Sunday, March 10, 2013

Civilized Departure

You know what it’s like. The brutal 4 a.m. departure to be ready for the 4:30 Super Shuttle to get to the airport in time for your 7 a.m. flight. You’re the first to be picked up and the driver takes convoluted routes to get the next passengers. The clock is ticking and the tension begins. Finally arrive at the airport to long check-in lines that are moving way too slow and once finally through that, Security is yet longer and slower. You’re sleep-deprived, wondering whether you packed the necessary x,y or z and are one step closer to an ulcer wondering if you’ll make it on time to the gate. When you finally board, you discover you have a middle seat with a large person on one side, a crying baby on the other— and you’ve already seen all the movies.

But sometimes the exit is more civilized. Like today. The scheduled time is 3:15. In the afternoon! That means a leisurely morning to eat a slow breakfast, put the finishing touches on packing, go for a bike ride, close out the e-mails and even cook a light lunch. Get a ride (thanks to the wife) on a non-trafficked freeway, step right up to the counter to get the boarding pass and then on to Security with all of four people ahead of you. A leisurely stroll to the gate, you’ve scored an aisle seat and the plane is leaving on time. For awhile, it looks like you’ll have an empty seat next to you. A short disappointment when the man shows up, then relief then he’s thin and narrow-shouldered. And voila! there’s some of the movies you’ve meant to catch up on. Airport travel rocks!

So began my trip to Salzburg to teach for two weeks at the Orff Institute. I write this in the Frankfurt Airport after a smooth 11-hour flight. 2:30 in the morning SF time, five hours until my next flight. But here’s another mark of advanced civilization—America, take note. Seats without armrests where one can lie down and sleep. And so I do. To be continued.

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And sleep I did, lulled to the constant drone of the announcer “Achtung, bitte. Lufthansa 451…” the cities announced “Casablanca, Lisbon, Mumbai…” drifting in and out of my dreams. Awoken in time by my trusty travel alarm, a moment of panic when I wondered if they changed clocks an hour ahead today in Europe too and I actually missed my flight, but happily no. Boarded the short flight to Salzburg, a window seat and time to see the farms below and distant Austrian Alps. Arrived to a surprising warmish afternoon, bags out on the belt within five minutes, my host waiting outside to greet me and a quick settle in my single room in the Jufa Youth Hostel, the Schloss Castle in the distance out my window and the pleasure I always get unpacking and moving in to my new home for the next two weeks. Tomorrow a full round of classes with 14 students from 11 countries— back to my “Confessions of a traveling music teacher mode.”

I loved being at home for ten weeks with no airport trips, settled into the routine of teaching the kids at school and enjoying San Francisco. And I love this as well. Always appropriate to express gratitude to all the visible and invisible helping hands that make this life possible. Thank you and onward!

P.S. A word of advice. Never watch a Woody Harrelson film, especially if it has the word Psychopath in the title. Ah, Woody, what happened to you after Cheers?

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