Wednesday, October 11, 2006

First Trip to Gondor

I have traveled many places around the world in my lifetime but experience without observation still leaves one in ignorance. I had lived in Rohan for six months when I decided to venture over into Gondor. They were having a pretty brutal civil war in Gondor and the whole society was in an upheaval. I had learned enough language to be really dangerous and felt that I was ready to check it all out. I found a contact in Minas Tirith who would put me up for a week so all I had to work out was transport. There were no flights from Rohan to Gondor then- and there still are none today for various political reasons- so I needed to make the ten hour trip by car over the mountains. I had a neighbor who offered to take me in his car. He had a brother who was a 'good driver for mountain roads' so I hired him and we left the next morning.
We got up early and my neighbor and his brother drove me straight to the bazaar to buy 25 loaves of non (the local flat bread). I thought, 'Wow, these guys can't go one week without non from their home town!' We then drove about an hour to the border and my neighbor got out of the car calling out to the border guards, 'Fresh non!' They let us on through. There were seven military post between the border and Minas Tirith. At each one we gave out non. No one ever looked at my passport and everyone was friendly. I spent an uneventful week in Minas Tirith and learned a lot about life and work there. Then we headed back- without non. We had no problem in Gondor. We went over the mountains and to the border and everyone continued to be welcoming and friendly in the midst of a brutal civil war. Then we reached the border of Rohan. As we approached the border guard my neighbor commented that he knew the guy from somewhere but couldn't think of where. The guard took my passport and opened it up. He was immediately unhappy. Where was my Gondor visa? I told him I didn't think I needed one. It was then that I realized that I was an ignorant fool- why wouldn't I think I needed a visa? My neighbor's brother said, 'What's the problem?' and the guard said, 'He doesn't have a Gondor visa!' My neighbor's brother said, 'Why does he need one, this is Rohan!' The guard was not amused. Just then my neighbor approached and said with a knowing smile, 'You went to school with my son.' The guard who had just really set his face to be difficult dropped his eyes, nodded yes this was true, and handed my passport to me. In this life and in the next it is not what you know, it is who you know.

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