Thursday, 19 June 2014

Paragliding World Cup - Celorico da Beira

... It feels like an age since my last competition.  I am off to the World Cup on an eerily quiet A380-800 Lufthansa giant. Celorico de Beira is my destination via Frankfurt and Porto.  I am particularly fond of Portugal.  There are many reasons least of which is the fact that they have the most efficient and friendly visa service I have ever experienced in all my years of donating my hard earned cash to the impoverished schengen states in return for a piece of paper with a pretty hologram and my photo on it.  Two hours flat for a twelve month schengen visa has to be some kind of record worldwide!

A couple of things caught my attention going through the stringent airport security and customs at Frankfurt.  Every single black, Asian or Arab looking person in my queue was stopped for close scrutiny during the half hour or more that it took to get through the security screening area.  Now this could be written off to a random statistically significant but irrelevant anomaly in the way per capita consumption of chicken in the US correlates with total US imports of crude oil over the last fifteen years:

Alternatively you could argue that as a South African I have an over-developed or hyper-sensitive sense of political correctness after a life-time of navigating my way through the quagmire of inequality that constitutes pre- and post-apartheid South Africa.  I would not generally have noticed anything untoward seeing as I was shuffling along in Pink-Floydian drone-mode and I happen to hold most of the EU member nations in high regard when it comes to matters of diversity.  What caught my eye was a beautiful little Kenyan girl with braided hair, brightly colored dress, and a brilliant smile.  She was breaking out into fits of spontaneous giggling and could not keep her arms in the crucifix position while the surly matron trying to search her became increasingly agitated not realizing she was tickling the poor child.

The little girl and her entire fabulously well dressed family were searched from head to toe which caused a commotion while providing entertainment to the faceless masses.  Pity also the two fashionable young Arab looking teenagers who were fast tracked as first class VIPs only to suffer the humiliation of a prolonged and detailed scrutiny of every single item in their hand luggage.  I was convinced a cavity search was on the cards as I sailed through the gruff Guten Tag greetings which left me wondering if my eyes and crooked nose were previously under-appreciated assets of my dubious Aryan ancestry best suited to infiltrating airport defenses (hey, I could even become a spy and deliver a package or do some radical spy stuff!).

I shrugged off the uneasy feeling that there might be some ethnic discrimination afoot only to arrive at the constipated passport control queue which was backed up on account of the fact that: (you guessed it folks) the only African, Asian and Arab people in sight were all stopped and interrogated at length.   Yours truly, on the other hand, was greeted warmly in German and more-or-less waved through as I exhausted my German vocab nodding haughtily at my host and muttering Ja,Ja, Danke intermittently in my 'airport' voice.

Now I can't help wondering if the recent murders in Kenya and/or the Iraq re-crisis are somehow determinants for airport security behavior for inbound flights from Africa and the Middle East? If that's true imagine what it's like to be of Asian origin (because to airport officials 'they' all look like Talibanese suicide bombers right?)

I admit I love to feed the conspiracy rat in my chest from time to time.  Ignoring that for a moment all I really know is I would have experienced: deep resentment if I was subjected to the treatment I observed; and savage outrage if my daughter was treated that way.

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