Back from my all-too-short trip home. I’m going to take a few weeks in October for home time, visiting some friends in the US who don’t live in the DC area, and perhaps a safari trip, unless my African animal envy can be sated by a visit to the game park in Northern Benin.
A note or two on travel.
Air France is (pretty much) the only game in town for getting from Cotonou to most places. No competition means high prices, but I really can’t complain too much about the service. For example, you can check-in online 30 hours before flight time (actually, closer to 31 based on my experience). If you do, they make available the exit row seats and you can grab one for that extra leg room we all love. The planes have a choice of movies at your seat, as well as old episodes of US TV shows, French and International news, games and probably some other stuff I didn’t try. The food is quite good, particularly in a world where US carriers charge you $5 for a dried up sandwich on a cross-country flight.
Downside? Well, the price, and you have to fly through Charles De Gaulle, which is one of my least favorite airports. Connections are seldom simple, there isn’t a good variety of food choices (although there is a McDonald’s) and it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere.
Dulles airport has been undergoing a major renovation. If you haven’t been there lately, the subway to the different terminals is now up and running, which means in most cases you don’t need to get on the old people movers. TSA has been moved downstairs into a new facility with 16 lanes, of which two were operating when I was there (which kinda defeats the purpose). Coming in, customs and passport control has a new facility as well, and they do keep most of the lanes open. BTW, in case you were wondering, traveling on a dip passport doesn’t seem to speed things up one bit, either in the US or overseas. I was also pleased to see two of my favorite fast food eating places in Concourse B – Chipotle and Potbelly Sandwich Shop. And they really are working on getting Metro to Dulles, although it’s probably in a race with the new Embassy in Cotonou for which will be completed last.
Speaking of Metro, prices are up, particularly for parking. I’m a big fan of mass transit, but it it’s to work, you can’t price yourself out of the market. On a day when the Washington Post is reporting Washington area traffic is terrible and getting worse, the local governments need to start seeing paying for Metro as a benefit to the community, not a cost. Unfortunately, in a political environment of “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!” it will take a brave member of a city or county council or state legislature to make that argument. Nevertheless, it needs to be made. On the up side, another Washington Post article (this one from last week) says they’re getting closer to starting implementation of a series of trolley lines through DC and out into the near suburbs. The outstanding issue is whether to use overhead wires, which is established technology, or a new wireless system, which would eliminate the overhead wires from view. My opinion – just make a decision and build the thing!
Now, to the title. As I said last time, buying consumables was a big part of my trip home, as well as eating out at restaurants we just don’t have here in Benin, and some home cooking from Mom and sisters (and some rice pudding I made to show them I’m not making this stuff up). Part two of the story was that I brought a soft sided cooler that fits inside my duffel. It got filled with frozen meat – steaks, corned beef, Nathan’s hot dogs, bacon…and a couple of cool packs. Everything was still cold (if not all still frozen) when I unpacked it back here.
Waiting for me when I returned was a bunch of pouch packages I’ve been waiting for, including my new computer (to replace the one that got fried when my AC spit all over it, although I was able to have the hard drive offloaded) and the box of Heath Bars which is going to go into a batch of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream once I can talk Matt and Carolyn into it. In my consumables ( a few months away) are the makings for Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey and a few more flavors. Also sugar cones for that full, Ben and Jerry’s experience.
Finally, as interesting and easy to live in as Cotonou is, I really love living in the United States. Some FSOs find they like being overseas much more than being home, but I can’t see myself feeling that way. This visit reminded me of that.