Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Way

 Late Afternoon Day 1 Port Dickson Malaysia

It is the time of day here now when the light quickly drains itself out of the sky.  My own energy evaporated some time ago, but I am continuing to press on nonetheless. 

I have swum, I have walked, I have purchased a mini bar full of drinks, and while I was out of the hotel, which I checked in about 7 hours ago, some invisible person came by and left 3 microscopic cookies and closed the drapes. 

I am seriously tempted to say that this is the horrible scene that I left behind me, but that would be untrue.  By Wednesday night when I left, the mighty snow mass had reduced dramatically (more than 2 feet Sunday morning).  

All roads were clear by then.  Revealing the uneven jigsaw of asphalt that makes up our roads all the rest of the year. 

Close to the end of a very fine Wednesday I left JFK and headed east into the night flying on Qatar airlines.  It would be Friday morning when I would at last reach my destination.

The arc of my path traced the Atlantic coast northwards.  Dipped in across New Brunswick and than clipped the top of Newfoundland as we made the long trek eastwards.  Ultimately to arrive half a world away.
Sleep came to me soon after we took off, though I seem to remember a blurry view of Scotland on the seat monitor in front of me.  My senses gathered once more as we descended into Doha.  Landing as the sky darkened now for the second time.
I watched no movies at any time along the way.  Instead I listened to my ipod through my large noise cancelling headphones.  Only from time to time did I pay attention to the seat back monitor glowing at me vibrantly bright and relentlessly tracking our path.

All it showed were the slowly shifting cartoon shapes of all the middle east countries that we crossed. Just images of the real worlds that were actually passing by 6 miles beneath our wings.

Places that now, according endless cycle of reports spewing out of news programs seem so filled with political trauma, human suffering, and petroleum woes.  Pick the order.  Which compared to my own almost frivolous journey made no sense.  All this seems so strangely ironic as I sip bottled water in the warm comfortable cocoon of my Boeing 777.

 After 11 hours my Qatar flight took me here to Doha.  A place of sheikhs and migrant workers and everyone else in the rainbow realm living and breathing in between.  

Built with what was once an endless supply of petro dollars, the airport is an architectural marvel.  One to easily match all the other glimmering airport oasis's throughout the Persian gulf.

 At the very center of the airport is this gigantic teddy bear lamp.  Were the bear just by itself it would be peculiarly amusing.   Its incongruous combination with a lamp makes it strangely utilitarian.  If I weren't so tired I might just laugh or be amused.  Instead I am just puzzled.  I wander around looking for a bathroom.

For now the steady throng of travelers mostly ignore the teddy bear lamp.  For all of scurrying around and through its innards, Doha is simply a hub for most, and not a destination.  There is still lots of dashing across Asian skies yet to come.

Now I board the 2nd and last plane.  It is smaller and feels instantly more crowded, if that is even possible.  I gulp and find my aisle seat next to a large Scandinavian couple.

The husband sits in the middle and tries his best to fold his thick arms across his chest.  A feat he can do whilst awake but not so when he drifts into sleep. A task that this time I find elusive.

I am drawing closer to the goal.....Just a little more than 7 hours more.  But this will prove to be the hardest and noisiest and most mindbogglingly crowded leg.  

I feel as though I am being jostled physically and mentally the entire time.  In anticipation of this I have taken a little blue pill that was supposed to chase away this clinging restlessness.  I remain painfully conscious, too aware of the ceaseless shifting activity and noise about me.  I wonder if I shouldn't have brought another. It will be a long night.
Throughout the night a chorus of toddlers give voice to their own anxiousness and discomfort.  There may be as many as 9 under the age of 6.  Mothers proudly parade the youngest in front of them.  They hold up their extended arms and watch delighted at the wobbly steps their children make up and down the aisles.  Women with aisle seats gawk and coo as they approach. 

The cabin lights dim above us all but the peace does not follow.  Tranquility has vanished even as the pink light fades.
A 2 year old wired on sugar

It is now my second night on a plane.  The logistics of international travel does that mysterious math for us when you travel to the otherside of the world.

More than 20 hours of air time and you will see.... and most likely hear it all if you are trapped behind, on the dark unfortunate side of the magic curtain.  The modest fabric that is a strangely impenetrable barrier between all of us poor schlubs back  in coach and the smiling sleeping Gods blissfully at rest on the other side.

A recent email sent to me by the airline has told me. that for just $1000 more I too could be one of them.  A price that now seems worth it, but when I was firmly planted on the earth made no sense at all.

By 9 a.m. the wheels come down for the last time.  I collect my bags my thoughts and debate if I want to go to the bother of taking off the long sweater underneath my hawaiian shirt.  Knowing it is a good idea because it has to be hot outside but simply too frazzled and lazy to do it.

Of course it is blazing hot and use some of my meager french....C'est la vie.

$25 gets me to Port Dickson and the good news is my room is ready I can get breakfast and I can resume the battle to stay awake in comfort.

A short walk turns into a long one.   There are very few store close by.  My sandals, now unaccustomed to my winter feet start to bite and chafe.  I am thinking the immediate necessity of finding and applying band-aids.

Heading out to the main road I spot a 7/11 that is open and has stacks of interesting exotic and familiar drinks.  But before I do this I want to excise the torture that continues to cling like a damp sweaty shirt.   Which is exactly what I am wearing.

Next door is a small massage parlor that is empty.  I have been in places just like this all across Asia.  It is just what is says it is.   5 worn couches and a heavyset lady on her cell phone.

"You want massage Mr?"   ......add Malaysian accent. 

I don't usually get the full treatment so this time is no different.  I say reflexology and point to my feet.   She asks, "One Hour?"......."Yes please."

Keep in mind the charge is 50 ringit which is approximately $12

She goes to a door and calls upstairs and a slightly younger heavy set girl comes smiling into the room.  Grabs a bottle of oil and some towels and proceeds to give me as much relaxation as I want..... and apparently as much pain as I need. 

Her fingers are of course calloused and hard but it is the fingernail of her right thumb that she digs into the fleshy top of my foot, and drags down towards my heel, that makes me twitch and squirm.  More than just a little.

Of course I am trying to man up.  My eyes are closed and I mostly drift into some vaguely familiar realm of contentment.  Feeling that this prodding and digging must be working towards my physical if not mental benefit.  I can tell she knows what she is doing when she hits a spot that needs that thumb nail. She pauses as I squirm and digs just a little harder.

At first I was thinking I would come regularly during my stay.  But when it was all done I knew it was great but....... maybe I would wait a few days more before I returned.  As the days have stretched out since than it just may turn out to be never.  But the rejuvenation is now really and truly fully in place.

I buy my beverages, snacks, and bandages for the chafing the sandals have made in my heels....not the thumbnail.  I march back to the hotel to enjoy the sun setting in Port Dickson for the first time for me.

Of course it is always picturesque to see a sun dipping into the sea any sea.  I will take a shower, look at my photos, and write this letter, and than wonder. Wonder why the sign above says Atlantic.

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