Arriving at JFK airport I was anxious and extremely excited for my upcoming adventure to India. Asking the security guard where I could check in to Kuwait Airlines, he pointed a finger over to a line over a mile long. Every other airline did not have a soul waiting, but so is my life as I stepped onto this yellow brick road of hell awaiting my destiny and hoping that the three hours I left myself would actually give me enough time to board the plane.
Every woman was covered from head to toe wearing abaya’s or were dressed in elegant Indian Sari’s. Each family carried over ten pieces of luggage with them, seeming they were returning home after a very long voyage. I couldn’t help but think what each individual one of their stories was and how different theirs must be from my own. Were there any similarities? What was in their luggage? What did their faces and expressions look like underneath all that cloth? Fascinating.
Security guard after security guard kept coming up making sure I was in the right line. Surely this girl with one piece of luggage, flip flops. and a tank top could not be boarding a flight to Kuwait. I rest assured them that I was indeed in the right line and asked if I could actually bypass all of this mayhem, considering I wasn’t checking a bag and was not moving my entire household onto the plane. They obliged and as I moved past the crowds I realized that the line was not as long as I had originally thought. The mass of people were not all flying….it was all of the family’s loved ones who had parked their cars in the far away lots, helped them carry their baggage to the departure gate, and clung onto them with tears in their eyes not knowing the next time they would see one another. Such an incredibly high regard for family filled with love and respect. In a line full of chaos, it was a beautiful and sentimental site to see.
As I neared the Kuwait airlines desk, I was asked to show my passport and Indian Visa (which may I add I had to sell my first born to obtain). The lady asked me if I would like an aisle or window seat and I said preferably something up near the front of the plane and near the window. Smiling and wishing me a good trip, she sent me on my way and through the security check point.
As I browsed the way too high end shops in the international terminal, rubbing elbows with the Gucci women from all over the world and pretending to be rich and famous myself, I heared my name on the loud speaker “Makenzie Darling….please come back to the security desk.” I begin checking all of my bags, pockets, etc. and cannot think of one thing missing. I had lost my dignity ages ago, so it couldn’t be that. I rush up the escalator and to the desk where a man hands me over my new Macbook Pro that I had apparently completely forgotten on the security belt. I thought to myself….this is either a very bad or a very good omen to the start of my trip….only time will tell.
As the passengers lined up to board the plane, I quickly noticed how there were about 50 wheel chairs lined up in a row with many elderly people, but also women who were pregnant or middle aged. They had family members with them who held all of their belongings, making sure they got on the plane safely. I almost wondered to myself if many of them had bought tickets to just wheel their loved ones down the walkway and get them settled into their seats.
Once the people who needed special assistance boarded it was time for Group 3 to board. I stepped in line with everyone else and was again picked out of the line and brought to the front, asking if this was indeed the correct airline and triple checking my ticket. They allowed me to bypass everyone else….something that I would usually welcome as a blessing, but in this case felt exclusionary. It was interesting that typically I would feel privileged to cut a line, but being the minority all I wanted to do was fit in and be respected along with everyone else.
As I boarded the plane, I was personally escorted to my window seat that I had requested that miraculously happened to be in FIRST CLASS! Was I on candid camera? I would not consider myself to be the luckiest person in the world and today apparently I was hitting the jackpot…or again, for some reason receiving preferential treatment that I could not explain. Either way, at this point I welcomed this beautiful gift and kicked up my feet onto the cozy leg rest and pushed back my recliner, quickly falling asleep and awaking when it was time to land in London.
In Heathrow, we had to get off of the plane, go through security, and then board the same plane once again with the exact same seat assignments….so double score….first class once more! As I waited for the plane to board an older Indian Gentleman who went by the name Uncle Joe (gotta love it) from Mumbia struck up a conversation with me. Through talking I found out that he was coming back to India after visiting his son who had just moved to Cleveland, Ohio….where I am originally from. It’s such a small world after all! We talked about his son, what a proud father he is, the Indian culture and customs, and how he has worked as s service man in the same hotel in Mumbia for the past 50 years. It is one of the most exclusive hotels in Mumbai, where diplomats and movie stars come to stay. Uncle Joe even told me about his recent run in with President Obama there and what a kind man he truly is. As the stewardess called my group number, Uncle Joe gave me his number and told me to call if I ever needed anything while I was in India and if we ever made it to Mumbai, we had a place to stay and an official tour guide. What a thoughtful and kind gesture I thought.
Once I touched down in Kuwait, I was nervous. I did not know what to expect. Did I need to cover up? Would there be machine guards? Would I be safe? The Kuwait airport was disorderly and people seemed to be forming lines that went absolutely no where. However, it was very different than I had originally expected and I felt safe in the short time that I was there.
Boarding my last leg of the journey….I was now stuck in the back of the plane next to someone which I did not mind since I just planned on dozing back asleep again. However, about an hour into my flight I asked one of the stewards if I could grab a blanket since I was chilly. He smiled at me and told me to grab all of my belongings and follow him. Wondering what possibly he could have in mind, I gathered my books, laptop, and bag and followed him back up to the front of the plane where I found myself in first class once more. I couldn’t believe it! I expressed so much gratitude as I received a large fluffy blanket and a beautiful large seat that reclined all the way back. Life was good 🙂 At the end of the journey, the same steward came over and asked me where I was from. He asked if he could get my number in case he was ever out that way and if I would be his tour guide. I chuckled to myself as I wrote down my email wondering if that was his way of hitting on me and if our paths would ever meet again….stranger things have happened.
By the time I arrived at our beautiful homestay in New Delhi, called On the House, it was 6am in the morning. I had endured 24 hours of traveling and to say I was spent would be the understatement of the year! Climbing a million steps with my luggage to the top of the homestay, I quickly realized that no one was up to check me in. I thought I would take advantage of watching the sunrise over the balcony, so I went to the very top where I found the most adorable roofdeck (pictured above). I sat there in complete silence and peace for about an hour, just the sounds of birds chirping in the early morning. Thinking about my journey and how I was half way around the world….wondering what this journey has in store for me and already feeling like I had experienced so much just through that 24 hour time.