Thursday, December 26, 2013

Eggs or Pasta?

This is a blog post that I wrote in March 2012, about our journey home after volunteering at Honour Village for the first time.  I'm not sure why I didn't publish it then, and after reading it over, I thought some of you might still enjoy reading it, and learning a bit more about what it's like to fly half way round the world, even if it is old news now.  Since then, we've stopped flying from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and now go over land.  (You can read about our over land travel here)

March 2012.....
For the first leg of our return journey, our plane took off from Siem Reap at about 2:30pm on March 7, bound for Bangkok, Thailand.

The roundabout at Siem Reap Airport

I think most air passenger carriers around the world have a lot to learn from Bangkok Airways , 'Southeast Asia's Boutique Airway', about how to treat their customers,. As we taxied onto the runway, we were given a 'refreshing towel' to cool off and to wash our hands. 

A cool moist towel on a hot day
Just what I needed

Shortly after the plane took off, (and well before it had leveled out) the flight attendants were already serving a boxed light lunch, as well as coffee and tea - All this on a 45 minute flight! 

Fancy box that the lunch comes packed in...

...and inside, a delicious lunch of fruit, sandwiches,
dessert, water, and fruit juice.

At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the complimentary shuttle van for the Convenient Grand Hotel was waiting for us.   The hotel is about a 10 minute ride from the airport, located in the middle of not much, so it's really not that 'Convenient', but it is 'Grand'.  Below is a photo of the the room we got for $30 US/night.  Buffet breakfast was included, but unfortunately we had to be at the airport for 4 am, long before the kitchen opened.  

Our room at The Convenient Grand Hotel

For reasons that will soon become apparent, I won't name the airline we used for the remainder of our journey.  The flight to Narita airport (Tokyo) took about 6 hours.  Still too early in the day to sleep, we enjoyed breakfast and a snack and watched two movies (I thought The King's Speech was excellent. True Grit. prefer the original with John Wayne.)  By the time we arrived at Narita airport we were really looking forward to the next flight (13 hours) where we would be able to have a good rest.  Little known to us, that wasn't about to happen.

In the waiting lounge at Tokyo's Narita Airport, we noticed an older man and woman who were carrying two very young children.  The baby girl seemed quite calm and content, but the small boy was noticeably distressed, and wailed incessantly.  I said a silent prayer to be seated far away from them.  

Sadly, sometimes the answer to my prayers is a resounding  'No!'  Due to a booking error, the seating for this couple and their two children had to be changed.  The man and whining young boy (who'd originally been seated about 5 rows back of us) were relocated to the seat directly in front of us..... and that sad little boy howled and cried non-stop until about one hour before the flight ended.  We didn't get any sleep either.  

By this point, we'd been enroute for over 20 hours. I was exhausted and had lost all track of time, but I do remember the choice for the final meal they served on that flight was 'Eggs or Pasta?'.  (Hmmmmm.... Do I want to eat Breakfast or Dinner?)

Turbulance and a weather disturbance delayed our arrival into Washington.  I've probably already mentioned I'm nervous on airplanes, so it was a good thing that I was 'well-lubricated' with wine while that airplane rocked and rolled for that last hour or so.  (That wine was also responsible for calming my jangled nerves created by the aforementioned disturbance in the seat ahead of us.)  

With only minutes to spare before our next flight, we practically ran a marathon to get to our gate in Washington (Dulles) airport on time.  It's a huge airport.  We made it... just barely.

This last flight was short, and fairly uneventful, except that the back on Gordon's seat would not go into an upright position.  (I thought that was a violation of TSA regulations...) In any event, we arrived in Buffalo safe and sound, and what a total shock to our system!  We'd gone from temperatures of nearly 40C (100F) to 0C (32F).  Even more strange, it had been 22 hours since we'd left Bangkok, and by Buffalo time, we'd arrived a mere 12 hours later.  (How wierd is that?)  My internal clock was still on Cambodia time which was 6:00 am Wednesday, but since we were half way around the world and had crossed the international date line, it was actually 6:00 pm Tuesday.  

Now I understand why they asked us if we wanted eggs or pasta.

Christmas in Cambodia 2013

Being away at Christmas can be difficult, especially when it's so far away from home. Whenever we make plans to return, we are torn between our work in Cambodia, and sharing Christmas with our families. 

For some reason, the days leading up to Christmas were particularly nostalgic and difficult for me. Perhaps it was knowing that my daughter was in a crisis situation (they were without electricity for almost 50 hours because of a big ice storm). Perhaps it was knowing that my Mom and sis-in-law were both spending Christmas at home alone. Perhaps it was because I got a taste of family Christmas last year when we had to cancel our trip. Perhaps it was because we exchanged our gifts really early this year (at the end of November), with no Christmas decorations, which felt un-Christmasy, and almost unnatural.  Whatever the reason, I just had a tougher time this year than usual.

Cambodians are Buddhist, so Christmas is not a holiday they celebrate. I must admit however, the hotels and businesses do go out of their way to make it festive for tourists.

A small part of the light display at a 'posh' hotel

There are a lot of volunteers at Honour Village right now (14 or 16 at last count). On December 18th, we all went out for a Christmas dinner at a restaurant, and even had a 'Secret Santa' gift exchange. The meal was quite good, but somehow turkey dinner just isn't the same if you don't smell the turkey roasting all day...

The best shot I could get of all the volunteers at our dinner.
Most of them are from the UK, where they have a tradition of wearing paper hats.
Susan wore her special Christmas 'ears'.

After dinner, we were entertained by one of the waiters
who has a very beautiful singing voice.
The restaurant owner is in the background.

Some of the volunteers living at our guesthouse decided to do a bit of Christmas decorating to make the place a little more festive.

I helped one of the volunteers make paper Christmas trees
to decorate the tables on the rooftop of our guesthouse.

Another view of the decorated tables.
It's an open-air restaurant with quite a view from 3 floors up.

We decorated the paper Christmas trees
with foil star stickers.
When we went for breakfast the next morning
we discovered the cooks had decorated the pole 

in the restaurant with our leftovers.
In Cambodia, nothing is ever wasted.

The owner of the guesthouse added to the festive atmosphere
by trimming the 'trees' in the lobby with flashing LED lights.
(Notice the Buddhist shrine next to the 'Christmas trees.)

It was an unexpected surprise to receive Christmas cards!

One of the volunteers saved all the Christmas
wrapping from our Secret Santa gifts,
and used it to make everyone Christmas cards.

Another volunteer bought some paper,
stickers, and tinsel, and made her own cards too.

I hadn't planned to give gifts to the volunteers for Christmas, but with everyone else getting in the spirit, I decided to everyone a little something. On December 23rd, all the volunteers in our guesthouse woke to a little 'Christmas Tree' hanging on their door knob.

I searched through my craft supplies and found
a big bag of buttons and some embroidery floss.

A small bead on top, and voila! 
A Christmas tree ornament.

I haven't started teaching sewing classes at Honour Village yet. That will probably happen in the new year. Right now they are short-handed in the English kindergarten classes, so I'm helping out there. I really love working with the little ones. 

As a special treat for Christmas day, we decided to play the party game of 'pass the parcel'. The children pass around a gift while music plays. When the music stops, the child holding the parcel unwraps one layer. The music begins and they pass the parcel again. This continues until the last layer is unwrapped and that person gets to keep the gift inside. The day before Christmas, I wrapped thirty little present.  Each present had five layers of wrapping, which is the equivalent of wrapping 150 gifts!  Thankfully, Gordon helped by cutting the scotch tape - about450 pieces.. Whew!

To photograph our handiwork, 
I arranged all the parcels on our bed 
in the shape of a Christmas tree. 

Instead of Christmas wrap, we used newspaper for the
'pass the parcel' gifts. By the time we'd finished,
my hands were pretty black... Yuk.

On Christmas eve, and Christmas day, the children from Honour Village sing carols for the guests at the Grand Soluxe Hotel in Siem Reap. Before their performance, the hotel feeds them a huge dinner. It takes a lot of volunteers to take care of 50 kids, serving them dinner, and making sure they all get to & from the bathroom without getting lost or distracted. 

Gordon was in charge of the boy's bathroom. One little boy locked himself in the stall and kept flushing the toilet, refusing to to come out. In Cambodia, most places (including Honour Village) have squat toilets that are flushed by dumping a bucket of water down the hole. This was probably the first time he'd ever seen a toilet that flushed itself when you pushed down a handle. Kids are fascinated by the simplest things. 

Lorna, one of the volunteers, is from Bermuda.
I snapped her photo in front of the big Christmas display
in the lobby of the hotel.

When we're on duty, all the volunteers
are required to wear Honour Village T-shirts.

Lorna snapped our photo too.
Either she had the shakes, or the setting on my camera
couldn't handle the flickering lights.
It's blurry, but it's the only one I have of us together so far!

Three of the volunteers dressed up as Santa and his helpers.
Of course, the kids wanted to be in the photo too!

The children sang on a big outdoor stage.
'Mother' Susan, led the choir.

I always get a big kick out of giving gifts to our Cambodian friends. They are SO appreciative of even the smallest gesture!

We brought Christmas gifts from Canada
for all the Cambodian staff at Honour Village
and the staff at our guesthouse.

To get in the Christmas mood, I brought along some festive jewellery, handmade by my sister-in-law.

My special Christmas earrings.
Snowmen for Christmas eve, and little Christmas trees
for Christmas day.

Before we come to Cambodia, we have our Christmas gift exchange in Canada. Sometimes when we're here, Christmas seems a little empty with no tree, and no gifts. It was lovely to receive a small wrapped gift from Susan, the founder of Honour Village. We saved it to open on Christmas day.

Susan bought us some pretty little china tea cups.
I will think of her and the children every time I use them.

Last night, we had a Christmas party on the rooftop restaurant for all the volunteers. Everyone brought wine. Gordon and I supplied a couple of bottles of 'cheampers' (cheap 'champers' [champagne]). We feasted on great food prepared by our Cambodian cooks, and drank out of whatever glasses the restaurant had on hand....cups, martini glasses, wine glasses and mugs. One volunteer brought a Christmas cake all the way from the UK, that she'd made herself, soaked in brandy and covered with a thick white royal icing. We sang Christmas carols, played Christmas 'Pictionary', and talked late into the evening. Sorry, no photos - I was too busy having a good time.

Although our Cambodian Christmas may have been a little short on festive decorations, celebrations and gifts by western standards, it overflowed with an outpouring of sharing and giving and love. No matter how many more Christmases I celebrate, this one will always stand out. There's no doubt in my mind that it truly is much better to give than to receive.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wondering Where I've Been ??

Looking back, I don't think I've really been sick for almost two years (not since the last time we were in Cambodia), when I got a head cold that worked its way into my throat and eventually became a case of chronic bronchitis that hung on forever. Oh sure, I've had some complications from dental surgeries in the past year that have set me back, but I really wasn't SICK with those, just inconvenienced.  

This year, when we left Toronto on December 2nd, I was feeling marvelous, and by the time we arrived in Cambodia on the 5th, I was still in top form.  Despite a grueling trip, a 12 hour time difference and disrupted sleep schedule,  I was quite pleased with myself for not feeling tired and dealing extremely well with jet lag the first day or two we were here... 

And then the tide turned.

What started as a little tickle in my nose worked its way into a full blown head cold over the course of a few days.  I felt exhausted. During the day, when I wasn't dragging my sorry self around, I was in bed, sweating and coughing. 

Fortunately, I brought along a good supply of these....

At night, when I'd drop off to sleep, I'd snore because of the congestion. My snoring kept Gordon awake. He'd poke me hoping I'd change position and stop disturbing his sleep. Instead I'd wake up and start coughing. Even putting a pillow over his head didn't help. (Just to clarify, HE put the pillow over his head. I didn't.. though I'll admit we were both getting pretty touchy.) 

I tried going into the bathroom when I needed to cough.    It echoed. 

Desperate for sleep, Gordon bought me Halls cough drops, hoping they'd numb my airways. They didn't live up to their promise of cough suppression, but they did provide comic relief.  

When I'm sick, I don't want a pep talk!
I want sympathy.

As if having a cold wasn't bad enough, Montezuma's revenge decided to pay me a visit. Hall's cough drops had the perfect messages for this malady too...

I was definitely 'unstoppable'.
I absolutely had no problem 'pushing forth', and at one point
a seatbelt on the toilet might have come in handy to 'buckle down'.

After one particularly bad night of coughing, this message greeted me...

Seize the day?
More like 'Wheeze the day'.

Enough already. It had been seven days, and I was getting worse, not better. I hadn't been able to work, and I was miserable. I was beginning to entertain thoughts of booking a flight back home. As a last resort, I decided to bring on the 'big guns'. I went to a 'reputable' pharmacy and asked for antibiotics. In Cambodia, you don't need a prescription.  Luckily I'd done some research, and knew what to ask for.  

Notice the price?

The one thing I hadn't noted in my internet research was the dosage. The 'pharmacist' told me I'd need to take one tablet twice a day for 5 to seven days. This package contained six tablets, so I bought two. (Why wouldn't you trust a woman in a white lab coat?) Lucky for me, I can read. The package insert stated the dosage as one tablet on the first day, then 1/2 tablet each day for the next four days.  She'd given me FOUR TIMES what I actually required!! (I hope that doesn't mean I can get sick three more times.)

They did the trick.  We've been here three weeks and I'm finally on the mend.  Still not 100%, but the sinus infection is gone, and I'm coughing a LOT less.  I can go a whole day without having to rest or take a nap. I'm finally back on track, seeing the kids, helping out where I can, and ready to join in some Christmas merriment.

Here's wishing you are all safe and well!  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Flying is Easy Compared to This

Our first few times coming to Cambodia, we flew to Bangkok, stayed overnight in a hotel, then took a one hour flight from Bangkok to Cambodia the next day. I've already admitted I'm a nervous flier, so adding that extra flight was never any fun for me. In fact, when we calculated the 'per-mile' price of that last short hop, it turns out we were paying the highest airfare rate on earth for me to be scared out of my wits.

In 2011, after talking to a few people who'd crossed the Thai border by going over land, we decided to try it. Not only would it save us some serious money, we'd get the opportunity to see more of Cambodia and Thailand in the process. It couldn't be all that bad.  Right?

Judge for yourself.......

Besides flying, the only feasible way to get to Cambodia is by bus or car, because the railway system, destroyed during the Pol Pot era, has never been restored. With such a huge amount of luggage to manage, (three huge suitcases plus two smaller carry-on cases), we decided to hire a private taxi, thinking we'd be much more comfortable, and not quite as cramped. Hah!! Only two of our big cases fit in the tiny trunk of the Toyota Corolla. The third large case and one carry-on barely fit on the front seat next to the driver, and the last carry-on sat between us on the back seat.

I always feel uneasy when I'm in a car in Thailand, partly because they drive on the opposite side of the road, but mostly because to Thai's, lane markers and road signs are merely guidelines, not rules. Nothing stops them from being 'creative drivers'. If there's room for three cars abreast (or even four), they'll find it. There is no such thing as a 'close shave'. If you pass another car and your side-view mirrors don't touch the other guy's, and you manage to get by without a head-on collision, that's just confirmation you had plenty of space. No problem! Good thing my view of the road was completely blocked by the suitcase on the seat in front of me. Otherwise I'd likely have died of a heart attack long before we even reached the border.

When you arrive in Cambodia by plane, going through immigration  is a fairly simple process. Stand in line. Hand over your passport and your visa application with a photo. Pay the fee. Stamp! stamp! stamp! and you're done! I expected that crossing by car would be similar to crossing the Canada-USA border, where you sit in your vehicle, produce your papers, then drive off. Boy, was I wrong.

In his broken English, our driver informed us that taxis and buses don't have authorization to cross the Thai/Cambodian border. He stopped just short of the line, let us out with all our luggage, and took off. We'd have to navigate our way across the border about a mile on foot, then find a Cambodian taxi on the other side to take us the rest of the way. So there we were all alone, stranded in that strip of never-never land - a Thai/Cambodian limbo - wandering in a confused sea of fellow travelers. who all appeared to know just about as much as we did, which wasn't much at all.

What happens in that mile between those two taxis is strange and scary when you're doing it for the first time. We'd  been dropped off at at an 'agency' that supposedly would transfer our luggage across the border, plus take care of getting our visas and taxi... for a 'small fee'. All they required was for us to hand over our passports and some money, and they'd take care of the rest.  I flatly refused to let my passport out of my sight. They argued it was safe, and would take much less time if we let them process our immigration.  Feeling very skeptical, I still refused. Gordon believed they were probably legitimate, and suggested we try it. I still wouldn't budge. We finally reached an agreement - They would transport our luggage across and get us a taxi, and we would 'go the long route' through immigration, passports firmly and securely in hand. I figured even if they took off with our luggage, we'd still have our passports and money.

Crossing into Cambodia from Thailand is actually a three-stage process: 1) Exit Thailand, 2) Acquire Cambodian visa, 3) Enter Cambodia. Each step is housed in a separate building, requiring us to stand in three separate long, slow-moving, sweaty lines with no air conditioning. Signage was less than helpful, and most travelers were as confused as we were, making the whole exercise even more delayed and convoluted. The only thing to do was to follow the herd and have faith that everything would work out.

After what seemed like an eternity of shuffling along in slow-moving lines, we'd finally jumped through the hoops, and had our official stamps to enter Cambodia. True to his word, our 'agent' met us at the other side, face beaming.  But where was our luggage? Our taxi?  He beckoned us to follow. We walked, and walked...and walked some more. I was getting worried...It had been at least 1/4 mile..Imagine my relief to see our luggage, already packed into a taxi. (Yes, there was a suitcase on the front seat again!). We paid the luggage handlers and gave them a generous tip.

Soon we were flying down the bumpy road to Siem Reap in a dilapidated old Toyota. Rice fields and shanties whizzed past. I closed my eyes most of the way, not so much because I was tired, but because the driver gave us the impression he was trying out for the Indie 500, and didn't mind taking our lives into his hands in the process.

We zoomed along at break-neck speed in the good stretches. He deftly dodged potholes and swerved casually around carts piled to the sky with bags of rice. He careened past tour buses and motos, and only slowed slightly when a herd of cattle crossed the road. The roads got worse. Potholes turned into deep pits, forcing us down to one lane. We bumped and rolled along slower now, getting closer and closer to our destination. Familiar landmarks came into view, and we breathed a huge sigh knowing we'd made it safely.

Since then, we've crossed the Thai/Cambodian border twice more. Nothing has changed, except we no longer feel so nervous and abandoned. This last time, the line-ups were so atrocious, we had visions of spending the night sleeping on the floor in immigration. Once again, the 'agent' told us we could 'bypass' all this if we'd allow him to process our passage. We looked at the lines, looked at each other, looked back at the long line....shrugged, and bravely handed him our passports.

This time the process took a mere fraction of the time, and true to his word, we got through without much standing in lines. It did cost us several dollars more (presumably for bribes and 'processing fees'), and cost me a few gray hairs worrying about whether we'd be without passports or luggage. In the long run, it ended up being worth every penny. We were given priority, and I suppose I could say it's the closest I've ever coming to flying first class, even if it was really only walking over the border.

So what if we'd lost our passports?  Worse things have occurred, I suppose, and we'd have dealt with it if it had happened. But it didn't. Somehow, in my heart I knew we'd be OK. One thing I've come to know in this part of the world is, sometimes you just gotta take that leap of faith and trust that everything will work out fine.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flying is a Crap Shoot

There's something about air travel that brings out the best in some of us, and the worst in many.  I've come to the conclusion that the longer the flight, the greater the likelihood of being seated near a cranky howling infant or an obnoxious, selfish adult, either of which amounts to about the same thing - no rest for everybody else on board.  The only thing that keeps me sane in that situation is the satisfaction of knowing I'll eventually get off that plane and be rid of the irritation, whereas the poor parent or spouse travelling with them is doomed to several more years of hell. 

I'm a nervous flier, white-knuckled at take-offs and landings, so the fewer flights it takes to get to our destination, the better.  I'm also the kind of person who needs to be laying down to sleep, which generally rules out the probability of getting any sort of rest on an airplane, where, if you're lucky, the seats recline to a maximum of 30 degrees.  Fortunately for me, drinking wine goes a long way in alleviating both these conditions, and the fact that alcoholic beverages are complimentary on international flights strongly suggests that I'm probably not the only one who suffers from these maladies.

For this trip, we were very fortunate to find a flight to Bangkok with only one stop in Frankfurt.  In past it's always been two stops, so I was looking forward to the pleasure of experiencing two less white-knuckle events this time out.  Bonus!  At Toronto airport, the Air Canada agent informed us the plane was only lightly booked, and managed to change our seats to the forward cabin, with an empty seat between us, which gave us extra wiggle room.  Double bonus!  We were definitely on a roll!  Once in the air, I could faintly hear a baby crying in the cabin behind us...the cabin we were originally supposed to be seated in.  Triple bonus! Could we truly be so lucky?

Between dinner service, snack service, duty free service, breakfast service, and (of course) several wine refills, there really wasn't much opportunity to get some sleep during the seven hour flight to Frankfurt.  I wasn't worried.  The next leg to Bangkok would be almost twice as long. Plenty of time to catch a few zzzzz's then.  

After a very long trek through the Frankfurt terminal, we arrived at our waiting area, which appeared to be very sparsely populated.  Could we be so lucky to have a nearly empty plane two flights in a row? Things were looking really good.  wo sweet  little girls, ages about 15 months and 5 years old, played quietly alongside their young and beautiful, perfectly made-up, Thai mother.  They didn't appear the least bit threatening.  Besides, in a huge double-decker plane equipped with a special 'baby area', what could the odds be that they'd even be seated in our cabin? Slim to none!  I wasn't worried one bit.

As we boarded our plane, counting the rows to locate our seat, I spotted the darling little family - one row back and off to our left.  No problem, they had little toys to keep them busy.  Everything would be fine.  They'd probably play for a while, eat their dinner, then fall into dreamy sleep lulled by the white noise of the jet engines.  

Our plane readied for take off.  A few white knuckle moments, and the worst would be over.   I was looking forward to relaxing (within aforementioned limits) and basking in the luxurious interior and superior service of Thai Air for the next eleven hours.  

That's when Lady Luck turned the tables.  A howl erupted from the toddler, and reached ear-piercing decibels before leveling off into a siren-like wail. Her sister, who apparently had never quite grasped the meaning of the phrase 'indoor voice', chattered incessantly and raced up and down the aisles.  It was beginning to look like this could be a very long flight.  

Dinner arrived.  The child howled.  Drinks arrived.  More howling, more babble. How was it possible for neither of these children to stop for a breath?  More drinks. A snack.  The cacophony continued.  Incessantly.  We resorted to our trusty noise cancellation earphones, and turned the volume up to high.  Better, but not quite sound proof.  

I spotted three empty seats across the aisle one row ahead of us.  By this time, the cabin lights had been dimmed.  Maybe if I laid down, closed my eyes and meditated on pleasant thoughts, I could at least try to relax...even if the ceaseless noise kept me awake.  I flipped up the middle two armrests, positioned my little pillow, curled up my knees and laid down on one side, pulling the soft purple fleece blanket over me.  Ahh!! Comfort at last!  

Wrong-O!!!!!    Remember I mentioned Thai Air's luxurious interior?  They've gone the extra mile to design specially molded bucket seats.  Laying across three of them can only be likened to stretching out across a gargantuan washboard.  I tried positioning myself so one of the humps rose at my waistline.  That didn't work.  My head and neck were contorted at a very unnatural angle, and I envisioned myself being paralyzed from the neck down if the plane lurched suddenly.  I tried moving downward, turning on my back and bending my knees to give my head room to maneuver.  The solid humps rose into my ribs and hips.  It was useless.  I sat up, tilted the seat backs, and angled myself out.  Okay, but definitely not a comfortable sleeping position.  Total exhaustion swept me into the occasional fitful period of groggy half-wakefulness.

The hours crept past. A little more wine, more squealing, more headphones, a little more wine. And then, miraculously, about an hour before landing, the cabin went quiet.  Two little girls, exhausted from all their activity, had finally fallen into a deep sleep.  Their frazzled mother looked like she'd been through a hurricane, make-up smudged, hair askew.  One of her false eyelashes had come partly unglued, looking rather like a huge millipede trying to free itself from the corner of her right eye.  As we  got off the plane, I didn't envy her one bit.  Heaven knows what further trials lay ahead for her.  Our flight hadn't been the greatest experience, but we, on the other hand, could bask in the knowledge that we were heading to a quiet hotel with a big luxurious soft bed.

I've come to accept that there are two distinct classes of air travelers - those who can afford to pay high prices for their privacy and comfort.... and the rest of us. The only time I ever come close to being in the former category is when the path to my seat traverses the first class cabin. Just once, I'd like to experience that level of luxury. For now anyway, I've resigned myself to the reality of being hurtled through space in a shiny silver tube with my fellow economy-class sardines. Whether or not it will be a relaxing flight is a crap shoot at best.