Douwe Osinga's Blog: An Old Friend for Questioning

Friday, April 25, 2008

My good friend Hans Peter came visit from the Netherlands. Against all reason he decided he wanted to visit of all places the Andaman Island, so we set off on a journey to these islands barely touched by civilization. It’s a long trip involving changes of planes and a 3 hour boat ride, but I guess that’s what keeps it untouched. Of course Hans-Peter remarked when we finally made it to the palm fringed disturbingly white beaches: ‘well, they don’t have a lot of tourist facilities’.

No matter. If ever the journey was the destination, it was this time. We filled the time with talk, questioned the things we saw and kept our spirits up with the beer we managed to find almost everywhere. Why is it that we know how much crude oil cost, but not how much an acre of land to grow potatoes? What is the beach front premium in India compared to that in Spain? We had a surprisingly fitting theory as to how the world economy worked considering that we were completely sober at the time and a sure-thing plan for a 100 million dollar company.

The one thing we couldn’t crack was waves. If waves are created by wind, which seems reasonable, you’d expect them to go in the wind direction. At sea they seem to do, but when they make it to the beach, they always seem to be rolling on and off the beach. How does the wave know what the orientation of the beach is?

And we missed a lot of transport connections almost, which was all the more exciting since any missed connection would almost certainly mean that we’d miss all other connections too, including HPs flight home. For example, we had one day in Chennai which we decided to fill with a trip to Mamalapuram, for which we arranged for a car. That is, we made a deal with a tout at the airport, whom we presumed to be the driver, but who switched himself at the last minute with a shoeless guy.

The not wearing shoes didn’t turn out to be the worst. He didn’t speak English either, nor Hindi (which wouldn’t have helped much). Moreover he couldn’t drive. On the way there, it was sort of ok, the main challenge was trying to explain where we wanted to stop and where not. The return drive was more of a problem. The traffic was getting busier and we were running out time. Worse, I lost the card where I had written the words ‘go faster’ in Tamil on while swimming.

So we crawled through the evening traffic with rickshaws, motor bikes, cars and busses overtaking us left and right. We could barely keep up with the bicyclists. With slightly less than 25 minutes on the clock we made it to the airport and tried to run in. Not so fast. Indian airports you can only enter with a ticket or a print of your email. We had none. Fortunately they provide for airline offices outside that will make said print (which you then inside can trade for a boarding pass), so we queued impatiently up at the Air Deccan counter. When it was our turn, the guy typed around for a bit and then announced that we were not on the flight.

Not good. We asked him to check under various permutations of names, but nothing helped. We were about to just book a new ticket, when my iphone jumped to the rescue. I quickly opened and the wait started for India’s GPRS to deliver the data. When it finally opened, I could show the guy that we *did* have a reservation. Ha. Only as it turned out not on Air Deccan, but on Indigo, an hour later and which was delayed. So after an apology or two we made our way quickly to the airport bar.


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