Chronicle of a stranded traveller: Final episode

It has been quite a while. I have been busy, terribly busy with the launching of this year’s Teachers day celeb in Kuantan. It was a hectic three days and the train moved on to another meeting in Beserah which took another 2 days.
The volcano continued to spew smoke and ash these few days, but I reckon the airport authorities in Europe were getting wiser and knew exactly what to do this time. The effect wasn’t as devastating as it was before.
On the 21 April, circa 11.15am Paris time, we slowly moved out of Paris to start the 20-hour, 700km journey to Rome. It was a long but fairly comfortable journey. The good embassy people stocked us with nasi lemak, kuih and bottled water. The Italian drivers followed strictly the stipulated regulations, driving within the limit and stopping every four hours. We made five stops altogether.
It was a scenic journey. As soon as we left Paris, heading southward towards Lyons, we passed through the countrysides, maybe not as lovely as the English or Welsh or Scottish ones, but it was equally scenic. The Italian/French Alps is breathtaking. The highway was equally smooth and mind you we passed through not less than 10 toll gates. I wonder how much were the toll. I cannot quite tell the amount as I was sitting at the rear most of the coach.
At one of the stop over in Italy we got bottled lemon tea instead of the requested hot tea – a clear indication of communication breakdown. None of us can speak Italian or French and likewise the tea lady cannot speak much English, let alone BM.
One thing I really admire is the level of cleanliness especially the toilets – really high. Mind you they were no Banglas or Mak Cik Indons to do the clean up every hour or so like our highways. The toilets were squeaky clean despite the huge number of people frequenting them. This is one area where I felt, we, the so called gentle, mild-mannered Malaysians were put to shame. I reckon, the late Robert Lau tried very hard to inculcate good toilet habits among Malaysians but his toilet crusade is still not successful. Like wise, they were no plastic bags, styrofoam cups, newspapers, food left overs or diapers, strewn on the lay by areas or the highway shoulders. This is something that we have a lot to learn and emulate.
Our final highway stop was a small town after Turin and finally around 7.00am we arrived safely at Rome’s Fumicino airport. After six hours of waiting, checking in, custom and immigration and security checks we boarded the MAS 747 flight bound for KLIA at 12.45pm and the we took off around 1:40pm, much to our relief that finally we were heading home after almost two weeks away. What was initially a simple three-day working visit transformed into 12 days of adventure of a lifetime.
We landed safely in KLIA on Friday 23rd, just before end of Subuh time, just enough time to perform the Subuh prayer at the satellite building. I must register my gratitude to my travelling team for being so understanding under such a strenuous journey. When the TV3 reporters approached me for an interview, I was rather apprehensive. When the clip was shown in Buletin Utama that night I told my friends it was a classic case of “looks like me, sounds like me but it was not necessarily me” situation.

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