Keys, money, passport, credit cards, flight ticket…I use all my powers of concentration to do the final check ritual and make sure I have all the vital belongings with me, preferably before I lock the door behind. Previous experiences have shown that, thorough though I may be in some circumstances, when it so happens that I lose my head, I usually go for a remarkable mistake, not just a small, insignificant one.
Before I left to South Africa, for instance, after some hectic days spent in-between work, work-related travels, packing and everything else, I did manage to lock myself out of the apartment with the keys on the inside. Luckily, every time I screw up massively, my guardian angel steps in to save the day. My landlord, who is strategically located three blocks away from me, had a third key (you would have guessed, I had duplicates, but they were on the other side of the door as well). He only answered my calls two hours later, so I had plenty of time to simmer gently in my own guilty consciousness and the extent of my stupidity. Can’t say I’ve learnt my lesson.
Before I board the plane from Brussels to Lima with a first stop in Madrid, I grab the fresh-of-the-day edition of El Pais. My Spanish is not great, but like every decent Romanian who grew up watching telenovelas, I have a passive knowledge of the language, good enough for me to grasp the overall message.
One article in particular gets my attention: it says something about a meeting involving several Latin American countries and taking steps towards an agreement to loosen abortion laws, etc. Here I am, up in the air, finding out that five of the seven remaining countries in the world which ban abortion in all circumstances are in Latin America: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Honduras, Dominican Republic (the other two being Vatican City – no surprise here- and Malta). Here, banned means that the mother is forced by law to deliver her baby even if: 1. The pregnancy is the result of a rape. 2. The pregnancy threatens her own life and 3. It is medically proven that the foetus cannot survive after birth. I’ll be damn!
“You can judge a country by how they treat their women”? If so, then many should hurry into respecting theirs and considering them more than just walking incubators programmed to deliver babies at the expense of their own lives.
To put things into context, I grew up in a country where communism has taken the best part of being a woman: in my mother’s time and way before, there was no access to contraception. Could anyone in developed countries imagine sexual life without pills and condoms nowadays? On top of that, abortion was illegal and consequently practiced illegally on a large scale in dodgy conditions, jeopardising thousands of women’s lives. How many children could a woman breed after all, and what to put on the table? Sex must have been a real nightmare for them. So yes, reading stuff like this does get me out of my system.
I am steaming on the inside, going through paragraphs that take me into how little rights Latin America’s women have over their bodies, lives, health, fate. I turn towards the lady next to me: she’s dozing off peacefully. How can she sleep so carelessly, did she even read this, does she understand that the low consideration of these women makes human rights look like a shameful joke? Is no one up in arms about this? Peace and quiet on the plane. People travel in a relaxed holiday mood.
I, on the contrary, set myself in war mode. I mentally prepare some nice letters intended to the brilliant law- and decision-makers and wish I were granted permission to rewrite some of the Pope’s public speeches. In the Middle Ages, I would have probably been burnt at the stake. But there I was, in this 21st century crippled by underdeveloped mentalities, landing in Madrid.
At the Madrid airport I have 2 hours to kill. To make time pass quicker, I inadvertently exit a door that takes me out of the airport. I didn’t realize this until I wanted to come back and saw that the only possibility to do so was to go through customs again. I only thought I was doing a tour of the airport but was absent minded and followed the wrong crowd. I must pass through the security check again, only this time I also have to take off my shoes as a bonus.
Luckily, I still have time before catching my connecting flight, so I spend it wondering aimlessly in the duty free shops. I never buy anything, but then I was bored and needed something to entertain myself with. Have you ever noticed just how dull everyone looks in an airport? But my steps and perhaps some subconscious desire lead me to where those small, cute bottles of alcohol are exhibited. It’s my lucky day: there a special promotion, 3 little bottles for the price of two.
I’m usually very bad at striking deals in all aspects of life, but I estimated that I could not go terribly wrong on this one. So there and then I decided to do what any reasonable human being who has an 11-hour night flight ahead should do: get drunk. I therefore acquire the small exhibits, buy a bottle of coke and empty some of the Johnny Walker magic into it.
This marked the first time I have ever stepped into a plane after having a drink. It was a very bumpy ride, I could feel the whole frame shacking from all over, but it didn’t manage to wake me up. From Madrid to Lima, I was sound asleep, the world’s problems hanging somewhere beyond me. Holidays, at last!