Saturday, November 01, 2008

October 10, 2008: 5am, Dubai, U.A.E.

A thick haze of humidity shrouds the city of Dubai as the plane descends, so I can’t see a damn thing, but I don’t care, my main concern is retrieving my checked baggage quickly enough to make my connecting flight at the other terminal, which was a 15-20minute taxi ride away.

* * *
Made it, with a half hour to spare! Kabul here I come.

I was hoping to get a window seat so I could lean my head against it and perhaps get a little sleep—as the last time I engaged in this blessed activity was Tuesday evening and it was now Friday.

“Hello.” An older man with kind eyes greeted me as I sat down next to him. I didn’t particularly feel like conversing with anyone, but his warm greeting prevented me from being aloof, which is my normal M.O. on airplanes as there are few things worse than being strapped to a cramped seat with a conversation forced upon you.

I quickly learn that him and his wife have been living in California for close to 30 years, but are originally from Afghanistan and plan to be in the country for about a month. He shows me his American passport, the picture shows a man who’s wearing what looks to be a general’s uniform and identifies him as Said Opeyany.

“I live in San Francisco now,” he says.

“How long has it been since you last visited Afghanistan?” I ask.

“Oh, about four years. I expect there will be some people at the airport when I arrive,” the excitement of returning home showing on his face.

He asks me if I work for a NGO or the UN. When I tell him my plans, he nods with understanding. “I am an editor and founder of a magazine called ‘Marafat’.”

My eyebrows raise mentally, but the gears that started turning quickly stop as he mentions that it’s a religious magazine about faith and how to worship. Not a lot of room for my bomb squad in that…ah well.

We keep talking, and I learn that his wife, Fariba (sitting next to him), is a microbiologist. “You know, when we get to Kabul, there will be a celebration. I’m kind of a famous man in Afghanistan. I used to be a judge and I’m a candidate for a position here. Ah, you should join us! Come to lunch with us and have some authentic Afghani food and experience our hospitality.”

I thank him sincerely for the invitation, but how do I explain that I’ve spent the last 48+ hours in public spaces and all I want to do is retreat to a dark hole, have a shower, and sleep until tomorrow? The journalist in me was feeling guilty, but the woman in me needed some pampering.

“Well, I do have someone meeting me at the airport and I should probably have a shower before going to your party…,” I begin to explain.

“Have a shower at our house! You are welcome and bring your friend that’s coming to the airport!” he says enthusiastically steamrolling over my roadblocks.

“Oh, hmm…,” thinking it over, “well…maybe that could work,” I said, not completely ready to commit.

* * *
I had managed to fall asleep for about 20 minutes and when I woke up I saw my first glimpse of Afghanistan over the shoulders of Fariba. Even from my limited vantage point it did not disappoint. The jagged mountains reached up at the plane—barren now, but in a month or so would be covered with snow. They screamed of isolation and looked impenetrable and unforgiving despite being silhouetted against a brilliant jewel-colored blue sky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just need to know if you're alive...

And hows the pad with Mr. President?

FYI: Your CS 4 arrives here tomorrow.