Westbound, JFK to SFO. I fished through my pockets for receipts from the trip, and only have one: GHc 42 – about $21, for dinner that first night on the way back to the hotel. Hard to believe that I’ve been to Africa and back – well, almost back so far – and spent only $21. No, wait – there was also $3 for the cab that evening, too. Of course, I spent a ton of money getting there and back. Airfare, hotel, too – I don’t want to calculate the hourly rate that it cost Google to have me on the ground in Accra for those three days. But in terms of the actual experience for me? Twenty four dollars and change for a whirlwind drop-in-launch-an-experiment-and-get-out trip. The rest of my would-be expenses were delivered lunches hastily inhaled from Styrofoam containers and drawn-out business dinners discussing the future of information access in Africa.
Speaking of whirlwinds – we landed in JFK over an hour early, as our pilots played “crack the whip” around Hurricane Michael out over the Atlantic. Diverted to the north and rode the winds on the lee side to pick up something like an extra 50 knots of groundspeed.
Turns out we needed the extra time, as Maria-Ines and I followed the Delta directions to find ourselves at Gate 28 of Terminal Four (unmarked, of course) rather than Terminal Two. Airport staff we asked had a hard time separating the where (“No, you need to be in Terminal Two”) from the how (“Yes, yes, but how do we getthere?” “You go to Terminal Two.” “Again, yes, we know – how do we…?) Apparently, not knowing how to get to Terminal Two is considered as unthinkable as not knowing how to turn a doorknob or zip your pants. Even though – in the end – it involved descending a partially-hidden staircase and waiting 25 minutes for a bus that wove through planes on the tarmac for another 10 or 15 minutes (I swear I saw signs for the exits to Chicago and Memphis) before depositing us in the proper location. It was the second time today – is it still “today”? – that we’ve arrived with plenty of time and still managed to almost miss our plane; I think Maria-Ines may decide that I’m jinxed as a traveling companion.
Anyhow – that’s about it for the trip, I guess. Surprisingly little to tell. Team is going back in October and November – some members of the team, at least – but if I go either time, it’ll be a short trip again. Too many commitments back home that I can’t skip, all scattered strategically across the calendar to minimize availability.
Oh – here’s something irrelevant: Something like six months ago I had this strange dream. In the dream, it was September 7th, at 3:21 p.m, and I was taking a math test. I was supposed to be solving problems 9, 7, 12, 15, and 21 (yes, in that order), and for some reason, it was vital that I remembered that the “secret” – the key, maybe? – was 135. I woke up with a sense of purpose and scrambled to find my laptop so that I hang on to this information before the dream faded.
Not long ago, I noticed it coming up on my calendar, and was intrigued to realize that I’d be in Accra at the appointed date/time. I have to admit that I was vaguely disappointed when 3:21 passed (in both local and home time zones) and I wasn’t met by some Santiago who – in the spirit of the old folktales – had traveled halfway around the world in pursuit of his own dream that would be unlocked by mine.
Then I worried: in the folk tales, the dreamer – say from Baghdad – dreams that there is treasure waiting for him in Cairo. He arrives after suffering greatly, only to be mocked by a local to tells him that, while he had a dream of gold in Baghdad (under a tree our Bagdhadi recognizes as growing in his own yard) but would never be so stupid as to pursue such fool’s errand. The Baghdadi, of course, returns home to find the treasure exactly where the Egyptian had described.
But here, I’d been the traveler. Granted, I’d not suffered that much at the hands of Delta Airlines (except in comparison with British Airways – all luxury is relative), but I certainly didn’t want to be the mocker. Did that mean I should be going out on a limb, telling people about the dream? I probably talked with two hundred people these past three days – what if I had, out of the blue, mentioned it to one of them, the right one? What if it’s too late, and they’ve gone on their way, stymied by a seemingly impossible conundrum that only the magic number, 135, would unlock? [You see what I’ve done here, right?]
But nah, I’m not searching for treasure. Found that already, didn’t I? Right now I’m just searching for a good story. And for now, I think this one will have to do.