Waking Up From Paradise

As I’ve aged, my nightmares have ceased to be about evil clowns and being trapped in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to being about me, at the airport, on the day I leave paradise.

There’s nothing I can do about my imminent departure. I’m certain of this even as I dream. I’m stuck. They wouldn’t let me out now. There is an arrow painted on the airport’s tiled floor, right below which someone has written my name. The arrow points in the direction of the gate where my plane sits – like a military transport vehicle – to take me back to Ukraine.

This has been a recurring dream for several months now. I close my eyes and there I am again, at the airport, trapped in my own personal purgatory. There’s no getting out, and the flight attendants certainly don’t look very sympathetic. Am I going crazy? No, just dreading the moment when the dream becomes a reality.

***

I’m pacing back and forth in front of the gate at Seychelles International Airport, suddenly aware that I’m not dreaming. This airport is so small that you can walk from one end to the other in the time it takes you to finish this paragraph. The departure board shows only three flights that day. Addis Ababa, Columba, and Istanbul. I’m heading to Istanbul, and since the next flight doesn’t leave for another few hours, I’m guessing all these poorly dressed schlubs around me are too.

When did people start dressing so badly to go to the airport? Yes, you’re about to get on a seven-hour flight, but you’re not taking that plane alone! And yes, guy wearing socks with flip flops, that looks comfortable – but that’s the problem! You look like an idiot with complete and total disregard for your fellow humans. You probably hate the environment too.

Forgive this outburst, I’m a little wound up. You would be too if you were leaving. I just need something to take my mind off things.

I’m off to duty free, or as it’s known here, a small store less than ten feet away from whichever part of the airport you happen to be in. Yes, the duty free craze has caught me too. After all, who can be bothered to get gifts while actually on vacation? There are beaches to lounge on! New food to try (mmm … fruit bat)! Cultures to absorb!

This is what duty free is for. Well, that and for picking up another few bottles of Seychellois rum.

But how many bottles of rum can one take into another country? I ask the smartly dressed fellow behind the counter about this, but he doesn’t know. There are only two 2-bottle packs of Takamaka Rum left on the shelf though – one original, one dark – so I’ll take my chances.

As he’s ringing me up, he asks my thoughts on the recent U.S. Presidential election.

My thoughts?

These people need to stop caring so much about American politics – they’re in paradise!

“They were both so terrible I didn’t bother voting.” I say.

The man quiets at this as if he doesn’t want to offend me.

“Who did you want to win?” I ask.

“Trump,” he says with a wry smile. “He says what he thinks.”

The locals I’ve talked with while in the Seychelles – from a juice making man I recently wrote about (here) to my diving instructor to a guy who hawked island tours on a beach – have all said the same thing – “He says what he thinks”.

One wouldn’t have taken this beautiful island chain in the Indian Ocean for the American Midwest, but on the question of which Presidential candidate they prefer, the Seychelles appears to be the Kansas of the Tropics. But many here have told me that they also like Obama. Perhaps pollsters could have predicted the election better had they spent the months preceding it talking to the locals here. They certainly couldn’t have fared worse.

I buy the rum and return to the little airport pastry shop where I had earlier bought some coconut cookies. I toss the remaining Seychellois rupees from my wallet into the tip jar. The cute girl behind the counter smiles and I go.

Oh, I will miss these smiles. I will miss these islands. I will miss those nights when a dream was still a dream.

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