Archive for September, 2007



Friday, 4 AM. In flight to London.

So much potential for a great night’s sleep, ruined. Beautiful exit row window with no seat in front of me, a blanket wrapped around my socked feet, extra blanket from my ankles to my neck, a hood over my head, neck pillow placed just right. Eye mask, a little Benedryl, the white noise of a 620 mph breeze blowing past the window. And 33 decibel-blocking ear plugs. Not enough to block the converstaion that followed what woke me: “Duty Free? Duty Free.” Why would they roll the duty free cart through the aisles at 4 AM? Apparently, the sanctity of sleep is still unrecognized in some places.

I become annoyed at the exchange between the passenger two seats across the aisle. Ten minutes of “What kind of perfume? …Calvin Klein? …There are three different kinds, which is which? …Well I want to be sure what I’m buying. Is this the eau du toilette?” A man interrupts: “Do you have Johnny Walker black label?” Suddenly, row 29 has become the checkout aisle of a high-end retail shop. “Pardon me?” The attendant can’t hear him. “Do you have Johnny Walker black label?” “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” she grows annoyed that he’s annoyed with her.

I can’t hear the first 33 decibels of his question, and I still heard every word. Every painful word entered my consciousness instead of some delightful dream about Africa; I would’ve even settled for a nightmare than this stupid conversation. He gets his precious JWBL. “I’m sorry, could you tell me again about the perfumes? Do you have perfumed lotion?” They go on to discuss prices. My eyes still closed under my eye mask, I try to remain as asleep as possible, but begin to awake as my irritation and righteous indignation grows.

It is surprising how much someone would pay for a bottle of scented water. But then I feel guilty for my judgement, because I too, have paid for such an item. And I love the smell of it. I love the things I think of and how I feel when I take a big whiff. Smell is such a strong sense. And the ability to smell well, rarely diminishes with age. Strong scents compell us to think and feel such distinct things.

My grandmother died almost a year ago, and I have a scarf of hers that probably sat in the closet of her bedroom through the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush years. I can bury my nose through the green tissue paper into its creamy, elegant weave, close my eyes and take a big whiff, and I am instantly in the hallway of her beautiful home, and she is at her table reading the Times and watching the sailboats pass, the sounds of WBBM radio floating through the air. The smell of her in that scarf is so powerful at evoking memories, it almost makes me cry.

Last time I was in Africa, I used Dial antibacterial gel quite often. So much so that everytime I open a bottle now, I am instantly transported back to Zambia: to the parking lot with the attack monkeys at Victoria Falls, to the market in Johannesburg where I got my nose pierced for $1.12, to the beach in Durban with the dead jelly fish, to the king’s birthday party in Swaziland, to the giant horse that nearly killed me, and to the front seat of the little egg-car that took us everywhere.

No wonder people pay good money to smell good things. …Not so sure why I wrote so much about smell — maybe because it’s 4 AM.


PS — Here’s a pic I found on the internet: flight attendant giving something to Kathy Verseput look-a-like.


Almost there…

I am just a few short days from hopping on a plane to Lusaka, Zambia. Half way around the world. …No nerves, just excitement, and lots of gratitude for the support and interest so many have shown.

africa map

The plan: connect with the Urban Refugee Project, Bare Feet, and World Vision RAPIDS.

Katie Albert

PO Box 6536
Folsom, CA 95763
September 2007
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