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Merci me

[Sunday in the Paris airport] Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was not what I thought it might be, especially when I envisioned sitting in a wireless cafe eating a bowl of French onion soup, topped off by a buttery croissant and jam while we had a nearly three-hour layover awaiting our flight to Madagascar. Silly boy. We spent the time perspiring and walking from one gate to another in search of the place to get our seat assignments, being advised by each Air France employee we encountered to go to another gate in another terminal instead. After about five such episodes, we finally figured it out. By then, the two dozen of us were separated into about 5 groups, each trying to either find the other or seek a straight answer from the next friendly but not especially helpful airport employee. We finally found an outpost that led to our gate, but by then we were sweating, literally, about making our next flight with no meal (nor blogging opportunity). The lines for security were long and slow-moving, and many of us were given the third degree by customs officials, including a thorough frisking by French police who don’t appear to have smiled in months, maybe years. Vicki Anderson has a broken wrist and an inflatable cast, which one stern customs official wanted her to remove. “It’s broken, I can’t remove it,” she replied, which bought her an invitation to “go sit over there” for a third-degree inspection. This airport is a crossroads of the world, and it’s difficult at times to maneuver the rush of travelers from one gate to another. English is not spoken, or not spoken well, and we are made to feel like the foreigners we now are in Europe. This is a good-natured group to travel with, and everybody is keeping a pleasant attitude even though things are getting more harried by the minute. I’m enjoying using the French words I heard growing up in Detroit, which is separated from Ontario, Canada, by the Detroit River and marked by numerous streets and boulevards with French names derived from the area’s historical roots (Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit or Fort Détroit was a fort established by the French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701 to control the fur trade and keep the British from moving further west). Merci, Excusez-moi and Bonjour (thank you, excuse me and hello) not only feel and sound good rolling off one’s tongue, but go a long way to making us and our hosts more comfortable around each other. We are dying for bottled water, but 99 percent of the kiosks and shops in the airport sell nothing but wine and liquor, which wouldn’t reflect well on this bunch. We arrive at the Air France gate as our flight is boarding, and have no idea when we’ll get fed or watered. It is 10:15 a.m. Sunday.