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Saturday, November 6, 2010


I have widely travelled most of my life, so much so that I enjoy most staying at home, where I have total control over my life, don’t have to wonder about the history of the pillow I am using and am not regularly shocked.  For example, today, I get dropped off at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, not the most comfortable place to be.  The Qatar Airways counter is still closed.  After a wait, I check in my two normal suitcases and am told my baggage is overweight.  No problem, as what is $25.  But, aha, I am 15 (33 pounds) kilograms over and need to go to another office to pay the bill.  This seems unusual to me, but I do, and am told the charge is $353.  Great!  What can you do?  I pay the exorbitant penalty and now worry about my Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Oslo, which is almost three times the distance, a factor in the fine.  $1000?  Worse, I think, as I really was 19 KG overweight and they were doing me a favor by saying 15 KG.  So what do I throw away for the next time?

Business class has a 30 KG (I made a mental calculation of 49 KG for my two) limit.  Boy, those economy class flyers must be in real trouble, except as best as I can determine, no one else seems to be  paying anything.  Something is not quite right here, but I ease through customs and to the First Class Lounge.  The room is un-airconditioned and packed.  The area outside is a lot more comfortable, but I find a seat anyway and want to use the restroom, but this is like Grand Central Station in New York City.  Is it safe to leave my carry-ons unattended?

I go anyway, return, then fix myself a stiff Kenya coffee liquor with JB scotch drink.  It has been another series of hassles.  Remember?  This is why I'd rather stay home.  I haven’t even boarded the plane yet, but I wonder about the subsequent arrival in Doha.  Yet, remembering that $20 double martini at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, I go to the duty free shop and pick up mid-size bottles of gin and scotch.

In time I check into Gate 10 and after passing through all the motions, learn that the gate has shifted to 12.  So back out I go, stand in line and pass through the take your computer out process, etc., a second time.

The Qatar Airways flight was excellent.  First was served a Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime Champagne, followed by a Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the appetizer and salad, then a Pedesclaux Pauillac 5the Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux with the meal.  I also sat next to a very intelligent Kenyan businessman named Francis who seemed really interested in what I was doing, which is saving Planet Earth and Humanity, in case you did not know.  Maybe I planted a seed or two.

After landing in Doha, I was picked up at the plane exit by a lady associated with the energy gathering and led to a comfortable lounge, where she asked for my baggage tags and passport.  Why people are coming to Doha surprised me, but at least ten large flights passed through customs while I was having a drink in the lounge.  Later I found out that many of them were just passing through to another Arab country.  The airport itself looks relatively new and spacious, with lines quickly clearing.  Yet, next year there will be a larger and more luxurious airport ready for use, NDIA, shown on the right. The lady returned 15 minutes later with an attendant pushing a cart with all my bags.  

However, everyone had to pass their luggage a final time through an X-ray machine before departing, and I was one of those asked to open certain bags, where they confiscated the gin and scotch, plus the kirsch I purchased in Zurich.  They spent a lot of time recording their take, but they said I could recover them on departure.  Unfortunately, I depart at 7:45 in the morning five days from now, and chances are that their office  will be closed at that early hour.

I really don't need these stressful interactions and I’m thinking of canceling my next Spring 2011 around the world adventure.  I’m building up a case in my mind that Pearl was not all that serious about Machu Picchu.

I was led to a Ritz-Carlton Mercedes limousine, and although it was night, the sparkle (as opposed to Nairobi) of everything, awe-inspiring architecture and swarms of construction cranes were impressive.  The Ritz-Carlton itself is fabulous, the internet is as fast as South Korea and all this will be covered by the Qatar Foundation.  I made a quick internet check and a room costs $500/night.  The Four Seasons is a few dollars less, W Hotel for $300 and Sheraton $275.  The St. Regis opens next year.  Sally Benson of Stanford and Terry Surles of the Desert Research Institute arrive on Monday.

Looking ahead to that possible $1000 or more bill still to be paid when I check in my bags to get me to Oslo, I now must consider shifting airlines.  Most United's partners allow three 72 pound suitcases.  The problem is that the Star Alliance flight only leaves around 2AM.  Yes, I wouldn't mind living the rest of my life in Hawaii.

Hurricane Tomas, still at 80 MPH, has cleared Haiti and is heading into the open Atlantic, while Tropical Cyclone Jal, also at 80 MPH, is heading for Chennai, but might veer a bit north.

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