Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back in NY

Have arrived back home safe and sound, via Austrian Airline, which is consistently performing impeccable services with great punctuality. This time I traveled on their new Boeing 777 aircraft, which has more comfortable seats, but lack even a small standing room area, usually located in the plane's mid section. Lufthansa much larger Airbuses instead, which I now normally use going Eastward, offer some standing spaces, especially in the toilets zone, which is located on a lower deck. One can usually stretch there, but a group of people that just want to stand up and chat are not allowed to congregate, due to new security on board regulations.

I had reached Tirana's airport in no time, at 2:30am, in a beautiful night breeze, and had the chance to notice the now enlarged and spacious airport terminal, better organized with Duty Free and coffee shops, and with double the amount of departing gates.
I could not help reminiscing about my first trip back to Albania in 1993, when there was only one room, one gate, no luggage carousel, but only one hole in a wall through which the arriving luggage was passed, individually, by hand. Throughout this recent past I've been privy to watch, on an yearly basis, the great changes and developments that have taken place in Albania, which now large numbers of tourist are discovering and appreciating.

As the first light of dawn was peeking from behind the surrounding mountains, the new Fokker plane operated by Austrian's partner, Tyrolean Air, lifted us off the ground at 4:25am, and in 1 1/2 hour we reached Vienna. After a layover of 4 hours we spent another 8 1/2 hours crossing Europe and the Atlantic, and landed at JFK, ahead of time, at 1:37pm.

The 777 craft was packed to full capacity; the service and food were excellent, and I enjoyed the company of a young, 9 year old, boy from Kosova, seated in the middle between me and an Austrian woman diplomat. He was accompanied by a friend of his father, who was seated 10 rows behind us.

The boy spoke fluent English, and, typical of his age, was fidgeting a lot, while being curious about everything that went on. Once he got hold of the remote control of his seat he had no problem perusing the on board entertainment programs. The trip was a reward from his father for a good school year, and his excitement about visiting relatives in the Bronx (NY) was obvious. He refused every meal that was offered, claiming of not being hungry, and drank only 4 glasses of cola during the entire trip. We chatted quite a bit, and, from time to time, he would give me a big smile, and affectionately stroke my arm when I would politely give him some hints about traveling etiquette. At one point ended up leaning on me for a short nap. Toward the end of the trip he finally broke down when he noticed that, by refusing the last snack, he had missed a delicious chocolate mousse, but he had no qualms politely asking the steward if he could get only that dessert.

Upon leaving JFK to head home in a rundown yellow cab I began to sweat in the very muggy afternoon of NY weather, and felt very uncomfortable, especially when, missing the great Mediterranean weather I left behind in Albania, I started thinking about what I had to cope with upon my return home.

Fortunately, within an hour or so, I was able to restore water and electrical facilities, as well as cable and Internet service, and to get hold of a carton of accumulated snail mail that will take a couple of days to sort out and dispose of. Within that same hour I returned some phone 'welcome home' messages, and also received a phone call from a friend in Tirana checking up that I was safely home.

No comments: