Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day 3: Back at the Airport

Before this trip I spent the week in southwest Missouri giving eight presentations in five days and being so go, go, go I had no ability to mentally prepare for this trip. It’s one thing to prepare and pack, which I did so prior to my week of presenting, but presenting takes a lot of mental exertion and I had no ability to conceive of this marvelous journey I was about to embark on. With that said that may have led to me being such an easy target last night.

            Anyway, I’m back at the airport now after being out of the airport for a mere 12 hours and getting back was an interesting story. I tried to exchange some Euro into Malagasy money last night but they were short and I was told, “Come back in the morning” which I did and they were still short somehow and was told, “Come back later.” When I went to checkout there was a surprise charge of 5000 in Malagasy. “5000!” you probably exclaimed which sounds like a lot but it equates to about $1.75. It was such a little amount but all I had was either 50 or 100 notes from US or Europe. However, I did have a $1 bill with 45 cents in change which was 30 cents short of the needed fee. They tried to run my Paypal card but it was rejected as I knew it would be as I never have used that out of the country. Here’s the thing; you can prepare and prepare and at the end of the day it can come down to the difference from having one, one dollar bill or two. I tried to then have them exchange the full 50 in Euro but I was told, “The bus is very busy and has to go” which then I was told exchange the money at the airport and give the tax to the driver.

            My trip, the fantastic journey I have embarked on, finally hit me as I was, for the first time in almost a decade, on the roads of Africa in the day. Nothing can fully compare to the seemingly synchronized madness as van buses with people hanging off the back are zipping left and right and despite no lane markers there is much order to the madness. I don’t know how it works, but it somehow does even with bicycles, man driven wagons, and even animals pulling carts going every which direction at what seemed to be random intervals and yet there were never any close calls. This got me thinking, “Aaron, what is driving on Reunion going to be like? No seriously, Aaron, you haven’t driven a stick shift in a decade and if the roads are like this how can you cope with the disorganized order?” Disorganized order; that’s the thing in that to me it is chaos but to those here it all makes perfect sense and in a way, this is a great way to explain Asperger’s.

            I see social situations in America the same way. To those who are normal, not that normal exists, the seemingly disorganized chaos makes sense. There’s order and it works and yet I sit in the back seat wondering, “What in the wide world of sports is going on here?” Somehow, amongst all this chaos of socializing it works despite, from my angle, the system should just short out, implode, and cease to exist.
            My flight to Mauritius and I have to wonder what that experience will be like. I know there’s a hotel shuttle but there was no way to inquire as to if it makes routine trips to the airport or not. On top of that my experience at the airport here in Madagascar today was much like last night as there are people that will be willing to help you with anything. If you’re filling out a paper a person will offer that you can write on their back, or will offer you a pen. Essentially you aren’t getting from the front door to the exit without having to tip some person for something and I now had Malagasy money so I did my best to minimize the amount of tips I’d owe which is easier said than done. Thankfully instead of big doses these tips were just about $1.50 which was much more bearable than last night, but I knew when I came here this was one of the risks. If a person is going to travel to Africa you have to be accepting of the potential risks even if it’s a minor social thing like this. Here it makes perfect sense and is part of the seeming chaos but here it works. One thing that makes this series unique is that, at home, I do feel like an outsider but I’m traveling to places I’m even a further outsider and making observations about it. On one hand I’m sure that’s a bit daring, and I must have a hint of an adventurer in me, but I’m thankful that in all this chaos, be it not knowing the socializing ways of back home, or the chaos on the roads here, or even the chaos of the tip monsters at the airport, somehow it all works and the world goes on.

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