Wednesday, May 10, 2017

President Of Mali Tries to Ruin Business Flight to Belgium

It was finally time to leave Rwanda. I'm pretty happy with the amount of days I budgeted for Rwanda. I got to briefly visit all 4 of the bordering countries, and I had a couple days to hang out with Matt. Life is good.

A big bummer was my flight out was at 10pm and they kicked me out of my room at like noon. So I killed all kinds of time in the hotel lobby. I didn't eat much because I wanted to unleash my appetite's full fury upon Brussels Airlines business class.

As it got later the guests got fancier and fancier. A couple of women walked in in some sort of traditional gowns and then just hung out by the door. They then rolled out a literal red carpet from the elevators to the door. Something was definitely afoot. 

I asked one of the staff and they informed me that the President of Mali is going to be staying at the hotel tonight. I have presidential taste, what can I say? She wasn't impressed in the least. She said that all of the presidents of the African Union stay here when they have their summits.

A police dog was sniffing around, and there were multiple Secret Service looking guys walking around in suits with earpieces.

 I had to leave before the president arrived which was annoying. Kayitare didn't message me when he arrived like he normally did and I was disappointed until he walked into the hotel and told me that someone had stolen his phone out of his hands through the car window. He was bummed about it because of all of the phone numbers and pictures that he'd lost. To make matters worse the nice highway that leads from the hotel to the airport was closed by the police because: the damn President of Mali was coming to my hotel! So we had to take some really janky back streets to get where we were going.

So we're navigating the back streets and one of my Google Calendar alerts goes off, saying that my flight is now leaving. I am filled with a feeling of dread and get so sick to my stomach that I consider asking Kayitare to pull over. My flight printout is in my bag in the trunk so I have to just sit and stew and worry the entire drive. Somehow it got confused and mixed up the flights, so I was good. Oh man that would have been a day ruiner. I don't even know if this is a daily flight so who knows how screwed I would have been if I missed this one.

We said a heartfelt goodbye at the airport. It's weird I think I will actually miss him. I have his number on Whatsapp though so we should be good if I have an emergency hankering for airmailed goat chunks and banana wine somewhere down the line.

This airport also had a fun business class fast lane through security and immigration. It's really what I deserve. My time is just inherently more valuable than other people's.

It made me smile when immigration took a picture, with a camera, of everyone's passport. The future is now.

I was amused to see that there was a business lounge and I had no choice but to enter. Business is booming!

Again, this is in many ways better than the lounge in St. Louis' airport. Just a fridge full of beer and soda for the taking. No nonsense.

The food was very odd and I didn't mess with it. Pizza, eggrolls, and samosas. And some brown ball-shaped things.

I just want to fly this airline exclusively. Maybe I could get some sort of sponsorship deal going.

You know you've made it when there are warning signs not just about your seatbelt but on the proper way to stow your champagne bottles.

Business class on this plane was a 2-1-2 configuration and this time I got stuck with a two seat row sitting next to... another person! Yuck. Luckily I found another row next to an empty seat. That was a close one.

I don't think I've ever had real champagne outside of a plane. I live at the intersection of baller and cheap-ass.

So yeah I rocked the Laurent-Perrier champagne real good. And I kept the cork because I'm a weirdo and I like to collect actual garbage.

I mixed it up a little with a Spanish Lar de Paula, Rioja Crianza. Mostly just because I only learned about the Rioja region a few months ago during my Spain adventure.

For dinner I went with:

Starter: quinoa-stuffed chicken on a bed of polenta

Main Course: Ravioli with Mascarpone Lemon filling and a vegetable tomato sauce

Belgian Cheese selected exclusively by Kaasaffineurs Van Tricht: Bucheardennes Herbes and Postel Rafael served with dried fruits and nuts (I know what about four of those words mean)

Dessert: Mocha mousse

Coffee and tea accompanied by a delightful selection of alcohol-free chocolates manufactured by neuhaus, Royal Warrant Holder and the leading Belgian luxury chocolatier

I don't think it was as fancy as the meal on the flight from Belgium which was a little annoying but it was still really good.

Embarrassingly after that pretty fancy dinner my favorite thing of the whole trip was this little package of spreadable cheese. The package referred to it as fondue, but it was cold, and it was amazing. It was sort like a fancy European's take on ballpark nacho cheese.

While laying everything out for me the stewardess said she doesn't like cheese. I assumed that Europeans who don't like cheese were all left in the woods as small children.

Oh man. There was some like bible version of a Make-A-Wish kid sitting on the plane next to me. He asked the poor flight attendant if the in-flight entertainment system had any gospel music and then went to reading his bible. My eyes rolled so hard that I believe it was audible. 

They were laying out the best of Belgium in front of him and he's like "do you have any chips?"

I guess this was his first flight ever which is sort of a curse because it's pretty much all downhill from here, kid. Once he started talking to me things deteriorated. He wished me a good meal any time I was about to eat anything. One time he forgot to annoy me before eating and I thought I had escaped but later he hit me with a "my friend, I'm sorry that I didn't tell you to enjoy your food". He said goodnight when I laid down. Good morning when I sat up. Oh man. I just think that "attempt to ruin business class for John on the way to receive life-saving surgery" was a wish that should have been pared down a little before they granted it, you know?

My awesome seat has little walls on either side that when reclined keep me from rolling off and block out some of the light and sounds from the clowns around me. I pondered how nice this was then realized: this is pretty much a crib. And there's a lady that I can ask for juice and snacks whenever I want. Business class is effectively a trip to daycare for adults.

Whenever I see that separate line for EU passport holders I think to myself "someday, Europe. Someday".

I didn't realize my mistake until it was too late, but next time I can just rent a car and do the 133 hour drive via the Trans-Sahara Highway.

At the Brussels airport I attempted to buy a ticket to Bruges but the machines wouldn't accept American credit cards. Lame! I got things figured out by visiting a manned kiosk, though.

As I sat on a bench between the tracks and waited for my train a Belgian lady with an Indian dude came by and waited with their kids and we had a nice chat. The lady informed me that Ghent is like Bruges but better. I really don't need to hear that right now lady.

The kids were a girl and a boy, 5 and 9. The little girl cutely proclaimed that they were going to their grandma's house.

"Does your grandma bake you cookies?" 
"Yes she makes biscuits but there are other better things." 
"What's better than cookies?"
"Cake. Chocolate cake. Strawberry cake. Strawberry pudding."
This chick knows what she likes.

The boy asked where I'm from. I returned the inquiry and he said well I was born in Brussels but I live in India. That boring old story.

I must have made a good impression because the kids asked if I wanted to live with them. Sure why not? At least until the strawberry pudding runs out.

Bruges was the end of the line so I didn't have to pay much attention and could concentrate on my true calling: gazing out the window.

The walk from the train station to my hotel was a good 20 minutes which was kind of strenuous carrying my bags. It was nice to get some exercise though.

My wheeled suitcase was especially annoying to drag along because of the quaint cobblestoned roads. The sound of my suitcase wheels clacking along every bump in them could wake the dead.

When I finally got to my room there wasn't some lame mint on the pillow. There was a mini box of Belgian chocolates! Any weight I lost in the African hinterland has probably been reversed by stuffing my face with fancy chocolates. Success!

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