Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vancouver to Vilnius

Polish Airlines flight 42 was the longest of 3 flights on the journey from Vancouver to Vilnius (Lithuania), altogether taking more than 22 hours. That is a long time to be traveling. But it felt even longer.

It was raining when I struggled out of bed at 4 AM Saturday morning, after a short sleep in our ground-floor guestroom. You see, the new floors are going in our house, and they cannot be walked on. So we access only 3 rooms in the house, each having their own outside entrance. We get into the laundry room where keys, coats and shoes are (and, of course, laundry is done) through the garage. The kitchen has the back deck door that allows us to get in and eat. And the guestroom, filled with lamps, a disassembled desk and numerous boxes piled waist high, consuming all available floor space, has its own outside sliding glass door. We had fallen exhausted into bed about 11 PM Friday night, after clearing off a small ocean of precious displaced knickknacks, which had to find homes in the already very crowded room.  Then seemingly moments later the morning's alarm had gone off and, groggy though I was, I knew it was just the beginning of the day's challenges.

You may have noticed that there was no reference to the bathroom in my description of the rooms available for our use. This meant a trek in my underwear and barefeet through the rain to the pool house bathroom in order to have a shower and otherwise get ready to go. I imagined my neighbors waking up early and peering out of a second-floor window into our backyard and wondering who this half naked man was wandering about in the predawn rain. But after a quick shower my pre-medicated haze dissipated somewhat and we were off to the airport.

 Have you ever noticed the huge variety of people in an airport? Some appear to be mad, some glad, but this morning most just appeared tired. After purchasing a neck pillow for the long journey ahead, I headed for the departure gate and set up shop with my computer and Blackberry plugged into a nearby power outlet, which is always a rare find in airports for some reason.

The four and a half hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto was uneventful, although full of people of various descriptions, including the extraordinarily large one seated directly in front of me. I must admit that I felt sorry for both her and the person seated next to her. But before I went too far into that discussion in my head, I remember that I too might present a less than desirable seatmate if my restless leg syndrome came back midflight. However, the flight past quite quickly while I listen to the personal sound system embedded in the seatback in front of me, plugged into my hearing aids using Bluetooth technology and the modern miracles of science. In fact, not only did I have my own private TV and sound system, complete with an array of movies, games and music, there was also a power outlet and a USB port. By the time I was fully set up it looked more like an electronics store than a seat in the economy section of an airplane flying across the country.

But if the flight from Vancouver to Toronto was high-tech, the Polish Airlines trip from Toronto to Warsaw was definitely its low-tech cousin. There was nothing in the seatback in front of me except the seatback in front of me. The central video screen seem to work fine, but began by playing several hours of Polish cartoons without subtitles. When it was time for the only movie on the 9 hour flight, "Letters from Juliet", the audio part of the system seemed to fail completely, at least in any seat near me. However, as with much of Hollywood's products these days, I did not need to hear anything anyway. The plot was obvious from its visual cues. I passed the time snoozing and doing some reading.

And if the flight from Toronto to Warsaw lacked technical comforts, the flight aboard the turbojet from Warsaw to Vilnius was definitely no-tech. Thankfully it was only an hour and a half flight. However, a half-dozen Lithuanian teenage girls seemed to be competing for who could giggle the most. I was forced to use my secret weapon; removal of my hearing aids. Thereafter I slept the remaining part of the flight and arrived in the capital of Lithuania halfway refreshed. It was 230 Sunday afternoon and Vilnius is 10 hours ahead of Vancouver. Doing the math, which I had to do 3 or 4 times to be certain it was right, that meant I had been travelling for a little more than 24 hours. But facing a sunny afternoon and an opportunity to visit this historical city with its vibrant youthful culture, and Sunday markets along nearby streets, there was just enough time for a quick shower before we headed out to explore.

After a delicious dinner with some new Lithuanian friends, and my travel mates, it was back to the hotel where I found myself more wide awake than I should be.  My head filled with thoughts of the day.
Inevitably, they turned.  The journey seemed to parallel the past, present and potential future of my battle with Parkinson's disease. The beginning was marked by anticipation as to what might be ahead, and the first leg of the journey riding in relative comfort and ease. The long, middle leg of the trip was aboard a less comfortable more cramped flying machine that seemed to shudder from time to time without reason. Whereas, the final portion was in a smaller plane yet, with smaller spaces for everyone, and with the annoyance of uncaring young people to whom it did not seem to apparently matter that I wanted some sleep and time in peace.

However, the journey has been well worth it. Tired though I may be from more than 31 hours of the activities engaged in after getting out of bed and dashing for the shower in the rain, the experience has been invigorating, mind-expanding and allowed me to experience and see things I may never do/see again. Parkinson's disease seems to be like that. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and feel long and uncomfortable. But it has expanded my horizons in any number of directions.

1 comment:

  1. Next time: YVR-FRA-VNO and shave 6 hours of traveling time off.