10/13/2017: 1:15PM AST: Castries: I have at various times  attempted to engage in various experiments in liveblogging, and with most of these experiences I have been rather dissatisfied for one reason or another. For the most part, these live-blogging experiences are rather disjointed. Occasionally there is a witty comment or two in them, but for the most part liveblogging does not bring out my strengths as a blogger, namely in that I am fairly obsessively reflective and prone to go on at considerable length untangling various layers of seemingly simple and straightforward things. In live-blogging, one gets endless surface impressions and this does not generally make it easy to uncover insight or sustain a consistent thread of thought, even where the event itself gives some cohesion to the message as a whole. And so this experiment offers me a chance to write something in-between previous live-blogging efforts and my more lengthy post-trip reflections. My discussion will be focused on airports. Let us begin with the airport I happen to be in, SLU, the small international airport at Castries, the capital of St. Lucia.
Castries is a small international airport, and a very odd airport in general. Approaching the airport from the main north-south highway on the Caribbean side of the country, one exits to the right and takes a narrow street that barely qualifies as two lanes between the airstrip and a fine example of a necropolis (aboveground graveyard). The taxi deposits you immediately in front of the outdoor check-in places for the small and mostly obscure airlines that serve this small and obscure airport. I happen to be on the Caribbean Airlines flight BW 435 to Port of Spain, and as I arrived at the airport about four hours before my flight is scheduled to depart, I ended up doing a fair amount of sitting down outside of the airport terminal before I could do anything productive or useful. Unfortunately, my presence as a rare white person in this airport seemed to provoke some interest among those there, as someone wanted me to donate money for local poor children and another person, who happened to be the only person in the Living Church of God in Trinidad who had gone to the Feast of Tabernacles in Martinique (the next island to the north of St. Lucia, and still French-speaking today) tried to convince me to talk to his pastor who had been in United before so that I could see the light about their reputedly more biblical form of church government, to which I demurred as politely as possible and resumed reading my book on the Solomon Islands campaign (most famous for its initial part in Guadalcanal) of World War II. At about 1:30PM, while I was typing, the customs officials at the airport suddenly announced in light of the large influx of my fellow Feast of Tabernacles travelers, most of whom lived in Trinidad & Tobago and had gone to the Feast with me this year that they would begin the check a half an hour early, and so I awkwardly went through security as is my fashion and found a comfortable place to sit down. Since there is nothing else of note to report in this small airport of three gates and a couple of tiny cafes and a rather small airstrip and heliport, I will turn off my computer to conserve battery power until we arrive at Port of Spain and hopefully I can find a plug. That will likely take a few hours.
10/13/2017: 7:54PM AST: Port Of Spain: Okay, I still haven’t been able to find a free plug yet so I’m going to have to make this somewhat short. Since the lady at the Caribbean Airlines desk at Castries was unable to check my bags all the way to Portland, I found it necessary to go to the United Airlines check-in area at Port of Spain. I have flown through this airport before, but it’s been a while. Here are some brief observations about the airport before my battery starts dying on me: their food is excellent–I found a Church’s Fried Chicken where I was able to get some spicy fried chicken with fries and a sweet biscuit that definitely hit the spot. It’s well worth checking out if you have some time to lime in Trinidad’s major international airport as I did. Other observations: this airport does a terrible job when it comes to providing basics for passengers stranded on long layovers. It wouldn’t be too hard to have enough chairs people to sit down or some plugs for people to charge their electronic devices. After all, there are many plugs behind the counters for airlines, so I know these people know how to put them in. Okay, I guess it’s time for this rant to be over, as I have to same some juice for later tonight before I can get to Houston and hopefully a friendly place to charge up this lappy for the ride home. It’s going to be a long night and morning after all, and spending the first part of the Sabbath in transit is not really something I consider ideal.
9:21PM AST (That’s Atlantic Standard Time in case you don’t know): Port Of Spain: I was finally able to find a plug, thanks to being the first person to claim a seat in the gate area for my flight, so I’m back. While I was waiting for the United Airlines employees to arrive to the check-in area after I polished off the tasty fried chicken (which, at American prices, wasn’t too unreasonable, even if I did get $5 Trinidadian dollars in change, which isn’t exactly useful), I did manage to chat with some friendly people, including a friendly gentleman who was on his way back home to Jackson, Mississippi after a lengthy stint on a natural gas rig off of the coast of Trinidad and not too far from Grenada. If you are traveling to/from or through Trinidad, I have the following recommendation to make: please, don’t arrive early unless you have a good reason–like looking for a free power plug. When you arrive at the front of the line, part of their security check-in process for the first few people in line is to open one’s check-in bags and look awkwardly inside. Mind you, I don’t have any items that are particularly problematic in my check-ins, but still, it adds to one’s security. Avoid it if you can. Now it’s time to write other entries including a book review while the lappy charges up, so I will catch up with you all somewhat later, probably when I arrive in Houston in the morning. Until then, I hope you all have a good night.
6:55AM CDT: Houston: There is a rule of thumb I keep in mind that there is an inverse relationship between the size and importance of an airport and how enjoyable it is to fly through the airport as an international traveler. Houston is a case in point. Our flight probably took advantage of some favorable tailwinds because we arrived early from Trinidad, but unfortunately, Customs was not open until 5AM so we had to wait on the plane and in line for a bit. As one might imagine for a busy airport like this one, there is a lot of standing in lines. There is the line to get to the initial customs check where one is divided by nationality, and for Americans one goes to a kiosk to get one’s photo taken and answer the usual customs questions before standing in line to go through a surly person who asks if one has brought food or alcohol into the country. Then one walks a considerable distance to retrieve one’s baggage and goes through several more gauntlets of people just standing around before passing one’s luggage to other people for thru transit and then waiting in a slow line while people insist on you taking everything out of your pockets (and they mean business) while you go through a regular security line before walking the massive concourses of the airport which are devoid of peoplemovers or other travel conveniences for people who are hobbling a bit, only to have one’s gate moved so that one has to walk even further to one’s destination. Despite all of these annoyances, there are a couple of good qualities to this airport. The airport restrooms are pretty comfortable places to blog and at least someone at the airport has good taste in country music, and the restaurant is certainly full of places to eat even if one arrives early in the morning. These are certainly all good things, although in balance I prefer quiet and smaller airports myself where one feels a little less like cattle being herded to one’s destruction.
11:42 AM PDT: Portland: I have returned. It was a long and grueling trip, but I still have much to do, but that, I suppose, is a story for another time.
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