Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

A Year in Cities, 2010

A new year approaches yet again, which means it’s time for me to list the stops I made this past year. Smaller places are excluded save for those in which I spent a longer amount of time. This time around, asterisks indicate a city of residency, while bold type indicates a new-to-me place.
  1. Kigali, RW*
  2. Greenville, SC*
  3. Charleston, SC
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Cincinnati, OH
  6. New York, NY
  7. Keene/Walpole, NH*
  8. Concord, NH
  9. Cologne, DE
  10. Freiburg, DE (where I am at the moment)

I spent the first five months this year in Africa, but unlike last year, I didn’t venture outside Rwanda. As per my 2008 wish, however, I did see much of the great American homeland, as Thelma and I drove from DC to SC to OH to DC on a family-acquainting driving tour.

Unlike previous years, I head into 2011 knowing where I’ll be residing this year and the next. Thelma’s agreed to indenture herself to Teach for America handling drooling pre-schoolers in metro Atlanta, so it’ll be southerly I go. I don’t think my expat days are fully behind me, but I am looking forward to a more staid couple of years living a certain version of the American Dream. There’s also the fact that  Thelma has summers off and tho’ it surely be a forsaken place, ATL will be but a peanut’s throw away.

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I realized at some point in my long journey back to South Carolina last week that I hadn’t let my blog readers know my year-long stay in Rwanda was at an end. I had a lot of time to think a lot of things during that trip, as it started at approximately 8:00 am EST on Friday May 14 and lasted until about 10:00 AM EST on Monday the 17th. In lieu of an introspective post examining my time in Rwanda (which may come later), I’ll succumb to the lesser allure of commiseration and list off my fantastical sojourn:

  • Hour 0 – Check-in at Kigali International Airport for a flight to Addis Ababa which should depart in approximately two hours. I am mentally prepared for the three flight, 24-hour long journey.
  • Hour 2 – Told that the flight would be delayed three hours.
  • Hour 6 – Told the flight would be delayed another few hours. Minor riot in the airport office, as passengers insist to hear someone at the other airport confirm a plane was actually on its way.
  • Hours 12-15 – Take-off for the first leg, a few-hour flight to Addis.
  • Hour 15 – Land in Addis, missing my connection to Dulles by an African sky.
  • Hour 16 – Find out Ethiopian Airlines had default booked me on the next flight following the same route as my original itinerary, which would not be leaving for another 36 hours or so.
  • Hours 16-19 – After a remarkable show of patience by a travel companion who was heading as far as DC, I with him secure an alternative route via London, departing in about 12 hours.
  • Hours 19-28 After receiving hotel voucher and grabbing checked luggage, spend several daylight hours convalescing in a comfortable hotel room. I am already slightly jet-lagged, despite having completed only ~10 percent of the trip in terms of miles.
  • Hours 34-46 – Flight to London takes off
  • Hour 46 – Land in Heathrow, confirm I am still on standby for my last connecting flight to Charlotte.
  • Hours 4755 – Washington-bound
  • Hours 55-56 – Land, find out my bags are at a different claim, get bags, check them back in for standby flight to Charlotte
  • Hours 57-60 – Luxuriate in relative leisure of fast wireless, a plethora of food and drink options, and empty comfortable chairs.
  • Hour 61 Feel an ember of hope at discovery that I am first on the standby list.
    • Info display flashes ice into my soul as I realize all seats have been bought and everyone has checked in.
    • A last spark of joy as gate  guy tells me headcount is missing one and says I should take off down the gangplank without even looking at ID or my boarding card.
    • After being placed in last empty seat on the plane, I try to ignore the dread feeling that the man whom I passed on the tarmac talking to airport personnel was the missing passenger and “rightful” holder of my seat.
    • The dread is realized, for about a minute after being seated I am told I must deplane.
    • Exit the plane, walk back up the gangplank against the current of passengers boarding another flight.
  • Hour 62 – Head to customer service to find next flight
    • Resist urge to let tears of indignity fall by evaporating them with the self-righteous anger I feel as other passengers in the queue loudly decry how awful their missed connection is for them.
    • In a bit of good news, discover there’s a flight direct to my hometown in SC the next morning, so I can bypass Charlotte and a 90-minute drive.
    • In a bit more bad news, discover my bags made the flight I missed and were halfway to Charlotte.
    • Seeing as it was about 11 PM, use some weird payphone like device in the terminal to book a room at a nearby hotel.
  • Hours 63-70 – Sleep fitfully in a $200/night airport Marriott paid for in cash.
  • Hour 72  – Flight to final destination finally departs. Finally.
  • Hour 74 –  I arrive.
  • Hour 84 – My bags arrive.

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Ever since I wrote a post on price discrimination, I’ve noticed more and more examples of it in my own day-to-day. My circle’s favorite lunch buffet in Kigali, for example, just instituted a new three tier price system depending on what food one scoops up: the first tier is salad only, the second tier is everything except fish, and the third tier is all-inclusive. This new scheme is not clearly advertised, however, and the waitstaff will usually default charge the full price. Only regulars or other keen customers will recognize the mistake and have the bill corrected (having a three-tiered pricing also allows for market segmentation and, one would guess, higher profits).

Another example I came across on my recent holiday trip to Nairobi. Many of the touristy-places in and around the city had signs like these:

I’m charged 7 times more just because I’m from a different country!?! How blatant!

What’s especially intriguing about this example is that while most forms of price discrimination irritate customers if discovered, this one is benign and blasé. Somehow it just seems fair that locals get a better deal, particularly since they’re probably poorer than foreign tourists. When this is true, there’s no need to be coy or obfuscatory about what’s happening.

I’ve put some thought into finding other examples where price discrimination occurs in plain sight because it’s congruous to a sense of fairness, but so far I’ve drawn a blank. Might readers be able to?

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A Year in Cities, 2009

Last New Year’s Eve I began a tradition of naming major cities I visited that year. Here again is the list of cities I visited in the last year, excluding smaller places and short stops en route somewhere else. Asterisks indicate a city I had not visited before:

  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  2. Baltimore, Maryland*
  3. Kigali, Rwanda*
  4. Bujumbura, Burundi*
  5. Kampala, Uganda*
  6. Nairobi, Kenya* (Where I am at the moment)

Like 2008, this list feels inadequate because most places I’ve visited are too obscure to mention.  Still, visiting cities in four new countries (and all of them capitals, interestingly) is solid enough. One low-hanging fruit I’m sure to pick next year is the DRC, which is just a couple-hour bus ride away. I plan to end my stay in Rwanda around June so there will likely be more significant Africa sightseeing done around my departure. Beyond that, there’s a hazy plan to visit Canada, but if my plans unfurl correctly, there may be no time or *gasp* money.

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Holiday busing edition:

Sleep is the most unaffected form of communication.

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It’s official: there are only three dirty hotels in the whole of Germany:

We looked everywhere, honest. But our members tell us there aren’t that many dirty hotels in Germany.

  1. Hotel Modern, Munich, Germany
  2. Central Hotel am Dom, Cologne, Germany
  3. Ludwig Hotel, Munich, Germany

HT: Gulliver

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PA Bleg

Paul, writing in the comments, asks me where I’m going in Pennsylvania at the end of the month.

Well, the bulk of my trip will be to Hanover, where I’ll be visiting my uncle, who is President and CEO of Snyder’s of Hanover. (Yes, you read right–I am in the penumbra of a pretzel dynasty.) After a day of touring the factory and (one presumes) gorging myself on free samples, my brother and I scheduled one free day before we fly home via Baltimore.

We do not, however, have any clue what to do. Knowing this, I turn to my dear readers, some of whom know the area well. Anything within a couple hours’ drive of Hanover/Baltimore is in play.

With what shall my brother and I occupy our day in three weeks’ time?

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