We arrived safely in Sri Lanka. The travel time from my airplane departing in Los Angeles until I set foot in the hotel was thirty-six hours, including a six hour layover in Dubai.
I was the last one to join the World Vision group gathered at a restaurant close to our gate at JFK. They were almost done with their meal, I was tired and a little nervous. On the surface, the blogging team is all very different from one another. We live in different parts of the country, write on different topics. Most everyone is polite, exchanging pleasantries before we embark on such a big trip.
The airplane for the longest leg of the journey was new and nice, with current entertainment built into the seats and plenty of room to stretch a bit and sleep. I watched the first six episodes of New Girl, then dozed off. I woke up to a bit of a commotion and a retching sound. The teenage girl behind me was throwing up into a bag. Her family was with her, and the flight attendants were swift. I took a moment to worry that this was the opening scene to an outbreak horror movie, but it seems that maybe she was just air sick. The animated graphic on the info panel showed that we were somewhere over Sarajevo.
We took advantage of the layover to see a small bit of Dubai: the world’s tallest building and the famous fountains below it. We ate pizza and ran our fingers over beautiful silk scarves in the place so far away that felt strangely like a large Vegas. The UAB airport wouldn’t let us check our carry ons into lockers if they contained anything valuable, so I lugged my heavy backpack and purse everywhere. It reminded me of college, and it irritated me that twelve years later I still haven’t learned to travel lightly.
When the group boarded the airplane for Colombo, we were all a little dazed. It had been good to get out of the airport and breathe some fresh air in Dubai, but the reality of the time zone change started to hit. Before the plane took off, I had fallen asleep against the window, tucked in with the provided blanket.
I woke up several hours later, in time to watch the plane creep through the air above the tip of India. It was surreal to stare down and see the land and then the Indian ocean, completely on the other side of the world from where I usually wake up.
In Colombo, we went quickly through customs and walked down a hallway where they’re selling large appliances. If I wanted a good deal on a new washer and dryer, I could get them at this airport.
World Vision vans drove us the two hours to the hotel. It is hot, and there is barely any air circulation, and I’m wearing two-day-old clothes and deodorant. The group in my van talked about blogging and fundamentalism. Outside we drive past Catholic churches and children running down the road and lots of bicycles. It feels like as foreign a land as I’ve ever been.
The rest of Saturday was a time of much-needed rest and internet troubleshooting. It is now Sunday, and we are meeting with some of the local World Vision people and writing and adjusting to the heat and bugs and time change. Already, things from my "real life," only days ago, feel like an entirely different world.