Saturday, June 26, 2010

Packed for Pakistan

Hell yes, I'm going!
Actually I'm here - but because I wasn't able to upload this blog post I wrote on the "road", I'll post it now. I think it's important to get it all down in chronological order. So here goes.

June 23, 2010
Ah, airport bars. Peter and I know them well - with and without kids in tow.
I'm sitting just before the departure gates in a branch of a restaurant I remember from my life at Random House many many years ago (mid-1980's). I'm waiting for my flight at 10.50pm, getting here usually takes nearly 3 hours, this driver took around 2 - smooth ride with no traffic - good sign.

Also a good sign is that I went straight through the Etihad check in. I did have to rearrange some things - my carry on was over the 50 lbs. limit. It turned out to be my laptop, so I just took it out at the check-in person's request. Easy remedy and because she was so pleasant, there was no stress involved in the transaction. Just goes to show you how a smile and a helpful attitude can alleviate any tense situation.

I also had a little laugh with her from the start. Where is your final destination, she asked me? I hesitated. Islamabad? I said, slowly. Are you sure, she said? We both laughed. I wasn't sure if she meant what country or what? She had my ticket in her hands, I thought she would read it. Maybe she was just checking to make sure the ticket was correct. Or maybe I wasn't sure where I was going, what I was doing. Maybe it all just starting to sink in?

I'm heading off to Pakistan (not on vacation, not to relax, not even to work in Botswana) but to a country portrayed in the media as dangerous and a country filled with people who hate us. I've spent the few weeks mulling that situation over in my head. As she handed me my ticket and I wheeled my bag to the loading area (more security measures, I suppose), I knew where I was going. I really did. What I would find there when I got there, not that's a different story.

Waiting in line to drop off my luggage, a couple I spied earlier sitting on their luggage to get it closed walked right in front of all of the people in line - well, not all of them. They cut in line right behind me, cutting off 15 or so "Middle Eastern" people behind me. The baggage handlers were not amused. They directed them to the end of the line scolding them all the way. Wow, just a glimpse of racism. The perception of Westerners toward Middle Easterners was evident right here, right now.

As the baggage handler returned, he very sweetlly took my bag and said, "I'm sorry for that interruption." As I stepped away, he said, "Have a wonderful trip." and he meant it.

I had been sitting in a car for several hours. I welcomed the hustle of the other travelers. I love shopping in the South African transit hall, I thought I'd wander, giving up some tempting seats that were probably rare to find open, but I didn't want to sit. As it turned out, I didn't want to shop, either. The mall choices are pretty crappy. Cheesey high-end and horrible low.

I decided to see where my gate was - I'm that kind of person that needs to see where they need to be. I hate to be late and tend more toward being realy really early so that I'm not rushed. I'm nearly two hours early for my flight, so I look for somewhere to sit and have a beer. The last one I'll have for a while since I'm going to be in a Muslim country. I found the perfect spot (well, it would be perfect if there were internet I could access, but the beer and my seat at the bar makes it damn close.)

The Palm (and Palm II) were THE publishing lunch places in NYC in the 80's. A see-and-be-seen scene for the top book editors and their authors. This was the chain, but it did bring back my younger days, straight out of college, with a dream of one day writing the great American novel. As a receptionist at Random House at the time, I believed in my future. One day I would be the toasted author, sitting at the Palm as everyone made a fuss around me.

OK, that dream has long died. But as I'm off to the next natural step in my career, I see the irony and the promise. I am far from that naive young woman who spent her entire paycheck at Ann Taylor, eatting out at trendy restaurants, getting her hair done at Bumble and Bumble and wanting to be somebody...

The only thing that hadn't changed over the years was being with somebody. And that somebody was Peter. No, I don't miss being 20, the confusion, the disappointment, the wishing, the wondering...No. At 47, I know what I want. And today, the only thing missing in this picture was Peter.

I have been with him for longer than I've been without him. He has been there to share in my greatest moments and been there to hold me in my greatest defeats. And as I sit there, at the bar, drinking my most excellent Palm ale, I can't help feeling that he was very much there with me. I raised my glass to him and his constant support and appreciate all that he does for me, all that he gives me. I can't help but wonder what he and the kids are doing at home.

On this trip, I have only myself to take care of - no kids whining about waiting, no double-checking on Peter to make sure he had our passports, no overloaded bags carrying things for the kids to do on the long flight, no wondering how the dogs were at home...none of that.

I had only me to take care of. I was going on this trip alone - well, not totally alone. No matter where I go and what I do, I always have Peter there to cheer and to lend an ear (ooh, that was bad). As I go off to Pakistan, he's home taking care of the kids, the inlaw (and her sister, my mom and aunt live with us!), the dogs, the home. While I go off for Women's Work, he's home doing it.

Thanks Peter (and my wonderful self sufficient, understanding, encouraging kids!). Thanks for giving me the courage and the conviction to go on THIS buying trip and being with me in spirit. "Cheers" I toast my husband as I finish my beer and head off to the final security check. Cheers.

1 comment:

becky n said...

It really is a precious time when you travel alone but not alone. With the distance you can really appreciate how supportive family and friends are, how they nourish so many aspects and contribute to who you are. I think it is a special kind of meditation.