Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sleepless Nights with Barf Man

I didn’t get any sleep on my overnight flight to Guyana. That’s because the man in the seat behind me seemed to be nauseous, and vomited the entire night. It was pretty gross, actually, to the point where it almost became humourous. So. Much. Vomiting. At one point, the other passengers down the plane aisle took up a collection of barf bags to pass back to him, because he very quickly ran out of supplies. I think that really reflects the caring, compassionate spirit of Caribbean Airlines passengers. Everyone was very supportive, including his girlfriend who was right by his side the whole time, cuddling with him between barfs. But still gross. Because for some reason, after he’d vomit, he’d go back to his turkey sandwich. And then vomit again. Then more turkey sandwich. I wanted to tell him, buddy, stop.

I gave up on sleep and silently ate my own turkey sandwich, generously provided by Caribbean Airlines, which had packaging that encouraged me to relax and enjoy life because life is meant to be enjoyed.

I don’t like planes. I like to travel to faraway places so I can lose myself in the wilderness, and planes are the opposite of that, where you are surrounded by lots and lots of people uncomfortably packt like sardines in a crushd tin box. (Literally every time I fly on an airplane, I picture the Radiohead song.) Imagine a non-transit situation where you would be crammed in such a small place with this many people and expected to spend the night sleeping upright in a chair next to a total stranger. A stranger who keeps vomiting.

There was also, as there always is, a crying baby, but it was actually much less disturbing than Barf Man.

The flight didn’t even have any turbulence, so Barf Man should definitely avoid ever flying in Nunavut. I have ridden terrible turbulence, so bad that I held the hand of the crying woman sitting next to me as the pilot shakily explained that we were going to “try to land” once more in the middle of the storm, but just once more, and thought to myself “Well, here is how it’s all going to end, me in this crushd tin box in the arms of a praying woman that I don’t know very well.” Which is kind of weird when I think about it now, because my husband was sitting right next to me in the other seat. But anyway, I held down my lunch, even though we got tossed around like popcorn. But on this particular remarkably smooth flight, Barf Man did not.

So anyway, I didn’t get much sleep on the plane.

I also thought I’d be a lot more excited about my layover in Trinidad, because, hello, Trinidad. It's Trindad! But Trinidad is not as exciting at four-thirty in the morning when most things at the airport are shut down, and the only bathroom in the secured section you’re in is under renovations. This could have been really disastrous for Barf Man, but I'm pretty sure he had nothing left in his stomach and, also, evidently he never seemed very concerned about hiding in a bathroom to barf. But I’ve really got to give credit to the Ministry of Tourism representative that was going around finding out who was in transit and who was a tourist in Trinidad, presumably to give them a warm welcome? At four-thirty in the morning. Now that is dedication.

I made a note to myself to visit Trinidad on a better day.

Once I finally arrived in Guyana (along with Barf Man, who followed and barfed the whole way through), we were greeted with our own warm welcome, palm trees by the entrance, and a musician with dreadlocks played steel drums while we waited in line for immigration. At 7:30 in the morning. They always said that Caribbean folks are friendly, but now I truly believe it. Can you imagine the CBSA hiring a Tragically Hip cover band to play at the Pearson Airport while they sternly interrogate travellers about what goods they have to declare?

I was picked up by my friendly driver, who took one pitying look at my rapidly-forming sweat mustache and promised he would crank up the air conditioning in the car. I tried to hop into the car, only to realize – for the first time - that the driver’s seat was on the other side, and people drive on left side of the road here. Somehow I had missed all that, with all my research. Or maybe I did know that, but in my Barf Man sleep-deprived state, I forgot.

The driver told me all about Guyana as he drove me into Georgetown. Guyana is located in South America, but culturally considered to be Caribbean. It is also, to my disappointment, one of the only Caribbean countries that don’t have any oceanfront beaches. It does have fine white sand but the water is black, not turquoise, from the soil. It may lack stereotypical Caribbean beaches, but it does have one of the largest unspoiled rainforest in South America. Particularly of interest to me, it is in the top 10 or so of the world’s most sparsely populated countries with less than a million people spread out over a land area about the size of Kansas. In case you haven’t been able to tell from the time I’ve spent with this travel blog, in places like Namibia, Nunavut, and, well, Canada generally…lots of land and not a lot of people is kind of my jam.

In fact, a lot of the country is untouched. The guidebook describes Guyana (not to be confused by Ghana, Guinea, or French Guiana) as “South America’s little-known curiosity that lies far off the well-trodden tourist path.” Read between the lines and it means it’s not over-run with trust fund hippies backpacking their way from hostel to hostel, or loud obnoxious tourists demanding to know where the nearest McDonalds is (there isn’t one). It doesn’t have all-inclusive Caribbean resorts (maybe due to the lack of sandy turquoise ocean beaches). It tends to attract nature lovers, hard-core hikers, adventurous thrill-seekers, folks who don’t mind finding their own way. And, um, me, standing uncomfortably close to the equator and realizing that I am still acclimatized to the Arctic.
My hotel was a cute little place whose website had listed hotel amenities like “Windows Open” and “Interior Corridors”, but not, oddly enough, their free WiFi which was the thing I enjoyed the most. That and their absolutely lovely friendly staff – despite the fact that Guyana is not necessarily a major tourist destination, comparatively speaking, the Guyanese truly know how to be hospitable.

Also, my hotel room had air conditioning. I never did figure out how to open the windows, but the air conditioning probably saved my life. I don’t actually like air conditioning that much, but it was better than being hot, as I was still not used to the humid heat. It kept me cool enough to sleep, and the ventilation also kept the mosquitos off my face. It was either that, or putting on a fan…and we all know how Koreans feel about sleeping with a fan.

Once I checked into the hotel, I took a very much needed nap and a shower. Then I met up with some folks living here who took me to the Hibiscus Lounge, where I was introduced to this lovely thing called Bull Dogs – rum margaritas with Corona beers stuck into them upside down, dripping their deliciousness into your drink slowly like an alcoholic IV. I sucked on these contentedly under a tall palm tree on the bar patio, eating yummy Guyanese chicken curry masala. It was the perfect way to start my stay.