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Reports

Saturday, 26 July 2003
London, UK --> Zwolle, The Netherlands

After take-off I discovered I was seated above the wing, so I could unfortunately not see the mountains north of Vancouver and see Whistler from above.
A warm plate of dinner was served within an hour and three hours in the flight the charming and entertaining movie How To Loose A Guy In Ten Days was shown on the big screen in front of me. I had already seen that flick en found it ridiculous that the word "bullshit" was changed into "bullspit" (Bullshit is the name of the card game that was played with the family in the movie!), so no fragile minds on this plane would be harmed by the real world down there!

When passing along with water, the flight attendant asked me what kind of accent I had, because he couldn't place it to any country. "You don't seem to have an accent," he said. "I hear Canadian, but you are not Canadian." I took that of one of the biggest compliments I ever had in the last few months and told him I was Dutch. "Dutch?! But Dutch people always have a Dutch accent when they talk English." Not if you get around a bit, I guess.

I was sitting next to a lady who started talking to me halfway the flight. She probably picked up that I was reporting for something when I had my laptop on my little foldout table. She told me she was a Muslim and she was going to visit her husband who is a contractor in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. She would get on a plane from London to Abu Dhabi (United Arabian Emirates), before finally arriving in Kabul. She had quite a trip to make!

She told me many details about her husband and her religious conviction to Al-Hagar or something. She was part of that chain of Islamic Canadian musk's and the money collected there was helping out the people in Kabul with new residential buildings. "There still are a lot of homeless people living in Kabul, whose houses had been brutally destroyed by the war between the West and the Taliban." She and her husband had fled Afghanistan eight years ago, when the power of the Taliban became strong and inhuman for her family. "We went to Canada, because Canada has always been good since its existence. They never have war there," she said. "Canada is safe."

Now the actual combats around Kabul is over (believe me, CNN is not reporting about it, but there still is a war going on there) the husband visited Kabul to see what he could do for his fellow country men. "He made a successful living in Canada and made good money. We are now using most of our family money too to help rebuilt houses of friends to what it was in the past." The lady was so sincere in her talking that I was just totally stunned.

It was like she wanted me to write about her stories, so many details she was giving me. Like I would be a newspaper reporter, or something else important.

Some three hours and another movie later the plane descended near London. I arrived at the Terminal 3 of the London Heathrow Airport. Those crazy Brits created one big airport but managed to separate different terminals by numerous miles so everybody who had to go to another terminal had to take a coach to get there. I tell you: crazy!

I took the coach to the big Terminal 1 and here is where the entire show started again. Waiting in line with everybody from other terminals (say about some four hundred people at my time) who all had to go through four security screening gates. One hour later I finally arrived in the waiting area of the terminal, where I had to wait for the exact boarding time of my British Midland flight to Amsterdam.

Oh boy, the terminal is still lacking something entertaining. The whole building is a showcase for tax-free shopping and built so you will spend a lot of Pounds. A lot, I say.

Suddenly one guy between all the waiting people in the main hall started playing on his didgeridoo and that sounded pretty cool! I thought, finally, the entertainment had started. But within a minute three security guards asked the guy to quit making any noise with his beautiful instrument. Disappointed London Heathrow fell asleep again, or continued shopping.

I had a few hours to kill but one thing I just couldn’t do was to fall asleep. It was 10 pm Canadian time. But I was in London and here it was already 7 in the morning! I lost an entire night and knew I was still going to get the hardest time of all. When Canada falls asleep, I will get very tired. But here it was already the start of a new day. Ooh!

At 8.15 the Airbus A329 of British Midland departed from Heathrow. On board were rowdy young British men who immediately at boarding shouted to each other. "I have to go to the toilet," one screamed. "Don't flush at the airport! It will mess up the tracks!" one other man answered. It was clear that many of these men were going to Amsterdam to have fun. (Then again, who wouldn't, hey?)

I was also back among many Dutch people on board. And I figured that out when I heard the complaints. Dutch amateur-travellers are the worlds best's in complaining. "Oh go into consumption, I am sitting above the damn cancer-wing again!" but then in Dutch made it very clear I was going home again. The Dutch mostly swear with diseases, because we had much more troubles with that then with religions.

Or one very smart Dutch lady before take-off: "Hey Jan, there are many planes here, don't you think so? Look, there is another one." That's why they call it an airport… sigh… It got even funnier when the lady asked her husband if those planes also drive on the left side of the lane, because this was England. She probably heard me giggle out loud…

I was sitting next a man from Holland who lives in Victoria, Vancouver Island (hey that's where I just came from!) and because of his lumber business he commutes weekly between Victoria and Prince George (hey, that's where Anna Rutherford came from!).
"I have my own plane for these distances." He also still has an apartment in The Netherlands, he said. "To see my family every few months."
"You must have a big load of Aeroplan Points," I asked him excited.
"Oh yes," he said, "I have some three million of them, I think."
I was on my knees between the seats trying to find the eyeballs that had just popped out of my head. I thought I was a hit because I knew somebody who had 70,000 points. "Wanna sponsor me?" I joked at him.

At 8.30 am Dutch time (+1 GMT) the plane landed at the Schiphol Airport of Amsterdam. When I walked through customs and waited for my baggage my eyes were already started to water. My head was very light. I was getting sleepy and not just a little bit. Or was something else making my eyes watery?

I made it. I am back home again.

I walked through the sliding doors of the arrival terminal and saw all these people waiting for their friends and family. I didn't have anybody wait for me because I had not arranged anything. I also wanted to have a quiet return home.

I thought. Suddenly I heard somebody call out my name. "Ramon! Ramon!" I looked down the thick line of people and saw that familiar person with a big smile waving at me! It was my good old college friend Janske who came all the way to the airport at this time of the day to pick me up! She had left her home in the south of the country at 4 am, so she would be there for the first flights arriving from London. She didn't know what flight I was on but knew I would arrive in the morning. "I only waited almost three hours! I had some walks, saw the entire airport, and waited for another flight from London… And I almost gave up!"

I was so happy to see her. "Let's not hesitate," she said, "let's take you home," she said. I must have looked tired. She drove me the one-hour journey from Amsterdam to my hometown Zwolle and in the car we chatted. We talked about anything. About Canada, about Holland, about her life, about my life and all with my favourite Dutch radiostation on the background. If it wasn't for Janske, I would have taken the train to my hometown and probably fallen asleep and woken up in Germany!

And there I was. Home. I opened the door of my historic apartment building and walked up the stairs to my own living room. Oh was I relieved to drop my backpack on the floor of my own place and fall on my couch. I am home! I am home! I am home! But I just couldn't realize it yet.

Friends from my backup team left a big bouquet of roses on the table with a welcome back note. Another good friend of mine, Marjet also welcomed me as she came to see if I had arrived already. I had a quick call with my parents to tell them I had arrived back home safely. Mum and dad were coming over in a few days.

I was tired, but not tired enough to hang around with my friends for another while. From my home we walked to the medieval city centre that I missed for such a long time and had a lunch at a lunchroom. It was great to hear their stories again, as life had continued here.

We agreed to meet each other again later today, tonight, at the pub. Back home I thanked Janske for driving me up all the way from Amsterdam and went to bed for a nap. I realised pretty soon that I was not going to make it that night and cancelled the meeting with my friends. They could totally understand that I was going to sleep more than just a few hours. I might wake up two days later…

I never expected this would be a jetlag that took five days to get over with…

Good night Canada! Hello Holland!

Ramon.


www.ramonstoppelenburg.com