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  • The ocean was blue. The sky, clear. The jungle, green. The woman, a flight attendant for Lufthansa. We were staying at the same guesthouse on a quiet beach in South India. The kind of place where you develop a working relationship with the spiders.

    Me: "How often do you fly?"

    Her: "Well, actually I fly privately at least as often as I work, because I work the Munich to Mumbai and Munich to Hong Kong route but I was living in Israel which means that every time I flew I had to fly home afterwards and it was five hours to fly from Munich to Israel which meant that every working day was really a very long day when it comes to getting to the airport and flying to work and then flying there and then flying home. (Long inhale) But actually living in Israel was better for me than living in Munich, I mean living in Germany means that it would take me several hours to get from the airport to the home when you count a smaller flight to Hamburg and then a train from the airport to the village and from the village my father would have to come and pick me up and it's several hours by car and anyway I wouldn't want to be staying in the same village as my father and mother and that's a whole other story. (Abbreviated cigarette drag.) So yes I am flying all the time back and forth to Israel and then working, it's quite a lot but actually it's not so bad, I had a boyfriend in Israel and I liked it, you know, it was only five hours and it wasn't so serious, I didn't mind, I spend all my time flying anyway that it's nice, I don't have to wait in customs or for luggage, it's easy after all, and I think..."

    Me: "Sounds like you live your life at a thousand kilometers an hour."

    Her: "Yes, it's true, I am always flying and moving and you know I have visited many countries over the last ten years since I was hired a week before September the 11th. (Drag.) And people are always asking about the job like are people having sex in the toilet or is it difficult to deal with business travellers all the time, are they rude and distant, but actually it's not so bad, people are always interesting and polite, there is nothing that usually happens that's out of control, even though these days we get more training on how to handle drunk passengers, self-defense, terrorists, how to protect the cockpit, of course. (Inhale). And working in business class is nice because you have the time to sit with people and offer service, I mean I already know when they sit down who will be interesting, sometimes I already know what drinks they'll want to order, but economy class is also interesting, you know, meeting the little old grandmother who has been saving money for years to go on her first trip abroad, or backpackers, or migrant workers or families, and it's nice because even we are travellers, staying in the destination city for a few days between flights, so when we're on the way back from India or China we always sit and talk about what we saw and what we learned, you know Germans are very interested in culture and history and things and it's always very funny to see them wearing the souvenirs they've bought in the destination, you know those conical hats or touristy jewelry, it's all so very sweet. (Drag.) But you know at the end of the day it is not really travelling after all, I mean flying from Germany to Asia you fly over hundreds of different environments and different ecosystems and two declared wars and at least three undeclared wars and deserts and then mountains, and different people and different languages and foods and animals, (Fast inhale) and all sorts of different ideas and philosophies and histories, and then you show up in a new place and it's a new culture, new religion, new bacteria, new weather, new atmosphere, new street signs, new mentalities and it takes some time to adjust. (Deep breath). I mean, it must take 4 or even 6 weeks to arrive in a new destination, it's such a long journey and we're not adapted to shift from one environment to another so drastically. That's why all these business travellers stay in the chain hotels, because it's comforting to show up in a room and already know the layout, where your bed is, where the desk is, where the shampoo is, I mean, even I prefer staying in these backpacker destinations where there is time to sit and talk to people and enjoy the environment but so much of our time is staying in these hotels that are identical in Shanghai or Bangkok or Delhi or Kuala Lumpur, and even the tourists coming for a week or two are stuck in the same situation, always going to places and looking at them without ever arriving, and then a week or two weeks later back on a plane to go somewhere else. (Drag). And it's growing like crazy, I mean, when I fly to Dubai I see so many of these new Airbus 380s, carrying something like 500 passengers, I mean everyone is moving everywhere all the time, and it's so odd because that's the focus, to move people, keep people moving, keep them going different places and buying different things, and no one ever stops to arrive. (Breath). This is why it's so hard to have a relationship these days, not just with people but with anything, you are always moving and so your relationship becomes with moving itself, you get used to moving and can only move alongside things that are moving at your speed. But actually I like this environment of this metal tube, this cabin, it's so interesting, it's space aged, the people are always different, my co-workers are always different, I just show up and do a job and then move on to the next flight, and you know, I never need to feel anything more than a temporary connection with anyone besides the intricate layout of this enormous piece of technology and somehow it makes you feel both bigger and smaller at the same time. (Breath). That's why I like to come here and other places like this in Mexico and Thailand because it gives me the opportunity to sit and relax, you know, that's what I really need, and it's nice to meet people and hear their stories and spend time with the nature and to eat homecooked food, I mean I never cook on my own, I always get from a restaurant, and there are very good restaurants in Hong Kong, this one time I....
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