DC

| June 5, 2011

Currently waiting at Washington Dulles for the last leg of my return trip to Raleigh-Durham. The flight from Addis Ababa arrived early and I could probably have caught an earlier onward flight to RDU—but United Airlines now charges $75 for traveling standby, so as a good Dutchman I’ll keep the cash in my pocket and wait for the scheduled flight.

Everything is considered “extra” if you fly economy in the U.S. these days—peanuts, checked luggage, earphones. It won’t be long until they start charging for the life vests as well. The airlines’ marketing people will surely find a way to sell the floatation devices as added comfort “in the unlikely event of an emergency.”

The flight from Addis made (for me) an unexpected stop in Rome, which explains the whopping 17-hour-and-25-minute flying time to Washington. It’s interesting to see old colonial ties between countries persisting in the routing of flights. When I traveled to Rwanda last year, the connection was through Brussels.

The dearth of flights between Harare and London, on the other hand, reflects the frosty relationship between Zimbabwe and its former colonial master. Come to think of it, there aren’t too many airlines calling on the Harare’s gleaming airport, which opened only a few years ago. Aside from two seemingly mothballed Air Zimbabwe aircraft, our Ethiopian Airlines plane was the only one on the tarmac yesterday.

I have filled several notebooks on this trip, and I am still not sure if I have a good grasp on the Zimbabwean situation. Has land reform succeeded or has not? Hopefully I can put the pieces together as I review my notes this week.

In the meantime, I will have to unlearn some of the driving habits I acquired during my stay in Zimbabwe, especially around intersections.

The worst traffic situations didn’t involve traffic lights that were disabled, but those that worked partially—with only the green bulb functioning, for example. On several occasions, the only clues about the colors of the lights came from the horn blowing and hand gestures from fellow motorists.

Category: Breaking News

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