29 December 2006

Farking advice for CDG Airport

I spend a lot of time on Fark. For the holidays this year, some anonymous individual gave me a month's subscription to TotalFark. And a big thank you and best wishes in the new year to them!

It's not news, it's Fark.com (pops)

Yesterday, after semi-lurking on TotalFark for a week, I got the brilliant idea of asking other TFers what to do with a 12 hour layover at Charles De Gaulle Airport next week. I got some good advice, some insight onto the current CDH situation, and some funny, sometimes not PC, replies from TFers. I'd like to share some of their comments below. Thanks to all the TotalFarkers and TotalFarkettes who sent advice, both what I posted and didn't post (Hey, my mom reads this. Really personal comments on sexual practices are a little too much).

If you've got to transfer airlines (like Delta to Air France for instance) - you're going to need all that 12 hours to get through!
/Just kidding
//Not really - it can take you a few hours though believe it or not

I was about to say that. It's unbelievable how long it takes to get around that airport. It's not like a normal airport, where one portion of the airport, and only one portion is under construction at any given time.
No, at CDG, the whole damn airport is under construction. And to transfer flights, you usually have to exit the airport (as in go outside, into the fresh air, go all the way back through security, passport check, etc.), and the walk is usually quite lengthy.
That's if you're lucky and don't get a flight that lands at the one terminal which requires a 45 minute shuttle bus ride to the main part of the airport - a ride that largely consists of (as far as I could tell), going in circles.
/spent too much time in CDG recently
//least favorite airport in the world

that should be just enough time to get to your gate. de gaulle airport sucks.

Insult the French in English.

Find a cute french boy on the flight with you and spend the 12 hours with him. Don't exchange contact information, just agree to meet at some time in the future.

Wander through the airport and see how many people surrender to you.
/Works better if you act like a New York street person.

The RER can get you into the center of Paris in about half an hour. If you take the RER to Chatelet/Les Halles, you'll be within a fifteen minute walk to the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, and Notre Dame. If you manage your time and use the Metro you can see a lot of great stuff in a short amount of time, since it's a relatively compact city.
Thinking about it some more, if you only have time for one thing to see in Paris get off the RER at Denfert-Rochefort and take a tour of the Catacombs. While you've seen countless pictures of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, etc., you've never, ever seen anything like the Catacombs outside of feverish nightmares.
/lived in Paris for years

Subscribe to TotalFark.
/I could keep busy for a month on that.

spend a few hours watching water pour in through the broken pipes/leaky roof. was good for a laugh while i was waiting for a flight (shortly before having a farking SNOW GLOBE confiscated by the genii in charge of the things not blowing up service). be sure to pick up some horribly over-priced snacks from the arab guy next to the pool of seepage water.
//CDG is an armpit

You're heading to Mozambique for a year? Why not just enjoy a decent meal and a glass of disease-free water? It'll be the last of either that you'll have for a while. (This one had Chris laughing pretty hard.)

When I was stuck there, I saw dog take a crap on the ground, then watched the crap for 15 minutes waiting for someone to step in it.

Smack french dudes in the nuts with a giant roll of french bread and take their women.

drink wine and hit on french women. That's about all I do anytime I'm there.

Look for the guy that's been stuck there for 15 years. Buy him a beer.

French hookers and blow.



No one said the original Crazy Horse Saloon / Cabaret (read strippers)? (pops)
/Used to be right outside the airport

So now I have some interesting choices. I was also advised to find Cocoon (if it is still there) on the bottom floor of the main terminal and take a nap and shower, by a good friend who frequently travels through CDG.

For anyone interested in the Parisian Catacombs, here were some of the links posted that show photos.

http://triggur.org/cata/ (pops)



For those visiting Portugal:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capela_dos_Ossos (pops)

27 December 2006

The Dread of Anticipation

Its been difficult the past couple of weeks. I'm pretty psyched about leaving and beginning my field work, but I can't show that excitement to my family and close friends. It makes me feel great that they are sad I am leaving, because I know that they care. In the meantime, don't want to upset them further by constantly talking about what I need to get done and what I will do when I arrive in Maputo.

My husband, Chris, probably has it the worst. He's been watching the pile of clothes, research equipment, and travel gear piled on the floor next to my dresser growing daily. We've been sorting out my extensive leave of absence all Fall, but I still worry about him. The longest we've been apart before was 6 months, but I was in Washington state and he was in New York. He was not happy and I was so busy with work that I didn't have much time to think about my own state. Now I will be on the other side of the planet - with time to think and missing my sweetie. Chris will come for a few weeks visit in July and then again next December, and we will travel either up the Mozambique coast and/or to Great Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, and the Okavango Delta. The last time he visited me in the field he was bored out of his mind. Long periods of time apart suck, but I could handle his bordom even less.

Cell phones and email are a double-edged sword. Part of me longs for the time when explorers took off for parts unknown and made their good-byes at the harbor. The occasional letter from back home might make a person sad or happy, but there wasn't much they could do on the other side of the world. With fairly instant connectivity, you never really get to leave home. Now the number of decisions increases. A traveler or explorer must worry about the situation that they are in, as well as all the stuff going on back home. Additionally, easy air travel means that you also need to think about what situtations you are willing to come back home for -- death, sickness, how sick, who is sick, etc. So while you are trying to understand and perhaps fit into an alien culture, you also need think about your culture back home.

I bring this all up because my dad went in for some heart problems the week before Christmas. He overdid it bringing the tree and decorations down out of the attic - plus a bunch of boxes of toys for Goodwill. Everything was okay, but my family spent a few days trying to find me (despite having told them I would be in San Antonio at Chris' mom's for Hannukah). Knowing that my parents aren't in the best health has also made undertaking this trip difficult. I felt the same way before Chris and I left for our trip around the world. Dad says not to come home if he dies because it doesn't matter, he'll be dead and he knows where he is going from there. He'll be dead, but how about my Mom? My brother Wil? The rest of the family? Would I be a bad daughter if I skipped the funeral? Am I a horrible person for even thinking about it? What if he had a heart attack and was in a coma? Or became disabled in some other way? Should I come home then? I know my dad would be happy if I came home, but he won't say it.

So I come back to the beginning. I am really excited about leaving, but dreading it just the same. And I need to keep it all to myself.

09 December 2006

Why Green Chicken Diaries?

I once heard it said that anthropologists don't believe in Germ Theory, and my personal experience provides perfect example.

During my pilot research project in Mozambique in May - June 2004, my research team and I would often spend a few days at a time out in the Maputo Elephant Reserve conducting interviews. There is no electricity, so for foods that needed to remain cool, we'd pack a cooler with some ice and hope for the best. Despite it being winter, ice and cold do not last inside a Land Rover parked in scanty shade on the savanna.

It was our final night out, there was no other food -- except a chicken that had thawed and sat in the hot car for 5 DAYS. Odete (the other student) opened the container and called out to me, "What do you think? Should we cook it?"

I was sitting 10 feet away. The smell emanating from that container (on a day with no breeze) was akin to a gangrenous wound. It smelled like pus and rotting flesh. Which it was, technically. Having worked in a veterinary clinic as a teenager, I've smelled my fair share of pus-filled, gangreneous sores. "Umm... I'm not sure." I replied. The chicken flesh had green spots and other colors I've not seen since sharing a house with 3 men my senior year at university. Did you know dirty dishes turn orange, blue, red, and a clearish yellow if they sit in the sink for 3 weeks?

"Well we don't have anything else. It should be okay. We've got lots of garlic." Odete said, going for the garlic-kills-everything-style of cooking rotted food. I'm not sure if this happens in Mozambique a lot, but I did notice that people tend to let food cool for a few hours before serving it. They thought I was always in a rush to eat, but I was more worried about microbes.

So we boiled up the chicken with some garlic and rice. All together. In one pot. We all ate it and sadly gave a little to the man who's homestead we were camping on. Sorry Senhor Tilombane. I ate about 3 teaspoon sized bites of chicken and a half cup of the rice stuff. The chicken had a slightly off taste. Duh.

I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst case of the shits I have ever had - that's counting the stomach flu I had in high school and the amoebic dysentary I got in Cambodia. All I could think of was thank goodness I work in a sandbox (the savanna covers sand dunes adjacent to the Indian Ocean). Digging a cathole was really fast, I just needed to get far enough off the community path so that someone wouldn't accidently sink into my mess the next morning. Ick. I didn't even have time to worry about some rogue elephant stomping out of the bush and squashing me flat into my poo puddle.

I ended up making three runs from my tent to the bush under the full moon. On the last run I had to make a pit stop in the makeshift bathroom to clean myself up (and then clean up the bathroom). After that, my lower intestinal system shut down for 3 days.

I won't bore you with the details of the bumpy ride back to the main camp the next day. Everyone got the shits, but I suffered the worst. I stopped eating for 2 days. And my stomach/intestines swelled up making me look like one of those starving Ethiopian children from the Sally Strothers infomercials in the 1980s. My collegues got really worried. But in the end, it all came out right. ;-)

What did I learn?
1. Cipro is your friend.
2. Do not eat something that smells like an open and rotting wound.
3. It is better to starve for a day, than get laid up for two, not eat, and worry your friends (who also happen to be sick).
4. Horrific field stories provide endless fodder for friends and family.
5. Don't tell your mom that you have done something this stupid after she has repeatedly told you never to eat food off the floor.
6. Germ Theory is not a theory.

Did I mention that I was a vegetarian?