Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My First Excursion

It was August of 1999. I was getting ready to start my sophomore year of college. In my previous 19 years I had been many places, but nothing could have prepared me for my first overseas voyage. My family had just recently moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and I was going over to see them for the first time.....Needless to say, I was a little nervous.

I arrived at the airport extra early since they say that you should be there earlier for international flights. I've come to find out this is a lie. I think it's just an extra attempt to make you sit around the airport longer and spend more money on Hot Tamales and gossip magazines in the gift shop.

They finally called for my flight to start boarding and I remember getting on the plane thinking, "this is the coolest plane I've ever been on." It had 3 rows across of three seats each. Each seat had it's own tv. I sat down and the flight attendants started passing out water and orange juice. During the flight, they passed out ice cream bars and candy(on top of the two meals we got). Life was good.

As the captain told us to prepare for landing, I remember looking out the window and seeing London, thinking to myself "I can't believe I'm on the other side of the Atlantic. I'm in London, England!"

I got off the plane and soon realized that my flight from London to Saudi Arabia was actually leaving out of Heathrow(on the other side of London from where I landed at Gatwick Airport). I had to catch a bus that would take me between airports. The problem was I didn't have a clue where to begin looking for the place to catch the bus. It was at this moment that my guardian angel appeared. He was about 5' 9", 300 pounds wearing denim overalls. Not to mention the thick Southern accent and six gold chains hanging around his neck. Okay, probably not what you would consider a guardian angel, but he turned out to be. We struck up a conversation and quickly realized that he too was from Oklahoma and worked in Saudi Arabia. He was on his way back after a three week vacation. He helped me find where to catch the bus and helped me navigate my way around Heathrow Airport(the world's busiest).

The flight to Saudi Arabia was fine. I actually flew into Bahrain(an island in the Persian Gulf) and then drove over the King Fahd Causeway to Saudi Arabia. When I got off the plane, everyone was speaking Arabic and I didn't have a clue what to do. My guardian angel helped me out again and before I knew it, I was picking up my bags from baggage claim. I walked through the doors of baggage claim and there was my family waiting for me. What a relief. 24 hours and thousands of miles later, I had arrived. As we walked out of the airport to the car, my glasses fogged up and I could feel the heat immediately. It was 8 o'clock at night and still 100 degrees. Welcome to the Middle East.

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