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Time Travel
By Evelyn - 2 Aug, 1999

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Time travel is here. To be reminded that we live in a futuristic age requires first going back in time. For the last 2-1/2 months, Gregg and I have been journeying back in time, as it were, making our way south from Spain through North Africa and across West Africa. Doing this overland had allowed us to acclimate. We'd gotten used to power outages, lumpy beds, and cold showers (or pouring water over our bodies with recycled tin-cans of 'Bon Mama' tomato paste). Our mosquito net and a decent working fan were all we needed to keep us happy at night.

So how did we get to PARIS? Time travel, I'm telling ya.

Flying from place to place is more strange to us now than ever before. It's kind of like being in a city and only getting around by metro where you can pop out from one part of the city to another without ever having an idea of how neighborhoods fit together. It's discombobulating when you're talking about going from one part of the world to another. We were scheduled to leave from Bamako airport to Cairo at 1:30am on July 16th. July 17th, 7pm, we found ourselves in Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris.

Once we confirmed that our only real option out of West Africa was to fly, we were able to find a reasonable fare. Air Algerie had a weekly flight to Cairo via Algiers. It was suspiciously easy to book our seats for the date we wanted and pay for our tickets.

Bamako has one of the smaller airports either of us had been to. There is one terminal, one waiting area, no departure/arrival monitors, and a broken x-ray machine. I tried not to think about the fact that we were flying first to Algeria without a security check. We had CFA6000 (US$10) left-over, which we thought would be best converted into French francs at the 100 to 1 fixed rate. The exchange rate counter was closed as it was midnight, but we found a boutique that would change our CFA into FF. After commission, we got FF50 back and realized most places probably wouldn't bother with a handful of coins, so we splurged for the latest issue of The Economist and L'Equipe, a French sports daily. I wanted to catch up with the Tour de France.

The plane ended up being delayed about three hours. By the time we finally took off at 4am, we were too tired to think about the fact that we were going to miss our connection to Cairo. With the additional 1 hour change to local time, we arrived in Algiers well after our connecting flight left. The airport staff in Algiers led all the transit passengers directly to a waiting room, collected our passports and tickets, and told to be patient. They dealt first with people connecting to Paris, the next flight, then Marseilles, Rome, Barcelona...

By the time we were the last two left in the waiting room, our patience had run out. I went to ask again at the counter and they told me to go back into the waiting room and they would serve us lunch. Fine. ıI ate a few bites of our in-flight meal enough to feel more ill than I did upon leaving Bamako. It was 3pm and I insisted on knowing what they were planning to do with us.



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