Pens in Belgium…and a brief insight into the mind of Erin Margaret


Due to some unforeseen (but highly preventable) circumstances with Kigali International Airport security personnel I had to unpack and repack my luggage before check-in to ensure international baggage requirements were kept. This means two things.

1)   The backpack I intended to use as a carry on in now in my checked baggage, along with my ukulele, snacks, water bottle, and PEN (this will be discussed shortly)

2)   The sewing machine I packed and padded so carefully with intentions to check is currently my carry on.

I managed to convince the security personnel to let me bring my laptop(not charger), and  book with me despite the ‘one carry on item’ rule, so I am not entirely without entertainment. I am currently in the process of reading “The Engaged Spiritual Life”, an insightful book about Buddhist activism. It is an intriguing book, but one that is difficult to comprehend if not taking notes. (Here is where the pen comes in to play)

Several seemingly harmless things are not allowed through Rwandan security. Ball point pens being one of them. Which leaves me twenty-five straight hours of airport & airplane time with no way to scribble notes in the margin of my book, and no way to charge my laptop…Options being limited flight number 1 (Kigali – Uganda) and flight number 2 (Uganda – Belgium) supplied me with plenty of interesting people to talk to. The 6 hour lay over in Brussels required a bit more ingenuity. Most airports have small bookstores or news stands and some even have little tourist shops. Both of these places seemed like a good place to look if one was searching for a pen, so the journey begins…

‘Pier B’ of Brussels airport has exactly two ‘tourist’ shops, one book store, several currency exchange kiosks, and a Starbucks. None of these places sell pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, or any form of writing utensil.

Option 2: There are electronic charging stations around the Brussels airport, this seems to me like a good place to conduct business, do homework, and participate in other activities that may involve pens. I searched every station in ‘Pier B’ for discarded pens without success. (at this point I am starting to believe pens might be on the same security-risk list as small pocket knives and nail files)

Option 3: Look on every table and under every row of chairs at every gate until I find a pen. I Started at B1 and ended somewhere near B27 before giving up. At this point I became very tired of carrying the 14kg sewing machine so I stopped at Starbucks and got a muffin.

I am now nearly halfway though flight number 3 (Brussels – Chicago) and I still have no pen. So instead of writing the happenings of the world around me in the margins of my book I have typed them down… just in case you are interested I have included a few of the comments below:

  • ‘Flight Attendants’ are now referred to as ‘In-flight Safety Professionals’
  • I have a habit of collecting interesting people. Or more specifically interesting I have a habit of talking to interesting people and they have a habit of giving me their business cards. (I think I am going to start making an official collection)
  • Are pens becoming extinct?
  • To be the child of a missionary does not mean you believe, it doesn’t even mean you are a good person, it just means you are stuck in Africa growing up and forced to be polite
  • Knitting needles are allowed through security… Pens are not. ?!?!
  • I must look French, that is the 4th person to speak French to me and English to others around me. (I should learn more French)

About globalmargaret

I am a Mid-Western college graduate who signed a contract on a whim last April. The contract took me to Nome, Alaska where I presently live and work. I love nature, hiking, good food, music, ukulele, knitting, sewing, anything creative, and just being still

One response »

  1. Sometimes I think the adventures of literally traveling (getting through the airports and flights and drives of it all) are as interesting and memorable as the actual being wherever it is that plane lands.

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