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dimanche 17 juillet 2016


Tire-Bouchon is the two carriage train that goes from the popular seaside town of Quiberon to Auray where one can catch major trains to various parts of Brittany as well as France. The farewell was neither tedious nor melancholic, just another event in a long evolving relationship, the strength of which cannot be destroyed by good byes at the railway stations.

Past the fort built by the Nazis where they mercilessly butchered hundreds if not thousands of Breton freedom fighters, the presquile, the peninsula narrows allowing a view of ocean on both sides. Then some non descript northern scenery before one pulls into the Auray station. Hardly any one was waiting for the train to Nantes that I was interested in. The short train ride was pleasant, how is that many countries in Europe manage to run such efficient railway systems to serve its people, perhaps its the desire of governments to serve the people and not the profitable companies. The example of USA whether it is public transport or drug companies or airline services come to mind. None of which is catered for the public that uses them but to generate money for the CEOs who are rewarded stupendous salaries. Absurd, isnt it? Even Doctors are nowadays given monetary incentive to make more money for the companies they work for, rather than the best care of the patients under their tutelage.
Just outside the exit from the railway station, which has strong wi fi signal, there is a navette that would take you to the airport in just twenty minutes, past the river and non- descript urban area. The airport is small but has interesting destinations served by mostly budget airlines.
I was flying Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.
I was treated well by the staff, far more polite than the Air France agents at Charles de Gaulle, and given a good seat. The meal served was not up to mark and the FAs mostly male moroccans were polite and efficient.

The immigration lines were long and slow but we are arriving in Morocco. When my turn arrived, no questions and within seconds my passport was stamped and i went out into the balmy night, towards the shuttle bus to the Relax Airport hotel. In Morocco at midnight, the sleezy characters appears even sleezier, at the hotel, a bell boy appeared and insisted on carrying on my luggage, when I refused he insisted he was official and then he wanted to disappear with the luggage into another room than the one assigned to me. when i went back to the reception, no one showed any surprise and assigned me an inferior room with less facilities but with a smile.
The next day I wanted to make a note to complain about my demotion but was greeted by a joyous african young lady. we chatted for a while, all very pleasant about her native Senegal and then she informs me that she is in charge of complaints and public relations for the hotels, I felt the frustration and vented it by taking a selfie with her. Let them find yet another sucker the next time.
Life is full of little surprises and it was waiting for me at the Atlas lounge of the Royal Air Maroc. As I sat down at the Lounge, a man approaches and greets me, I recognize his face and he mine, even though i have been in this lounge only 3 times and he sees hundreds of faces.. A relationship has been established and be brought me a nice cup of Moroccan mint tea and was in attendance periodically during my stay at the Lounge. Syed was his name, I gave him a 3 peso Cuban coin and my visiting card, he smiled broadly and said, I will keep in touch with you.

The FAs on QR flight Casablanca to Doha were superb. Atif from Calcutta with a Grandmother who lived in Burma, was more than attentive, Noor was from Johor and of course we had lots in common to talk about, Fatima was Moroccan and the shiest of the lot, she was from Rabat but the prize winner was indeed Charity from Cebu City, who is a traveller and a Foodie. She promised to send me the name of the moroccan resto they ate the night before in Casablanca. I admire these young men and women who leave their families to come to Qatar which is not exactly a pretty place but a spot of desert , so that they can plan a future back home. I had a feeling that Charity would get in touch.

The overnight accomodation in Doha was at the luxurious Marriott Hotel. I was ready to go to bed at 1 am, but had chat on line with someone who needed help with some travel arrangements. Sleep was not easy to come and the luxurious marriott hotel was wasted on just two hours of sleep and soporofic entrance to the best business class lounge in the world.
There were so many young men from South Asia at the various restaurants and toilets as attendants that it is ridiculous to think that this is just an airline, but the CEO of Qatar Airways takes such pride in his airline, a metaphor for his country and the ruling Arab family.

The flight to Boston was 12 hours and 30 minutes long. after Pranayama, i caught a few winks and then had my Arab Breakfast with some mango smoothies and Karak Chai from the Gulf(manufactured in Gujerat I suppose). A second round of , and body regained its equilibrium. The service was ordinary, reminded me much of Jet Airways domestic service in India. It stands to reason, many of the Jet Airways staff move over to Qatar Airways when they get a chance, but carry with them the Jet Airways luggage, pardon the pun.

Arriving at Boston airport after the ultramodern Hamad International at Doha is a revelation, Boston Airport felt as if it belonged to a developing country in Africa. The whole process of boarding the flight was unappealing and the staff were as disgruntled as the passengers. I managed to survive the two hour flight to Chicago, where I could escape into the American Airlines Lounge and enjoy a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.

 Having not drunk much during the 15 hours on flight, the body felt good and it was midnight when I arrived at the usual hotel by the airport, Sleep Inn.
The next day, was greeted warmly by the staff at AVIS, the best rental car agency that I know. they organized me to have a nice comfortable car. On the way to Trader Joe's t buy provisions on my way to the Indian reservation, I stopped at a sleezy petrol station where characters glorified by ISIS hung around. I wanted to buy a used phone, and the man behind the counter was extremely pleasant. If you speak Farsi, I get 10 percent discount. yes I do speak Farsi, but I am not Iranian but a Tajik! Tajiks were under Persian influence for centuries and like many afghans speak Farsi as their mother tongue. My new friend from Dushanabe gave me a 10 dollar discount! While waiting there was a Spanish speaking person and to my surprise turned out to be an economic refugee from Cuba, a guajiro from Ciego de avila province. It seemed so incongruous, that a son of soil from Ciego de avila province would be here in Nebraska.He had left Cuba illegally and border by border had reached the texas border where the Unjust Cuban Immigrant Law gives them all the advantage of a regular immigrant and much much more. It is unkind at a personal level, he may have thousands of reasons to leave Cuba, but I dont want him to be the representative of his people. I told him, I am almost like an Ambassador for Cuba, what you have done is illegal by both Cuban and American standards and let me tell you, at least dont start telling lies about Cuba thinking Americans would love you more. Remember no one likes to hear talk about mother country being denigrated, whether it is Cuba or Tajik. The Tajik was happy and the cuban was not, as his job prospects were menial and minimal. Please talk well about your mother country, I told the guajiro from Ciego de Avila province.
The country side was the greenest I had seen. Quickly I reached, in between sending emails to Cuba, to the Indian reservation to the Blue House which I call WaltHilton. It has all the facilities for me as a Hilton Hotel.

Someone mentioned that there would be a gourd Dance, I waited to recuperate a little, after a journey which had taken me exactly three days, with stays at hotels in Casablanca in Morocco and Doha in Qatar and Sleep Inn in Omaha, to get from the charming seaside resort city of Quiberon in France to this village of Indians which can be aptly described as a Desert in a metaphoric sense, but here is where I have many connections including my sister who would be the head dancer for the ceremony.
I reached the hall where the singing and drumming was going on and i was immediately immersed in a time long before Europeans had arrived here. The story of Gourd dance is one of revival and it is a prayer and celebration and ceremony rather than pleasure. Kiowa Indians claim they learned it from a wolf, as the dance and the howling much resembles a wolf.
I said to myself, here I am, 72 hours of trepsing around the world, among Arabs, Jews and Christians, French, Moroccans and South Asians, salmon-bilcourt champagne and ful arab breakfast and mango shakes.. the only non indian among this gathering of people who were ascertaining their identity and enjoying themselves at this ceremony. It was surreal for me, to watch them, their dance and their singing and drumming. It was another time unchanged for centuries.

I greeted a six year old I had not seen in one year and was greeted by many tribal members. I realized that Life is about relationships and being a good relative is being a good person, like we say in Hebrew/Yiddish, being a good mensch. Of all the places I frequent only here (and to a great extent in Cuba) I am accepted as a human being with a definite place in their world. I am neither doctor or professor or ambassador to them, I am the  person with whom they have had a relationship over the years. They are grateful I am here and the wonder and the amazement even after so many years accompany my time with them.
As the sun was setting I left the ceremony to go back to the Blue House.