Denise and I departed Monday afternoon for our fall experience in our adopted “hometown” of Fes Morocco. Like most of the past several trips we have made, I surrender to my lesser nature and devote at least one of these essays to venting about a particular frustration or disappointment that we encounter such as lost luggage, delays, missed connections or a general recognition that something is always going to be less enjoyable than we anticipated or create a more formidable obstacle to overcome in trying to realize our objectives.
The second leg of our flight, the one from Atlanta to Paris provided the opportunity this trip to confront the inevitable, in particular having to deal with Charles de Gaulle Airport. I has a reputation, expressed by some of our friends last Sunday at a church event, of its far-flung terminals, mandating seemingly interminable taxi times for both landing and departure, as well as obscure and often confusing signage. In fact, our flight from Atlanta to Paris required just a few minutes more than eight hours to transcend the 4,370 miles separating the two cities. Once we landed however, we spent almost 50 minutes getting from the airplane to the terminal, a distance that is at most ten miles, even with the unusual amount of taxiing that appears inevitable regardless of the “target” terminal. I might add that loading and unloading about five buses proved to be one additional reason for the delay in getting to our necessary connection.
Of course, not utilizing a jet-way required having to go through a security check again. My confession to having artificial knees seemed not to have affected the security agent’s desire to make sure that he did his job properly. I had to do the scan thing (lighting up the screen of course) but then he noticed I had my shoes on and told me to walk through the detector a second time. I told him that even with my shoes off, I still had artificial knees! He then proceeded to spend way more time than required in my view using the portable wand to ensure that I did not pose a problem. For some reason he paid particular attention to the bottom of my feet, maybe because my knees no longer provide the flexibility to hold my feet in the required position he wanted them.
Nonetheless we made it through security, and after one unfortunate choice of concourses, eventually determined exactly the gate from which our flight to Rabat would take off and made it there with plenty of time before our boarding started. I spent some time reflecting on this very e-mail and how even though we were only about 14 hours into our entire voyage things were already going pretty badly. Getting only a couple of hours sleep at most can lead to that kind of disposition. I mentioned to Denise that the theme of the first Perspectives had already been determined and I would likely have more criticisms to vent about before we finished the three hour flight to Rabat and the 3 hour or so Grand Taxi ride to Fes.
Denise managed to find a large bottle of water we could share, the cost being just under $5.00, but we have become accustomed to the legal larceny that takes place in certain airports, CDG having one of the worst pricing systems we have encountered. We had settled down a bit when we heard a voice behind us ask, “Are you from Alabama?” After acknowledging that we were, the person said, “I noticed your 205 area code on your baggage tag and recognized it as an Alabama code. What city in Alabama is home”? When we said Birmingham, he replied, “My in-laws live in Birmingham.”
Thus began an extended conversation that caused me to reflect on the sermon we had heard on Sunday, the day before we left. Dr. Lee used the title “It’s Time” with Ephesians 5:15-16 as his text. He talked about the Greek use of the words “chronus” and “kairos” to define time. The word chronus refers to measured time, the minutes, hours and days that we utilize for living and doing. The word kairos means an appointed time, an opportune moment, or a due season. In particular, I liked his phrase “redeeming the time” that enables us to trade the tiresome toil of utilizing every moment productively for the possibility of the opportune moment or an appointed time.
I think that is what we experienced at the airport. Our irritation at the inefficiency and subsequent delay affected our chronus perception. We like to get things completed, and as quickly as possible, although we were definitely not going anywhere until the other 200 or so passengers were also accommodated. But the opportune time arose for us to make a new friend, an American who lives near Rabat, whose wife’s parents live in Bluff Park of all places. This time also provided Justin with the enjoyment of hearing the Queen’s English with our honeysuckle accents. He hails from Oklahoma by the way.
Even better, we heard of his decision to live and work in Morocco, and were able to affirm him and his family in that choice as we related some of our 45 year history in North Africa. It simply took a different mindset to turn things around, to redeem the time that we felt we had already lost. I ran across a blog by an Australian writer named McKinley Valentine who wrote, “But you have to risk disappointment to find these moments. It’s how a traveler can miss their flight, get food poisoning, lose their passport and still talk about the trip with shining eyes and flushed cheeks. They’re remembering kairos.” That’s definitely the way at least two travelers remember their time at Charles de Gaulle on the 22nd of September.
Photos by Google, Edited by Denise
September 26, 2015