Thursday, April 03, 2008

Au revoir!

Here’s the last of this travelogue series – promise! I just want to complete this to give me a sense of having gone full circle. I want to finish what I started, and not leave things hanging.

So I’ve come to the point where Gino and I part our ways. He had to go back that Monday night to Avignon. I was flying to Vancouver Tuesday afternoon. I had another night in a Paris hostel by myself with some strangers in a bedroom. Just one of the things that come with traveling cheap.

Having somewhat familiarized myself with the Paris Metro, I knew which trains to take from Three Ducks hostel to the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, the second largest airport in Europe next to Heathrow in London. Unfortunately, train workers had declared a strike starting that Tuesday, and though not all lines would cease operation at the same time, nobody could tell us which ones would go first.

“I don’t like to take the risk,” I told Gino. “I will check out of the hostel tonight and sleep at the airport.” One French guy at the ticketing window told us the strike would not be till 6pm, which was after my 3:15pm flight, but it all seemed too uncertain and I didn't feel good about it. Listen to your instincts.

“Mom, is that allowed at the airport?... What about your breakfast at the hostel?...” Gino asked me a series of questions.

Yeah, people sleep at airport terminals, and if not allowed, I’d worry about that later… Never mind the cheap breakfast of one bun and butter and a cup of coffee... Never mind the 17 euros I had paid for that night. It's still cheaper than the 60 euros taxi fare, that is, if I could even get a taxi to the airport... I had it all calculated in my head.

So Gino and I checked out of the hostel at the same time. He dropped me off at a subway station where I could get the RER train to the terminal. He kept reminding me about getting on the right train to the right direction. He had been "training" me on the intimidating train system of Paris, and now it was time for me to go it alone. He was probably as anxious about it as I was. We hugged, said goodbye. I'll miss Gino. Au revoir!

After about 45 minutes on the train, I was very relieved to get to CDG. I made it! I called Gino’s cellphone as soon as I saw a payphone inside the terminal. His train was about to leave while I still had 17 hours to spend waiting for my flight.

I changed seats a few times until I decided to sit near a more public area to avoid being targeted by a thief or a perv in the darker parts of the terminal. I stayed near a concession stand and not too far from the restrooms. As the night wore on, the number of people became fewer, the stores closed...

Normally I could sleep easily anytime anywhere anyhow so I tied my luggage to my wrists and used a bag as a pillow so nothing would be stolen from me during my sleep. But this time, I dozed in and out because the noisy machines that polished and cleaned the floor started rolling. I think they started doing some maintenance work at the hangar too. Banging, banging, banging... I wished I had brought a couple of ear plugs from Gino's apartment. I thought it would be get quieter. NOT!

A man, who I swear looked like Mr. Bean on downers, was walking around the terminal, approaching people for money or cigarette perhaps, and listening in on people's conversations. He approached me too as soon as I arrived and spoke to me in French.

"No... English," I replied. I was not about to converse with a non-English speaking stranger, a man at that. Catatonic Mr. Bean approached me again later and so did another weird-looking guy. I didn't bother to understand what they wanted. I simply said no.

Trying to pass the time, I continued to read my book The Rest of God, which I so needed at that moment. I was physically exhausted. My adrenalin glands had been overworked, my legs and feet felt very heavy. I just had enough energy for the time Gino and I were together. I thought if I had another day on my itinerary, it would have been useless. The spirit was willing. The body was not.

I considered this down time at the terminal as a productive one because I was reading a very refreshing book. I had time to meditate in the midst of all the airport noises and movements.

Finally, it was boarding time. I had a pleasant flight to Vancouver. My journey was almost over.

Landing at YVR, I immediately called Mr. Blossoms so he could pick me up. I figured that the time it would take him to get to the airport would be about the same time I would claim my luggage.

"Don't park anymore. I'll wait outside at the curb," I said, thinking of saving on the parking fee of about $10.

As I stood by the carousel waiting for my luggage, I realized it was taking toooo looong. I had been very calm and collected during my vacation, but this time I got really impatient. I was fidgeting and sighing a lot. I found it rather ironic to be feeling that way when I was practically home. I think the tension arose from the fact that I had to be at the waiting area when Bud arrived so we would not miss each other. I didn't even know where that waiting area was, and neither did he.

"Oh God, pleaaaase delay him...." I muttered over and over.

After a long wait, the luggage arrived and I started looking for the spot where cars stopped and loaded arriving passengers. It was not where I expected it to be. I stood there watching every car that passed, which was not that easy as it was already dark. I waited and waited a little more. Maybe he was here earlier? Did he park somewhere? Is he inside the terminal? I called the house and learned from Mickey that his dad had left about an hour ago. He should be here.

Finally I saw our car coming, but Mr. Blossoms drove by me and was a little late realizing it. He had to drive around and come back to where I was.

"Mom! Mom!" I heard a familiar voice calling. It was Markus. His dad had dropped him off to let me know he was going around.

When Mr. Blossoms finally arrived, I noticed he was even more tensed than I was. He explained why he was late in coming.

"I got confused on the bridge to the freeway because Markus and I were chatting and took a wrong turn. I only realized it when I saw the sign to White Rock," he explained. He drove to the opposite direction! That delayed him for an hour or so.

"I prayed that God would delay you," I said, smiling and much relieved.

"No wonder!" he said. God answers prayers!

I went home to a waiting brood, all eager to check what was in my luggage from Europe. I gave each one their presents even those I meant for a future birthday and for Christmas.

Thank You, Lord! I was home safe. My family was safe. The house was in order. And I had a great time! Good job, you guys!

So that was my vacation. Quite an adventure till the end.


1 comment:

Gino said...

Yay! almost half a year later and you finally finished. haha.