It Begins: Flight to Oman
We’re an hour from Dubai, the flight information displays on the small seat back monitor with live action digital simulation. I’m seated with my four kids, taking up half of the last row of the airplane; Cooper is still in Washington. In real time I watch as we pass over Tehran. The display is then interrupted with an image of a Breitling watch, “the official onboard time keeper.” (It’s Swiss Air, after all.)I have no sense of time. It’s 7:30 pm in Iran, 8:30 am in Los Angeles. Whatever. I’m eating ice cream. Movenpick. It’s cold and creamy and a nice diversion from my headache.
The closing scenes before we left were unduly stressful. It involved a last minute pedicure for Maggie and myself at the nail salon next to our hotel. Then a bad decision on my part, made while under the influence of a Vietnamese lady rubbing knots out of my calves. “Would I also like a hand massage and manicure?” Sure!
It was oh so good while it lasted. But afterwards we had to rush to get our Subway sandwiches, (which we had no time to eat until we were safely through security). And we had to gather our suitcases from two hotel rooms and drag all 8 of them, along with carry-on’s to the Marriott hotel shuttle. My newly glistening coral nail enamel now looks like melted wax crayons.
I pick at the bits of enamel that remain as we land in Dubai. 99% of the passengers disembark, leaving us, and couple of US college students to watch as cleaning crews gather up trash and wipe down seat handles. The plane is refueling. We wait. And wait. It’s another 40 minutes to Muscat, tacked onto our 7-1/2 hour journey to Zurich, 4 hour layover in Switzerland, and 7 hour flight to Dubai. My knees are achy, my ankles slightly swollen. My air cooling foam Sketchers from TJMaxx–worth every penny.
Maggie has watched all the good kid shows, boredom is setting in. Thankfully, theonboard flight monitor recalibrates. People are boarding, (all three of them). It’s nearing 10 pm and outside temperatures are 38 degrees Celsius (100 F). We have 350 kilometers (217 miles) left to go.
It will be time to sleep when we get there and I’m hoping my body will cooperate. I’m trumped up on adrenaline and Swiss chocolate. It’s been non-stop momentum since the movers arrived last week and we said our goodbyes to St. George. I’m still processing.
We begin to move down the runway and Maggie turns to me and says, “When the seat belt sign goes off you’re taking me to the lavatory.” Okay, seven year old. Since when did we say lavatory? Since when did a seven year old live in three countries and four states? Since when did this become our life?
I gaze at the monitor, our airplane is passing over Al Buraymi and Suhar and it occurs to me I have no idea where I’m going. I mean I know I’m going to Muscat, yes. But the culture, the people, the geography, the extreme temperatures, the geo-political climate. This is somewhere new and completely foreign.
I think back to the woman who sat diagonally in front of us who got off the plane in Dubai. She was in her mid-60’s, wearing a head scarf, her body turned and angled so she could see us, Maggie and I, and stare at us for long portions of the flight. She wasn’t the least bit concerned that I caught or held her gaze. We smiled at each other many times. And it was as if I could see my questions reflected in her expression-who are you and where are you going? Up until this somewhat odd interaction, I’d thought of moving to Oman as MY experience, my journey. But my one sided look at how this was going to affect ME and was misguided. It is never just about YOU or ME. It is our shared interaction with one other that informs our experience. My presence with my daughter, speaking English, somehow had meaning for this woman. And I realized after, with some seriousness and humility, that what I do and say and how I act will inform the opinions of others, not just about ME, but about the United States, about “the west.” We will be a reference point for “westerners,” and glances meaningful and in passing will make impressions.
I’m not sure what I’ll discover in Oman, but I know whenever we step into the unknown, we also enter new parts of ourselves. Be that a personal journey, a change in environment, a move, life will bring us out the better for it. As the Taoist say, “The journey is the reward.”