BootsnAll Travel Network


The Brazilians come in around six and are comatose when I get up. My driver from the hostel comes at around eleven. He is a big rotund older fellow, balding with a moustache, and large eyes that never seem to quite focus on you. He is jovial, and seems keen to practice his English, which is pretty good but a bit halting. We jump in his little car and he goes tearing down the street, peeling around corners, barely missing passing car doors, pedestrians, trucks, land mines. There is almost no margin for error each time but he always squeezes through, it is like an obstacle course at the Grand Prix. The traffic is chaos, and no one seems to be paying much attention to lanes, the road or each other. And all the while, the driver manages to keep a running conversation going. I ask him about the beards, or lack of them. “This is the New Russia,” he replies. “Are most people happier now than before?” I ask him. He tells me that although now people can own cars and go out to eat in restaurants, there were certain benefits to the old system that are missed now, such as free education and medicine. He tells me that he was on the state rowing team when he was younger, but now without state sponsorship it doesn’t exist anymore. In a half hour we arrive at the airport. I hand him a fifty ruble note and he bursts out in a laugh and a big smile, shaking my hand vigorously. I enter the airport, go through a metal detector and see a small group gathered around the entrance to the gates. I walk up, there is a small, disinterested looking young girl draped over a chair, staring sourly at everyone. I walk up and begin to pass her. “Wait,” she says, holding her hand up. Apparently, passengers can only go in in waves at appointed times. I go up to the bar, have a beer and wait. About an hour later I go back down, and apart from waiting on a very long line, everything goes smoothly. In fact, they don’t ask me a single question along the way and seem to barely check the paperwork. The flight takes about two and a half hours and by mid-afternoon, I am in Frankfurt (once again), waiting for my transfer flight to DC and back to the States. This flight proceeds uneventfully for the most part as well, and by nightfall I am home. The trip is finally over. I have been feeling a profound sadness all day long, a sense that something monumental and wonderful has just happened in my life, and that it has now come to a close. It will take weeks, months to put it in perspective. I have seen so many new places, met so many new people, people I never knew existed. It has been life-affirming after all, unexpectedly and delightfully. I hope that my new friends, who I will never see again, do well, and I wish them the best of luck, I wish them health and success and happy lives. And I hope that the memories from this magical journey stay with me for a long, long time to come.

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