I realized this story would take too long to complete, so I have to cut it in half and get some sleep!
When I boarded the plane to India, I was greeted by two lovely ladies in sarees, saying Namaskar. (A greeting, similar to Namaste. It pretty much serves as a ‘Hello’.) As I walked down the aisle, I knew it was going to be an uncomfortable experience. Merely because the aisle was so small. That was unfortunate way to think, though, as it was actually quite a good experience. 😀 I made my way to my seat, and as people were crowding in, I simply set my bags on my lap until they were seated. Seats were three per row, two rows, with the exception of the emergency exits. Those only seated two per row. I was by an emergency exit, on the outside, near the aisle. The man who was supposed to be sitting with me, was the father in a family of three, so he asked someone to switch him seats, in order to be by his family. The guy that ended up sitting with me seemed very nervous to sit near me. He kept giving visual cues to his two friends on my right, across the aisle.
Before I got the chance to do it myself, a flight attendant came by and said, “Madam, you can’t put your luggage there, you have to put it up here.” He took my luggage and stored it away, above me. I guess I felt a little embarrassed, because I knew where to put it – I was just waiting until everyone was out of the way. I shrugged it off. I know he was doing his job, and he didn’t mean to make me feel embarrassed. He was actually quite helpful… My backpack is heavy! 😀
The Air India plane had monitors as well, but mine was malfunctioning, and the guy beside me? His was broken. Poor guy. He was bored out of his gourd. He kept tapping his screen, and mine, hoping something would work. I looked over at him and asked, “Is your screen broken?” Clearly it was, but I wanted to let him know someone cared about his boredom. He smiled and bobbled his head. He seemed a bit older than me, and had a prominent moustache. He had to settle, as I did, for a movie on the screen in front of us. Two Bollywood movies were playing, but I can’t identify the names. I could swear one movie was solely about hugging, kissing and dancing though. I’ll report on that, when I know what it’s called. 😀
The flight started out pretty rough. It was more bumpy than the other flights, but it wasn’t scary. The video tutorial about safety and seatbelts popped up, and the instructions were completely in Hindi. It was AWESOME. Obviously, I could understand what was happening, so, I didn’t worry about needing a translation. When the plane was officially in the air, the movies resumed and the flight attendants handed out cards. They had to be filled out and given to immigration and customs. I didn’t have a pen, but the man on my right, across the aisle, did. Unfortunately, he was given the task to fill out everyone’s card (everyone in his radius) and I had to wait some time, before I asked him if I could borrow the pen. And when I did, he smiled and handed it to me. What a nice guy. 😀 I’m not sure how well he even understood me, because he had that ‘lost in translation’ look in his eyes. Maybe he took my visual hand-scribble cue.
I filled out the form, but realized I couldn’t complete the form, because my passport was in my purse up above. They didn’t even let me keep that on my lap. 🙁 So I had to wait to fill it out. I handed his pen back and thanked him. He smiled even bigger and bobbled his head. (I think that’s a cute gesture – and it has many meanings. I’m getting pretty good at understanding them, in context.) Suffice it to say, I think he understood that one.
The attendants came around with drinks. I ordered bottled water, because I was becoming dehydrated again. It seems to happen so much faster while travelling… All of the guys beside me, ordered whisky. Now, my initial thought was… ‘You’d have to be pretty anxious on a plane, to order whisky to drink.’ But I thought about it some more… No. That’s not necessarily true. That’s just true for me. (My back up plan for anxiety on the plane, was to order a drink.) 😀 They later handed out an entire meal, but I was still full from my last meal. I really did want to try the food, but I also thought, ‘If this was cooked in Dubai, it might start my stomach-sick adventures early, and I don’t want that.’ So I politely declined. I really wanted to try that chicken though. It looked and smelled AMAZING.
Later, they offered tea and coffee. I really wanted tea, but I had so much water to drink, I didn’t have any room for tea. So I declined. I had this strange metal taste in my mouth, quite a few times, during the trip. Soon, they turned the lights off and I fought sleep. I didn’t want to sleep, my god, I just wanted to get there. I could see the plane moving across the ocean, on the digital screen. For some reason I started thinking about my dad. Then I woke up. CRAP. I fell asleep. The lights were still out, and the guy next to me was passed out on me. Oh… Um…
I shifted, and he peeled away from my arm, curling up in a ball. Whew. I’m glad that didn’t get weird.
I could see on the map that we were almost in Hyderabad. When the lights came on, everyone started waking up. Some random person behind me took a picture of me. Surely not a very good picture. Again, enjoy the back of my head. Suddenly the guy sitting next to me was taking pictures of me. He didn’t think I noticed, and I could have yelled at him, but it amused me. So I let him think I had no idea. If you see random pictures of me somewhere, you know the story behind that. Anyway, we landed 10 minutes later, the pilot came through the aisle, and though he apologized in advance, started spraying some sort of air freshener. I was choking on that vanilla smell for three minutes before I gathered my things and went inside.
The airport was dead quiet. Other than the people getting off the bus, no one else was there… It was creepy. I followed everyone else, and went to baggage claim. The security and staff looked really intimidating, but all of them were very nice. I grabbed my big bag and made my way to immigration. There was a line, but it passed quickly. I got to the desk, handed over my passport and asked for a pen. When he returned my passport, I started filling the rest of the slip out. He got annoyed, told me to move aside (with a series of grunts and hand gestures) so he could see the next person. I didn’t take it personally. I was the one who was not prepared. When that person was finished, I handed him the slip and he shook his head and said “Telephone number.” Er… Okay… I didn’t have an Indian number, so I thought it wasn’t relevant. I wrote my US number down and handed it back. He shook his head and mumbled something in his language. His co-workers laughed. It was a bit embarrassing, but hell, I know very well that I have no idea what I am doing. So I laughed with them and shrugged.
He said, “Visa number,” and handed it back. I looked over the entire form, but found no place for my visa number? Was I just supposed to write it anywhere? He growled and asked for the pen, my visa and the paper. I handed them to him. When he finished, he stamped everything and slammed my passport down on the counter. Mumbled something about an ‘exit’ and then growled and waved the next person on. ‘Sorry dude,’ I thought. ‘I know it must suck to deal with stupid people this early in the morning. And since I have no idea what I am doing, I fit that category.’
I followed the crowd, but stopped at the money exchange. In only exchanged $60 USD, because I had no idea if I should exchange all of my money, or not. I should have known, when the guy looked at me strange. I signed a document, he handed me the rupees, I stared at them, in wonder for a moment and then tucked them away. When I got the bottom of a stair case, I had to put my carry on bags through a detector. I was praying I didn’t have as much trouble with my purse as I did in Kansas City. Luckily, nothing happened. 😀
Finally, I could get out of there, and on with my journey. I followed a sign that said ‘exit’, passed some military men and their dog, and when I went through the doors, I don’t know what I was expecting, but my senses were confused. With my eyes, I could see that it was a bigger part of the main airport, but I felt fresh air… Refreshing and a bit damp. It smelled amazing. It smelled like incense and plant life – like… I could smell the pretty trees that surrounded the building. It had a roof, but the walls were open, if that makes sense. I slowly walked out, breathing deeply and taking in my surroundings. Wow… It’s so lovely…
I could see that it was foggy. There were now many people in the main area. The first thing I did was call DN on a payphone. Although, I did have to ask the guy working at McDonald’s to help me find the payphone. I had DN’s number written down in one of my Hindi books. I asked DN to get in touch with my mom and let her know I was okay, and to ask about my step-father’s business partner, and see what his status was. When I hung up the phone, I paid the man working the booth. He asked me if I needed a cab. I said, “No, someone is coming to get me. But thank you.” He nodded and I walked a little further, just outside of the gate, resting against the railing.
I stood there for a few moments. People passed by, staring in wonder. I think I was blowing people’s minds. It amuses me. 😀 People started randomly taking pictures of me, or staring at me, or both. A few lovely girls came over, extremely shy. They just looked at me. I smiled at them, and they just kept staring. I looked away and they walked away. A few minutes later, one returned and said something to me. It sounded like “Crystal” so I was a bit confused. She introduced herself and asked my name. I said it, but she couldn’t pronounce it. We both laughed, and I said, “It’s okay.” She said, “From where are you?” I said, “Where am I from? America.” She got excited. “Wow, America. I have been there once only. I wish to see again, at least once more.”
She began asking me about my siblings, and life in America. She also asked me who is picking me up, where will I be going, and if I needed a ride. I told her everything, and we talked for a while, when the other girls came back, along with two boys.
The boys were extremely shy, and the girls kept giggling. I asked for their names, and the youngest giggled more. She was so sweet. ♥ She had a really pretty name, but I can’t remember it now. 🙁 They asked me more questions and then asked if they could have a picture. I said, “Sure,” and smiled. A girl and a boy both took pictures, and everyone had to have a turn being in the photo. They soon walked away, but the same girl came back to talk later. She waited with me awhile, suggested I call DN back, and then said, “You are very beautiful.” I said, “Wow, thank you. You are very beautiful too. How old are you?” She said she was 18, and I told her my age. What a sweetheart. She wanted to know if she could have anything from America, but I had no idea what to give her. Anything worth anything was in my giant bag, and I couldn’t just open that at the airport, that would be a mess.
I apologized and explained. I did give her $5 USD. She stared at it, excited, thanked me and left again. When the group returned, we talked for awhile when a short older woman approached us. Her eyes were wide. She looked like she wanted to poke me with a stick, the way you poke an animal if you aren’t sure if it is dead or alive. The girls were giggling, and started talking with the woman. I suddenly smiled. ‘Oh… I know.. That’s mama.’ The woman smiled, eyes still wide, and started laughing and talking with the girls. She instructed the girls in their language and walked away. The girls left again, and we said our goodbyes.My friends from the airport! 🙂
More random people took pictures. One guy was on the level below me, asking his friend to take pictures of him, with me in the background. When I looked down and saw this, I started laughing. ‘Really? Hahaha…. The best you got out of that photo, was my arm and side of my head.’ It was truly amusing, so I let it be.
Okay, that’s a wrap for now!