On My Way

14 Oct

I left Washington, D.C. at 11 p.m. Tuesday night for Mumbai on Qatar Airways flight 052 . This is what I was dreading–the 13+-hour flight to Doha, Qatar. I settled into my window seat with my iPod, neck pillow, Tylenol PM, and a book Liz gave me (Some Girls. I am only a few chapters in, but I highly recommend it). An Indian woman headed for Hyderabad sat next to me. She did not speak much English, but through a few words and many hand gestures, I learned that she had been visiting her daughter and new granddaughter in D.C. and was headed back home. Scott, who works for the Air Force and is nursing a broken foot, sat in the aisle. I would not have pegged him for being a day over 32, but I found out he was 39 with a daughter not much younger than me. He flies to the Middle East every six weeks or so and offered to make sure I went to the correct terminal upon arrival in Qatar and did not accidentally end up in the immigration line to exit.

Once the plane took off, I began searching for a movie on my seatback TV. I opted for Almost Famous and prayed for sleep. Sleep did not come, but somewhere over Massachusetts, the flight attendant came by with hot wash cloths for our hands. Dinner was on its way. I occasionally checked the onscreen map to track our flight. As the plane flew over Nova Scotia, our meal arrived. The food on Qatar Airways was much better than I expected and tastier than most other airline food. I opted for the ginger chicken instead of the biryani, drank plenty of water, popped a Tylenol PM, and closed my eyes. I slept off-and-on through the remainder of the flight, and was awakened over the Black Sea for breakfast. At this point, I noticed that I had developed cankles during the night, so I climbed over my seat mates and headed down the aisle to the bathroom. There was a long line, but I didn’t mind. The movement and stretching was necessary.

A few episodes of Arrested Development and 30 Rock later, we were in Qatar. We got off the plane on the tarmac and were shuttled to the terminals. As promised, Scott pointed me in the right direction, and I headed to Gate 12 to check the status of my flight to Mumbai. We were set to leave a few minutes early, so I sat down for a quick meal, walked around the terminal a bit, during which I discovered that the airport had a mosque, a children’s playground, and TCBY, which I passed by five or six times then summoned every ounce of self control I have and made my way back to the gate for boarding.

Three hours to go. Sleepless in Seattle was my movie of choice for the second flight. I dozed off at some point and woke up half an hour before arrival. The nerves began to kick in. What if my luggage didn’t make it? What if I couldn’t find my driver? What if there were issues getting through customs?

Off the plane at 3 a.m., all of us passengers made a mad dash for the arrivals terminal. First step, go through customs. This was surprisingly simple and only required a few minutes’ wait. Next step, collect my baggage. I waited and waited for one of my three bags to come through. Nothing. I saw the same bags appear time after time and still no sign of mine. Finally, one appeared. And, then a few minutes later, the second. And then, the third. All bags in tow, I headed for the exit.

This is the moment I had been waiting for. I knew a driver named Mr. Joseph was supposed to meet me outside of the terminal holding a sign with my name on it. Who has not wanted to be met at the airport by a driver with a placard? I passed by the hundreds of people waiting in the pre-paid taxi line, and headed straight for the line of drivers. There must have been a few dozen standing there with signs. Finally, I saw Mr. Joseph, holding a sign with my name printed in bold pink letters. He led me to his SUV, put my luggage in the back, and off we went. Then it hit me – I am in India…

Drivers waiting at the airport in Mumbai.  I wanted to get a picture myself, but hands were quite full.  This one, courtesy of  Bev Olsen (http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4b8d7/5d7/).

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5 Responses to “On My Way”

  1. June Foret October 15, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    Glad you had a safe trip. Will be on the look out for further updates.

  2. Mom October 15, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Sweetheart, I honestly don’t know how you did it. I admire your courage and determination, not to mention the self-control! How in the world could you have passed up TCBY?????!!!!! I’m impressed.

  3. Yankee Doodle dANNdy October 15, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    When Julia Roberts stars in the screen-adapted version of your blog, will we get to see her ever so sweetly running around Mumbai constantly sipping a bottle Maalox through a straw, without an ounce of sweat on her forehead, and proclaiming, “I really just have to think about my bowel movements right now. It’s really just what I have to focus on. I have never squatted down and just thought thought about me….I’ve always just been doing what my gastroenterologist has told me to do and I’ve always gone along with it! For once, I need to find myself and learn how to have diarrhea on my own….far far away from western bio-medicine.”

  4. West Coast Wonder October 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Not a single incident? Not one? No wailing tiny tots squelched with a pillow? No soft-spoken, clean-cut, dude with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for twisted self-indulgent fantasies confessing his eternal love for you? NO DUMBELLS?

    I honestly don’t know what to say. A piece of me died today…

    • Steph October 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

      Well, Mr. West Coast Wonder! There were plenty of screaming children, which is why my sleep was not consistent, but with the help of Tylenol PM, I didn’t have to put up with it the whole time. And, as of yet, no one has confessed his eternal love for me…Sigh.

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