Almost home. I've made it to Atlanta. It's been 50 hours since I left my ship, since I slept. The trip started out badly when my backpack and laptop got soaked during the jet boat ride over to the supply ship. I didn't find out until the next morning, as it was only wet on the bottom, but during the night it soaked up through everything. I emptied my bag and laid everything out at the entrance to the engine room, where 120-degree air constantly blows up from a stairwell, and it all dried pretty quickly. This is the first time I've powered up the laptop and it works (knock wood). The ride into Luanda, Angola took about 20 hours. Spent most of the time reading, watching movies or bullshitting with a guy from one of the other boats in the operation. I haven't seen him since we worked together up in Alaska a few years ago, which coincidentally, was the start of my original blog, Life of a Pirate.
I should note that on that ship we live in a metal box, or container, strapped down on the back deck. From living in the box, we moved into the cage on the dock in Luanda. This time we literally walked in and right back out of the cage, which was a treat. Any day not in the cage is a good one. We took a bus up the bluff to the airport. Our driver was obviously paid by the mile. our navigators reckoned we drove a star pattern, taking us to each corner of the city along the way.
Our handlers efficiently shuffled us through to ticketing and then promptly split. Running the gauntlet of security, customs, immigration and the Quanza Man (TM) is simply a major fucking drag. Everyone you encounter except the Quanza Man (TM) likes to stare at you and do nothing. Just stare. I think they look for a reaction to see if you're running late, then they stare longer while you sweat and fidget. I smile a lot and try hard to fart. That is usually a very effective buzzkill that immediately gets you shuffled to the next official.
So, I farted at customs, passed gas at immigration and managed security without the need for flatulence and then had to face the Quanza Man (TM).
Quanza Man (TM) is unique in my experience and he has one of the best jobs in the world. He is paid to steal your money, if he can. Thats it. You have to enter his office and he tries to steal your money. I was out of gas by the time I got to his office and well, it doesn't work on him, anyway. You see, he wears a rubber glove to work. Yep. He'll find that cash even if you've keistered it. And this is what happens: Quanza man holds up a rubber-gloved finger and asks you if you have any Quanza (local currency). I say no. He asks again, wiggling the finger, looking for a sign of weakness. I say no, I work on a ship-no Quanza. Then he demands US dollars. I say I have none. He then demands all my money. I say no. He says give me your US dollars and I lean forward, say no and stare into his dead eyes. We stay locked like this for at least a full minute as he waits for me to break. I don't and he tells me to get out.
It happens this way every time I'm confronted by Quanza Man (TM). For others, it goes differently and mostly a bit tougher. He is, after all wearing a rubber glove and he's not afraid to use it. Mostly, he gets people to open their wallets, turn out their pockets, or open their carry-ons. If you're weak enough to agree, he'll take any currency he finds and stuff it in his pocket, unless you raise all holy hell. He's hard to stop once he sees your money, which is why I simply stare him down and say no to whatever he demands. This time he manged to get one guy to open a wallet that had at least ten different currencies and they spent some long minutes yelling about it. I tell you, I wish I had that fucker's job.
Anyway, I went to the bar, slammed 6 beers in 20 minutes and flew the fuck outta there. Had a couple hours layover in Johannesburg, South Africa. Hit the lounge for a while, then had a decent Malaysian curry with a couple of my shipmates from the Philippines. The flight from Jo'burg was 16 hours. Man, I hate those long ones. I start to question my sanity after about 12 hours and start talking to myself soon after that.
Atlanta is a decent airport, overlooking the long trek to the main terminal, and a place where you can smoke. Met a lot of soldiers. They are everywhere in here and it's simply impossible to say hello, welcome them back, or wish them luck and thank them for their service. It would be a full time job for like an army of people. Anyway, I thanked as many as I could while waiting in line for security and whatnot.
Now its off to my next flight and Minnie...only two more to go!
UPDATE: I'm home, recovering pretty well and heading out to see the new Harry Potter movie with all 3 of my kids!!