The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Not there yet

Parts of my recent ship trip brought back snippets of memories–probably not even from that first trip when I was two and our family moved to Ethiopia for the first time, probably from the ship that floated us back across the Atlantic when I was seven and coming to visit America for the first time.

I remember that Mom and Dad had talked up ice cream cones to the point that we were beside ourselves with excitement when ICE CREAM CONES appeared on the ship’s menu.  Alas for us, what appeared at our plates was a scoop of ice cream with a wafer stuck into it.

I remember a theater where we got to watch cartoons.

I’m pretty sure that the ship is also the place where I got my hair cut.  Since I was the one of the four girls in the Kurtz family who squirmed and complained every time I had to get my hair put into a pony tail, I obviously wore my parents down until they decided to just chop that hair off.  (Here I am once we reached the U.S. visiting a family who had a boy about my age.)

It’s odd to think of a time when airplanes didn’t make that trip across the Atlantic–regular jet service apparently didn’t start until the late 1950s.  The part of the trip between Europe and Ethiopia, though, was always one we did by air, stopping in Athens or Rome, pausing next in Egypt, where my dad–of course–climbed onto a camel or sometimes sitting in hot Sudan while the plane refueled.

This spring while we were waiting to board one of our flights, a man rushed up–and asked a fellow traveler what was happening.  “Pre-boarding,” the man answered.

The two of them surveyed the preboarding line and the first man pointed to a dad with a stroller.  “Been there,” he said.  He waved toward a wheelchair–“Not there yet.”

My dad flew and flew his whole life, including piloting a small plane for years of his work in Ethiopia.  Air travel, for all its pain, tends to make my heart go pittery pattery.  I can’t help myself.

After the ship rocked us to Europe, it wasn’t easy to find a reasonable ticket for a one way flight from Europe back to Portland.  So here’s how we got home.

First, a taxi zipped us to one of the Barcelona train stations where we sat in the lobby and watched a gaggle of high school students clearly getting ready to go off on some exciting trip.  “It has to be Paris,” I said–and I was right.  They and we got on the train, where we settled into our little compartment, handed over our ticket and passports, and climbed into narrow bunks.  I will happily anytime drift off to sleep on a rocking train (much more rocking than the ship) headed to Paris and wake to a breakfast of omelette and croissant and coffee that one eats looking out at boxy cottages and fields of yellow.  Saffron?  Flax?

Train stations are fascinating places.  When this train reached Paris, the next step was a wait in a chilly taxi line until a driver finally scooped our bags into the bag with an energetic, “Voila!”  That taxi whisked us down the streets of Paris–some flowering trees, a faded rosebush, a sprinkling of red poppies by an underpass–to strange Terminal One at Charles DeGaulle airport and deserted Iceland Air counters.

We waited.

And waited.

Once we had our boarding passes, we walked through strange tubes and sidewalks that not only moved but rose and plunged like some kind of carnival ride.  We took off from Paris and landed in a lumpy land of no trees, a land that celebrates and wonders of a cow’s mouth and everything green.  May I recommend Iceland?  A little surreal.  A little where-am-I?  But fitting for the where-am-I way a long day of travel makes you feel, anyway, and the price was right (even if we did have to buy our meal).

Been a toddler in arms traveling, traveling.  Some day I might roll down the corridor of an airport by wheelchair, but I’m not there yet.

Still having adventures.

May your adventures rock you as my April rocked me…from New Orleans to Portugal to Barcelona to Paris to Iceland to Seattle and back home.

2 thoughts on “Not there yet”

  1. Hi! this is a member from STT. We saw your comment to our artical. Thank you for inspireing us with that book. I wanted to help an endangered animal but I didn’t know what! so I read the backand i got tiger idea!c Thanks!


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