Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real life education

You know how everyone says how educational travels are?
If I might have had any doubts about that before, then the last 5 days would have proven me totally in the dark.

I am not talking about different cultures, languages, cuisines, not even about other mentalities or views on life. And we do know these are learnt by osmosis while abroad and socializing with foreigners. But the amount of geography and history I have gotten to know is simply amazing. Travelling with two very well-travelled companions (one of whom is very keen on what is what, how it was and why it is now so), chatting people up at airports and in restaurants was worth as much as reading 2 or 3 school books. More, actually.

The feeling I get while listening to their stories, as well as about the world's history or about the countless cities and countries they'd visited, is amazing.
And it really makes me wonder why is it that during geography lessons we have to learn the names of all the world's capitals, but never get to listen about how life looks like in them. That we need to be able to give the exact dates a certain king was in power, but do not put emphasis on the fact how similar the experiences of different nations are, and how close we should be because of that. How much empathy and understaning we should have one for another, 'cause we've all been there, seen and done that. 
Why don't we have travellers, globtrotters come and give lectures at schools?

Just a quick thought review after a tremendously interesting and informative conversation I've had over dinner with a Parsi gentelman I'd met at the airport earlier during the day. One of less than 100 000 members of this ethnic community, of which more than 60 000 live in Mumbai. A very well off and well educated accountant, who's a fan of Lech Walesa and JPII. Amazing knowledge about world's, his region's and, surprisingly enough, Polish history. An evening chat with him has been one of the best history lessons ever.

Why was I having dinner with him, though? I was scheduled to fly to Mumbai from Vienna today at 10:30am. However, at around 10 we'd been informed that the flight was being delayed till further notice, at about 11 it had been cancelled. We were asked to make queue in order to re-book the tickets. It took them 5 hours to get to me. No snacks, no seats. In the beginning, I was trying to be cool about it - joking about spending the night in a hotel in Vienna, taking a walk around, enjoying the Christmas market near the town hall. However, at around 3 pm, I started being very annoyed and even more tired (as most people on that flight, I'd had a very early start - came from Bratislava and had been at the airport since 8:20am).
Finally, when I was at the desk, the lady offered me two connections: 1) Vienna- Frankfurt Frankfurt-Delhi Delhi-Mumbai, and 2) Vienna-Munich Munich-Delhi Delhi-Mumbai. Both of which meant no rest during the next 24 hours and stretching what would normally be a 7,5 hrs journey to two days on the plane and at airports. Luckily, we'd heard that some people got layed over in Vienna, and given tickets for a Vienna - Istanbul and Istanbul-Mumbai connection, so my boss insisted we are given the same ones. 
In a case like this, the airlines have to provide you with a hotel and food vouchers, as well as a car transfer back and forth. Great that they did, but I didn't reach the hotel before 7 pm, by which time I had been completely exhausted. The Parsi gentelman was one of the people whose company made the waiting time a bit less boring and unpleasant. We are on the same flights tomorrow and I pray we have some more time to talk.

As to staying one more night in Vienna - I was actually quite happy about it, till the time I realised my coat had been checked in and with the minus temperature that we have, there was no way of leaving the hotel with only a sweater on. But maybe it's for the better, as I would have gone out, and wouldn't have had the pleasure of talking to my Parsi interlocutor.

I hope it won't be too cold in the morning, as I'm meeting with a guy I'd met when out clubbing in Bratislava on Saturday. The hotel I'm staying at is really central Vienna, so would hate to loose the opportunity of at least a short stroll around. We're meeting at 9 am and I've a taxi come fetch me at 11am.

Am really knackered, so this is good night!

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