Blue jeans remain the prevalent trouser. Indians, Canadians, French, and South Africans too, they all wear blue jeans. I wonder if there was ever such an international attire before denim?
A boy of three or four years of age opens a clamshell toy. There are four primary buttons, each of which cause a different song to play. A synthesized female voice speaks Chinese, and he responds. Some of the songs are what I assume to be of Chinese origin, some of European tradition, classical music which I do not recognize.
I close my laptop and watch him. He notices. His father sees that I am paying attention and directs the boy to share his toy with me. I hold my hands, palms up, waiting. He walks toward me but does not fully engaged. He plays four songs successively, each for only a few seconds. I see that our exchange may be rather limited, so I played music from my cell phone, a kind of call and response. For a moment I was reminded of the musical exchange in “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” but neither I nor the boy were willing to climb on-board the alien ship, it seemed.
A man sat across from my, carrying nothing but a candy bar style cell phone. Mid-thirties, European I believe, he reminded me of the robber I encountered in Paris, casually dressed with shiny, pointed shoes. I watched him as he looked out the glass wall to my left. Every now and again his eyes would glance at my two carry-on cases, one of which contained my Canon C100 camera, the other my lenses and 60D. Combined, there is roughly $15,000 in value. My instinct said I did not want to fall to sleep with this man in my presence, but logic said he was inside the security arena, meaning he would have had to purchase a ticket in order to steal and risk getting caught before his plane departed. Nonetheless, I packed my things and moved to another location, never revealing the contents of my Pelican case or shoulder bag.
Toddlers run like chimpanzees, their legs moving in small semi-circles more than direct, front to back motions as with adults. They attempt to keep up with their parents who better understand the urgency of making the departing gate on time.
The small woman behind the counter of a small cafe wore a tight, button down shirt. It seemed the buttons might pop from the outward pressure of her breasts. She did not smile, not even when thanked by her customers. I asked if she was having a good day and she answered honestly, “It’s ok. Just ok.”
I was again reminded of the mixed blessing and curse to have been born with English as my native language language as I could almost expect anyone selling anything in any major airport in the European Union and near East to understand my words. The downside being the reduced motivation to learn a second, third, or fifth language fluently, forever stuck in one way of seeing the world through one vocabulary and associated cultural context.
The airport in Istanbul was wonderfully devoid of power sockets, perhaps just one or two per gate waiting area. At the far end of each was a place where the carpet was replaced with tile flooring. A five man Capuera dance team was practicing. I recalled the lessons I took in Fort Collins a few years prior, and how much I enjoyed the new means by which my body could move. These guys were very good, successfully giving the roots of break-dancing a new birth.
Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Ethiopian, South African, Canadian and American (of the United States) all easily recognized by apparel, language, and physical interactions. Some rest in the chairs with legs open wide, full personal space taken while others minimize their presence, small, somewhat isolated. The Americans, when in groups, talking, talking, always talking. Easy to spot, most of the time.
A group of Asian men and women, very small in stature, sat in a double circle, barefoot, all facing out. They preferred the floor to the chairs provided, each of them wearing full body gowns on top of what I assume to be one more layers beneath. Deep red-brown skin weathered. Cracked lips and wrinkled eyes. Slight smiles which conveyed, to me, a depth of contentment more than a momentary impulse or temporarily delight.
In the Men’s toilet I was again reminded of personal rituals which seem to find foundation in cultural norms. I would never conceive to clear my nose in a public sink, and yet, this unfolded. Cup hands, splash face, blow nose. Three times followed by a quick padding of face and neck with paper towels. Not just one man, but a successive number, all the same routine. I had seen something like this in Kenya too, the Chinese construction engineers conducting a face and mouth washing routine which seemed to move in sets of three, loud and obnoxious by my standards, water splashed across the counter, mirror, and onto the floor.
I wonder if they, if any of us are truly aware of our own routines, some silent counting system in our heads telling us when we are complete. I have noticed that dogs and cats too tend to drink water in certain sets of laps, three or four quite common, if left uninterrupted.
On the plane a baby cries for what seemed like an hour. Her mother exhausted, uncertain what to do, sits down and just lets it go on. I kept thinking of this infant, lying in a wall mounted bin, unable to see her mother. The vibration of the engines and not so subtle movement of the total system certainly unfamiliar. The air pressure change alone is enough to make her scream, yet for me, the man snoring two seats to my rear is far less tolerable. I will take a crying child over snoring any day.
We are just an hour now from Johannesburg, South Africa, where this plane will stop but I will not depart. One final, third leg from Los Angeles to Cape Town, more than twenty four hours in flight, in all, another 6 in transit from Phoenix by road and six in lay-over in Istanbul.
I opened a printed novel for the first time since mid November and this, my second essay since the same time. In roughly three hours, I will land in my new home.