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PLANE STORIES I’ve always had the travelling bug. Ever since I was a kid and I watched El Capitán Tán on TV talking about his “trips all around the globe”, I’ve always been attracted to travelling. I just love maps, and documentaries, and National Geographic magazines, and fantasising about far-away countries and lands. And most of the times, in order to get there, you have to fly. Big planes to cross the Atlantic or small planes to fly over the Amazon jungle in Peru, flying over the American Western deserts and prairies, delays, boring waits in airports, transport to other airports by bus, travelling alone, with my wife, with friends, with kids, landing in Quito Airport with its extremely short runway between two volcanoes, staying in a JFK Airport Hotel the day before Xmas Eve for overbooking reasons,… two years in a row! The memories associated with planes are neverending. I will always remember the Delta Air Pass, when you could travel for a month in the US on as many planes as you wanted as long as there was a seat available. We would go to the airport without knowing exactly where we would end up. Key West, Miami, Saint Louis, New Orleans, Chicago or Denver? Nobody knew, and it was a wonderful feeling of uncertainty and adventure. And how could I forget the time when I flew over three continents with a fishbone stuck in my throat? I was having dinner in a beautiful carriage on a colonial train from Mombassa to Nairobi, in Kenya. I was having tilapia (an exquisite river fish, or so they said) for dinner, and I kind of felt a fishbone getting stuck into my throat. The following day the feeling of discomfort persisted, so I decided to go to

the doctor. After leaving some money in the hospital reception, just in case I felt like running away without paying, I was led to the doctor’s surgery. It was the best otorhino-laryngologist in Kenya, or so I was told as the president’s daughter was leaving the surgery. Nooo, there is no fishbone there, he said, what hurts is just the injury left by the fishbone. I believed him, tried to forget all about it, and in a few hours I was boarding the Saudia plane that would take me to Spain via Khartoum (Sudan), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Rome. In Nairobi the plane was half-empty, but in Khartoum it got full with Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. In Jeddah airport we were made to wait for hours in a special lounge for transient travellers and I had to part with my faithful Swiss Army pocket knife, even though it was way before post-9-11 travelling. And all the time I kept feeling this pain in my throat and getting more and more convinced that the prestigious Kenyan doctor had overlooked something that certainly felt like a huge fishbone. It wasn’t until 24 hours later, when I arrived in Spain and I travelled to Burgos that the E.R. doctor took the infamous fishbone out of my throat for ever and ever. What a relief! Unfortunately a few weeks later I found out that I had to pay for the treatment, because I had gone to the wrong E.R.! But the scariest moment was actually here, in Santander just a couple of years ago. I was on my way to Madrid to take part in a language teaching workshop on a small propeller plane with less than ten passengers. The plane took off and while we were still over Santander, we all heard one of the two propellers make a noise and then we saw it slowly coming to a stop. We all looked at each other and said nothing. The plane changed course and started to go seawards, certainly not the way to Madrid. I thought, why do I never pay attention to the flight attendants when they explain emergency

procedures? I have no idea what to do with the yellow jacket or the rest of the equipment. Everything happened very fast, the plane started to go round in circles and a few minutes later the pilot spoke in English and explained that one of the engines had stopped and that we would have to land back in Santander airport. I was the only one who understood (he spoke in English!) so I explained it to the rest of the passengers. There was no panic and everybody felt relatively calm. The landing was perfect and after a few hours another plane took us to Madrid, this time with both propellers working. But the few minutes before I heard the pilot speaking, I really thought it was dangerous, I believed that I might actually die. I didn’t feel scared, I just felt sad because of how the people I love would feel, but at the same time it all felt like a dream, like a plane story one could tell one day. Jesús Ángel González Santander, Spain

Jesús Ángel 1  

My first slice of life

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