Trip to Bangladesh--Part 2 of 3

The plane lifted high into the air, on the first leg of several.  The first stop was Minnesota, and I felt ridiculous crying as we flew, wondering if anyone around me was thinking I was really silly for crying just going from Atlanta to Minnesota (see Stolen Woman Chapter 1).  I wanted to announce that I wasn't just going to Minnesota; I was going halfway around the world, on the first really big trip of my life, for two whole years, and who knew if I would even ever come back?

After the uneventful Minnesota layer (Who flies international from Minnesota? I thought that was weird.), it was back on the plane for a much longer jaunt to Tokyo, Japan, and the nervousness about my major life change gave way to the nervousness about this long, long flight, with nowhere to land if we were in trouble since we were flying over the ocean.

Now here's where I have to tell you another secret: I hate flying.  I mean, I enjoy the beautiful views of the world and being up in the clouds and all that, but the minute we hit that first bump of turbulence, I break out in a cold sweat and start quoting Bible verses in my head.  I really have this fear of falling out of the sky, and of course turbulence to that fear is like a puppy with a new chew toy.  And flying over a major world ocean gets you in plenty of air pockets, not to mention a 14-hour flight is going to have turbulence just to appease the laws of probability.

I don't like flying, but it sure could be worse!

I tried to think about important things.  I journaled.  I tried to rest.  I watched dumb airline movies.  Seems the thing I did most was pull up that little screen that has the little airplane on it, showing where the flight is and how far its gone and how long it has left.  That is a really dumb thing to do when the flight is fourteen hours long.  The screen has America and an ocean and Japan, and it takes a long, long time for that little plane to get off America, much less look like its anywhere near Tokyo!

However, finally (and I do mean FINALLY) the plane was heading downward rather than straight ahead, and we were about to land in the very first foreign country I'd ever set foot on.  I got myself, my long coat and my huge carry-on ready.

It took awhile for the plane to unload--it was a huge plane with two decks if my memory is correct.  I stepped through the doorway and was surprised to see stairs.  Stairs for me, and everybody else, to walk down to the tarmac with.  Odd.

Okay, the stairs were bigger than this

Stepping down rather drunkenly, thrown off kilter by the 40 pounds of carry-on I was carrying (the little dolly I had for this ridiculously overfull carry-on wasn't happy going down stairs as you can imagine).  The carry-on weight actually knocked me over at one point and I stumbled downward until my rear found a step and I parked on it for a bit, feeling quite inept and beyond sheepish (someday remind me to tell you about falling down the stairs on prom night).  Likely no one even cared or noticed, but I felt like everyone around me could tell, Wow, that girl doesn't travel.  She has no idea what she is doing.

If they had thought that, they would have been right.  Let's just say that I never carry a 40-pound carry-on on a plane now, no matter how long a trip I'm on or how important those last few items seem to be.

First thing I did was stuff that big, heavy, dilapidated coat into a nearby trash can.  Already sweating by then from the heat and humidity that greeted us the moment we stepped from the plane, to relieve myself of that burden was a quick and easy decision.  It would have been even smarter to lose a few pounds from my bag, but that thought hadn't occurred to me as yet.

From Tokyo, there were other stops.  They kind of blur in my memory so I couldn't tell you exactly where I went from there.  However, I do remember two distinct things.  One was this one specific layover somewhere in Asia.  We landed, were herded off the plane, and had to go through some kind of super-long customs line that curved and snaked around.  Then finally, after standing in line, walking in line, waiting, then eventually being called to board, I got on the next plane only to realize . . . it was the exact same plane we had left!  Was someone in the airport just watching all of us little sheep on a surveillance camera and laughing the whole time?  I know they have to clean the plane and re-fuel and all that, but . . .

I learned I don't think very nice things when I haven't had enough sleep, and I learned quickly that I don't sleep on planes.  Bummer when you're on them for longer than 24 hour periods.

The other thing I remember was this one Thai airlines flight.  It was a drastic change from the other flights I had been on.  The stewardesses were dressed in beautiful, elaborately colored and designed Thai outfits.  They were pretty and gracious, and gave each of us a real orchid.

During that flight I got seated next to a family headed also to Bangladesh.  How fortunate for me!  It was a nice Bangladeshi woman and her two Bangladeshi kids.  The kids knew English, at least a little, and I was next to the daughter.  Here was a chance for me to get to know someone from my new country.

A long, long time later, I was not feeling so fortunate.  The daughter wanted to talk about American movies, and next you thing you know I was singing (for her) the theme to every Disney movie ever created.

"A whole new world...etc...etc"

This wasn't so horrible, until the stewardess came to our row, and bent down to ask us if we wanted coffee or tea after our dinner.  Her tray held at least one cup of hot water, for tea I'm assuming.  The other child of the family reached right up and started swirling his right hand in the cup of water!  I was embarrassed, especially when the horrified stewardess looked at me as if I was the kid's mother.  "He's not mine," I wanted to say, "and I have no idea why he just did that!"

I found out later that in Bangladeshi homes, after eating curry and rice (with the right hand only), they wash the right hand by pouring water over it onto their bowl, then washing the bowl with the same water.  Or if you are higher class, you give each guest an individual bowl of water to wash the right hand in.  I guess that kid thought this was his individual bowl of water.

Eventually, I met up with a few other people who were to travel the final legs of the trip with me to Bangladesh.  They were other Americans.  I had met them before and was very happy to see familiar faces after experiencing so much of the unfamiliar.

I could not imagine, however, how small my up-to-that-point experiences would seem in comparison to what I was headed for just moments after our plane landed in Bangladesh . . .

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