So, I haven't written in quite a while, but a lot's been happening. Never a dull moment when you're done with Peace Corps and bumming around Africa til your money runs out! Lots of good stories to tell, of Mali, and Timbuktu, and Morocco; you'll laugh, you'll cry, but at a later date cause I'm too tired to write it all tonight...
In today's news, it's my birthday! Yay. 25 years old. My grand plan was to triumphantly return home as the sun sets over the Asheville airport, poignantly arriving on both my birthday AND Mother's Day, and eat a delicious home cooked meal and entertain all with my tales of Africa. Instead, I am at the Marriott Inn next to the airport in Cincinnati. Surprise! Flight delays! It turns out I won't get home til tomorrow, just plain May 14th, not even ONE holiday, let alone TWO. However, I would like to take this opportunity to fully express how much I love America (in particular, its excellent customer service). Let me expand on this point by citing examples of the last two times my travel plans went wrong:
Exhibit One: MALI and the BUS OF DOOM
Now, I realize that there are always delays and cancellations and that's just a part of life, be you in West Africa or California...what's REALLY telling about how well a country is run is how it deals with its delays and cancellations. So, let me describe a horrific tale of pain and desperation that is the normal Malian bus experience. My friends and I reserved tickets in advance, but when we showed up, our bus was delayed twice, and then just canceled. No apologies. They even got angry at US. So we found another bus that was supposed to leave at 9am, and actually left at 2pm. The ride was supposed to take 7 hours, and it took 14. No apologies. In fact, around midnight the bus just 'decided' to switch destinations entirely, and instead of going to the town of Mopti we'd all bought tickets for, went to Burkina Faso! I mean, it's a completely different country!! So they kicked off everyone going to Mopti (which was, of course, everyone) on the side of the road in the pitch black darkness somewhere in the Sub-saharan wastelands. There were lots of men with guns just standing around. And it smelled strongly of bodily functions. The four of us Western travelers contemplated seting up camp for the night, but managed to flag down another bus and hitch a ride on to Mopti...got there at 4am, stranded in the sketchiest bus depot I've ever seen, down by the river.
Exhibit Two: America and the Complementary Overnight Bag
So compare above story with what happened to me tonight. I don't mean to sound whiny about Mali, I mean, I didn't really expect to find stellar customer service in Africa. I only mention it to illustrate how borderline-absurdly wonderous American business can be and how often we take it for granted. So, my flight was delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight to North Carolina. The airline pilot came on the intercom about every 10 minutes to fully explain the situation, apologize profusely for the delay, and see if the flight staff could be of service in any way. Once I got to Cincinnati, not only did Delta get me a free night in a hotel suite complete with kitchen and whirlpool, a free shuttle there and back, and vouchers to buy as much Ben and Jerrys and Bacardi as I could handle, they gave me a complementary overnight bag, complete with (I've listed everything for all my friends still in Senegal who will never believe it): T shirt, toiletries bag, shaving cream, razors, french-milled soaps and the like, hairbrush, Qtips, laundry detergent, and the icing on the cake, an APOLOGY NOTE! And a CANDY WELCOME BAG! And free microwave popcorn for my microwave! WTF??! This is amazing to me. This is almost more than I think I deserve for just getting bumped on a flight. I really would have been happy with a comfy airport couch to spend the night on. But who'd turn down all that? I mean, if you can't spend your birthday with those you love, second best is to spend it lounging in your king-sized bed watching movies and getting toasted on Bacardi, courtesy of Delta!