atlantic, heading to Abuja. Hopefully we can reconnect on Skype when we both settle into our hotel rooms tomorrow night – on the same continent and in contiguous time zones.

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February 2012
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