Tuesday, July 17, 2012

16 hours on a plane

I left my house in Sharjah at 9.30pm on Saturday. I walked in the door of my MIL's house in Idaho Falls at 5pm on Sunday. Considering the 10-hour time difference, I was on the road for...30ish hours? I was only able to sleep for three 45-minute shifts on the airplane so I was a bit loopy for a lot of the trip. However, I do remember a few things.

The Dubai Airport's Terminal 3 is right out of the future. When you check in downstairs, everything seems lazy and calm and ho-hum, but once you go upstairs on the super fancy shiny escalator, the world comes alive. There are a ton of shops and people and everyone is kind of jet-lagged so even though it's 2am there are people drinking smoothies and doing some grocery shopping in the awesome duty free grocery store thing there.

On the DXB-LAX plane, I sat next to an Iranian man and his wife. As I approached my seat next to them, I witnessed the following conversation take place between them:

Iranian Husband, to wife: Do you want to switch seats so you are sitting next to the woman?
Iranian Wife (kind of heavyset): I can if you prefer, but I would like to stay here because I am kind of heavyset and I would feel awkward spilling into her personal space. If I stay here, I can feel comfortable knowing that I am spilling only into your personal space, and we are married, so that is OK.

I SWEAR to you that, even though I don't speak Farsi, this is what they said to each other. It was so clear from their body language. So yes, they were very considerate seatmates even if it was sometimes awkward to be crammed into a small sliver of space next to a dude. I felt like I could only try to sleep with my face turned away from him, because I was terrified of falling asleep the other way and waking up with my head on his shoulder or something. Thus the lack of sleep on the plane. It's all right. I had movies to keep me company. When I was not awkwardly trying to sleep, I chatted with my Iranian friends and they were super interesting. The guy was an F-14 pilot for the Shah back in the day, at least if I understood his halting English.

Meanwhile, I became BFFs with a very aged Indian lady across the aisle from me, who was possibly on her first airplane flight ever. I helped her buckle in her seat. I helped her recline her seat. I helped her put down her tray table. I helped her open her packet of crackers. I helped her operate her video screen. I helped her adjust her bra to make sure it wasn't showing under the back of her sari - I am not joking. Then I helped her fill out her immigration card, and by "help," I mean I did it for her, referencing her passport, because she didn't really speak English. The form asks all kinds of questions, including if you've been around farm animals recently. So I got to ask her, "Have you been on a farm recently? A farm? FARM. Animals. Cow, chicken, horse. MOO." It was great fun. And I did such a good job (and possibly made such a spectacle of myself) that a few other non-English-speaking passengers asked me to fill out their immigration forms, too. I hope I did a good job. There was basically no accountability, because when we arrived in the US, I got to go in the citizens line and basically said, "Good luck with that!" to all my plane friends. I saw them later at baggage claim so I think they got through OK.

I'll write more about impressions of the US tomorrow, but let me just say that upon arrival in the LAX airport, it SMELLED like America. I have no idea what this smell is, but it was very distinct.

As for how my children greeted me after two weeks of absence, Magdalena saw me walk in the kitchen and said, "hey mama, look at this!" and showed me some project she was working on. Miriam gave me a proper hug and also some welcome home signs. So no big deal, I guess. It's good to be here.


Suzanne Bubnash said...

It's amusing to me how we make new BF on airplanes. In your case, language wasn't a barrier at all!

One time I flew home from back east not knowing how I'd get from the airport to the train station (no funds for a taxi). My seat-mate offered me a ride via her son who was picking her up. She didn't know he was bringing his whole fam in the compact car but we squeezed everyone in to get me to the train.

Another time my seatmates from Ohio were on their way to a tragedy, not knowing if their grandson would be dead or alive when they arrived; there had been a rollover car accident that morning. I stuck w/ them all the way across the country listening they talked and wept. The little boy died. After everything settled down and they returned to Portland, they came over for a visit.

Susanne said...

Welcome back! I enjoyed this post. Great to visualize you helping everyone and mooing to explain farm to the Indian lady. No doubt a lot of people thought you were the airplane angel. :)

I love that Magdalena didn't miss a beat in showing you things.

Now I'm curious what America smells like.

Liz Johnson said...

Was it urine? Because I always thought LAX smelled like urine...

Craig said...

When I returned to the USA (also to LAX) after my two year mission to Germany I was most struck by how large the cars were, how wide the streets and spaces, how big the houses, and affluent the people. Of course, in the intervening years I think Germany has caught up with the affluence. Although, I was a pauper missionary. Also, American drivers were lazy and unskilled in comparison. Still true.

Jeremy Palmer said...

At least there weren't any Snake on the Plane.


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