Monday, 3 May 2010

Living in airports !

The airport is my home. Over the last ten years I seem to have spent more time in airports, flying, hotels, guest houses, than I have in my own home. I am writing this in the J J Royal café at the Jakarta airport. It is the only smoking café at the airport. I don’t like smoking, but the only places I find people chatting noisily, belly laughing and generally having fun, is in smoking lounges at airports. I find it worth shortening my life by a few years inhaling their smoke, while imbibing their laughter and joy. You need to find boredom breakers when you travel.

One of the best bars at Singapore airport is a smoking lounge that doubles up as an Irish pub. Similarly, Hard Rock café in Singapore airport is relaxing too. I didn’t set out to write an article on the best bars in Asia, but I suppose I pick up a lot of knowledge as I tred the weary path.

The water supplies we put in villages have a huge impact on the health of everyone.

Over the past 29 years I have kept a diary of my life, times and travel. The first few pages are where I record every town, village, city or significant place visit. Annually I visit well over 200 and over 300 in a good year. Sometimes these places I record are a village four hours up the side of an Indonesian volcano, others merely a cafe in Arthur’s Pass in the NZ alps. Most tend to be villages I visit in the course of my work in Indonesia where we have built houses, put in water and sanitation systems, provided livelihoods, clinics, schools, hospitals etc.

Sometimes the reception I get is hilarious such as a village near Mandrehe, on remote Nias island in Indonesia, which I visited last year. An old man came running up to me and hugged me as soon as I entered the village. We had put in a quality water supply six months earlier and he said, “ I could hardly walk then, I was ill, my stomach full of worms and I didn’t want to live. Once the Red Cross put in a water supply and latrines, slowly but steadily my health came back. Now I can run and I am able to work the fields again,” he told me. Hebent over and whispered in my ear, “ I can now chase women again."
In the same village people told me how absenteeism was high at the school, with around 50% attendance. Some months after our water supply was complete, attendance rocketed up to 90% and then higher. To do this work you have to travel, and airports become your home. I am travelling to Kuala Lumpur today for a tsunami planning meeting. I love KL airport because of its design, cafes, bars, book shops and friendly staff. And the worst airport I have been in ? There is no such place as airports, as every airport, like a sea port, has its charm. You just need an inquisitive mind and even from the most obstinate official, you can get a recommendation to his favourite café. Nine times out of ten he will come and pay for your meal. Everyone is human, if treated as a human being, and a smile, a nudge will bring the best out of the glum.

Just as I am about to post this jotting, a conservative Moslem woman covered from head to toe in black comes into the smoking cafe. Now this is unusual. She looks around, adjusts her head scarf, and lights a cigarette. Never a dull moment on the trail!

Next week I am in Bangkok. I hope I don't get stuck in the airport as there are certain tensions there at the moment.


Unknown said...

Hi Bob

It been great to continue reading your stories since I have left Indonesia. I am now living in Hawkes Bay and working for the regional Council.
I was wondering if you may have the answer to a question I have been pondering for some time but have yet to find an answer. My question is; exactly what was the duration of the earthquake that struck Padang at 17:16 local time, 30th Sept, 2009?
Thank you so uch for hospitality in Indonesia. Alice

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Alice

Great to hear from you after such a long time. Your new job sounds a good one.
Re your question about the duration of the earthquake, let me find out and revert. Love to the familiy.


Vincent said...

I'm enjoying your blog, Bob. Putting it on my Google Reader list. Warning: I have a tendency to argue with those I respect the most.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Vincent

Thanks for dropping by. It is good to discuss, debate and argue. How else do we learn ? Bob

Donald said...

Nice post Bob. Such a simple thing pure water when you have tons of it. I was told years ago that the daily mortality rate of kid's from impure water is in the thousands, and that thought haunts me!

So keep up the good work not only in getting the plumbing in order, but reminding us all, that wherever we are, to raise the tone of life.



Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Donald

Thanks for your comments. Yes, we often take pure water for granted. UNICEF figures put children dying of water borne at at least 50,000 plus a day. Staggering.

Kia Kaha.


Anonymous said...


Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Thanks Jon for dropping by and leaving a comment. Cheers Bob

Marja said...

Water is the real gold. A good glas of wine silver
I might have visited the cafe in Athurs pass as well. have a great week Ka kite ano

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Yes Marja, water is first and deserves a gold rating. Yesterday we were in a community in Jakarta for World Red Cross day where we were focussing on the challenges of increasing urbanisation. Access to proper water and sanitation is the number one priority.

Good luck. Bob

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