Fifteen Hours of Life on the Road

Renuka City Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 13th, Monday,  12:45AM:  Showered, teeth brushed, pajamas packed. So very tired. Not tired. WEARY. As I prepare for what I consider another grueling passage to the next place, I think of all the people of the world sailing, trekking, riding horses and camels or hot packed trains or creaky buses great distances, sometimes with their babies and belonging in tow. Then I feel silly talking this ‘weary’ shit.

Steven’s alarm is set for 1:15AM. He’s already packed and showered, can spring awake and away very quickly. I am slightly less springy.

1:30AM: Taxi is waiting. 3100 rupees to the airport, about $25. I never account for all of the money transportation will cost—tours, drivers, taxis. Planning airfare, hotels, food is pretty easy after all of this time. But the transportation, admissions, tips and so forth can add up to a lot, probably half again as much if you’re seeing and doing a lot. Remember that. Sort of the same principle as packing—pack everything you must have along, and then cut that in half. The transportation principle could be—make up your whole budget and then add half again as much for all in-town/in-country travel costs.

Bandaranaike International Airport Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2:30AM: At the airport. In one of the passport control/customs/security check lines to be maneuvered before take-off. The reason for this 15 hour black-time-hole is to make our way from Colombo to Kuwait City. Hours lost from real life. Line is moving slowly. Airport is busy. A whole lot of mostly youngish Sri Lankans are on their way to their work in the Gulf States. They’re the housemaids and construction workers who keep these places running, booming. Since the Gulf Arabs are rich rich rich and do not do this menial stuff themselves.

5:00AM: Flight took off a little late but now we’re winging our way over the Indian Ocean and being served a very bad omelet, a bright yellow dusty-dry wedge of something. We sleep a little on this four and one-half hour flight. And arrive at 7:30AM UAE time.

Abu Dhabi, International Airport, 8:00AM: Breakfasting at O’Leary’s Bar and Pub in high and dry Muslim territory. Airports are a never never land. Pico Iyer’s book, The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home is such a good look at the sense one has of airports as worlds onto themselves, not ‘of’ any one culture but rather a kind of timeless, history-less, no-man’s land without politics, morals, crime or love. Does Clooney’s Up in the Air visit this land? I think so.

Well anyway by 8:30AM I was eating pancakes that weren’t quite as good as IHOPs and Steven was sustaining life with a very ordinary burger.

10:30AM:  We have walked around a bit and found relatively comfortable seats overlooking much distant construction and busses bringing the lost souls from the next flight in to airport land. Several parked Etihad and Jet Airways planes are parked in front of us for our scenic viewing pleasure. Airport population mostly Asian and Arab naturally. Every mode of Arab dress for men and women present from the most oppressive to the most elegant. Add that to all of the Indian costuming and it’s only us westerners in our jeans and sweatshirts who look rather slovenly…like we just got out of bed and couldn’t find any clean clothes to put on.

About halfway through the lost 15. See you later…from that famous tourist destination, Kuwait City.

Do I seem a bit faded next to the brightness of Burberry’s. The jacket I want is only $2000 plus. Maybe I should wait until my rent check clears.

Steven’s reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath.” He’s been reading econ books the whole trip. Trying to convert him to crime fiction with no luck so far.

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