Flying Solo

doha qatar

It might surprise you to know that traveling for this trip made me nervous.  I have traveled on my own domestically, but never internationally. There is something unsettling about traveling to a place where they do not speak my language or use my money. The language part isn’t so much of an issue, until you leave the airport.  The money thing…well, it’s math.  Conversion rates, different forms of currency all worth different amounts, none of which I am familiar with are a great cause for my anxiety.  Math has always scared me.  When going to a foreign country, I am usually on a needs-to-know basis with veteran travelers.  I blindly follow them, like a sheep or a puppy.  All transfers and layovers, all currency exchange, all transportation needs, I just follow along fully trusting they know what they are doing. Because of this fact, I do not know what I am doing, and now that I am solo, I am having to learn.

Hannah booked all of the details over Christmas while she was home.  She had the utmost confidence in me, so much so, I starting having confidence in me, too. Even as I approached the international terminal with knots in my stomach, I kept telling myself ‘I can do this.’  Have you ever noticed how irrational fear is, well, irrational? I arrived many hours early because I would rather sit around the airport for hours than get caught in a mad rush to make my flight.  I had managed to check in online the night before with a bit of help from some friends, so I simply needed to check my bag once I arrived. Piece of cake. I watched the bag slide through the little door into the black abyss with satisfaction.  I was done in five minutes.  It has been a while since I checked a bag, and to be walking with only my purse felt freeing.  However, as I walked away, I noticed the bag ticket was for my final destination, not my layover.  In a calm manner, I went back to the desk and asked the woman if I would have my bag in Qatar for my overnight layover. The very nice lady said, no, I would not. Fortunately, I had packed my medicine in my purse just in case my bag got lost…I had no idea I would shoot myself in the foot before I ever took to the sky.  Still that little glitch wasn’t the end of the world.  I chalked it up to a rookie mistake.

I managed to get to the right gate, in the right line, and into the right seat.  I know, I know, I hadn’t even left Atlanta yet and everything was in English, but still, I felt accomplished. In my seat was a packet with a sleep mask, socks, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and lip balm.  Hurray! I tucked it away for my layover. Once we were in the air, the meal came and it wasn’t too bad, until the flight attendant spilled someone’s tomato juice down the side of my head.  I was covered with juice, in my hair, down my neck, and all over my shirt.  The poor girl, was horrified and tried desperately to wipe me clean with cocktail napkins, creating some early flight entertainment for all of my middle eastern friends. Eventually, she got some wet wipes and allowed me to try to clean myself off. Sticky, but tomato free, I continued on.

There was an adorable elderly couple next to me.  They spoke no English, but we did our best to communicate.  I helped the woman get her seat leaned back, much to the dismay of the man behind her.  Several hours into the 12-hour flight while I was sleeping, she began to groan.  I woke to her pulling on my arm.  After a game of charades, I discerned she was asking for a gas pill, which I did not have.  The poor woman was miserable for most of the flight, crying out in pain and switching positions every couple of minutes.  At some point her husband got up and let her lie down in both their seats so she could sleep.  I tried to go back to sleep to no avail.  On the bright side, I got to watch 4 movies.

When we arrived, I took off my compression socks to feet swelled up like grapefruit. All my calisthenics while waiting in line for the bathroom, had failed to keep cankles from appearing.  I did however, keep the audience entertained with my walking in place, ankle twirls, and toe lifts.  So that is something.

My true test came when trying to get from the airport to my air b and b.  This short little transfer involved money, transportation, and a language barrier.  I managed to get through immigration and to the taxi stand.  Cash only.  I had planned to pay with a credit card, so I wouldn’t have to exchange money for such a short stay.  I didn’t want to turn on my cellular data to get an Uber, so I went to the ATM.  I had no idea how much to get, so I asked the cab lady and she told me what to do. I got a cabbie who was super nice, but didn’t know where he was going, so I had a nice tour of Doha before finally arriving at my hotel.  The room looked nothing like the pictures on the air b and b website, but there was a bed and a toilet and a shower, so I was happy. I went to take a shower to remove the last of the tomato juice from my matted hair, but there were no towels.  I went to plug in my phone, but my adapter was not with me. Rather than try to find a place to eat, I ate the snacks I had in my purse…thank God, I put them in there!  I decided just to go to bed, in my clothes, tomato hair and all.

I went to bed at 6:00 pm local time, exhausted from my lack of sleep.  I was in deep REM when the mosque next door had the call to prayer, loudly over the speakers. I had heard one while on my driving tour, but somehow being woken from sleep made it seem louder.  Honestly, I thought it was kind of beautiful, but to hear it so often I think I would not like it for long. I did wonder, if I had a reminder to pray several times a day if it would help me remember.  I wished I had used those earplugs, for now I was once again wide awake at 8:00 pm.  Listening to cats fight in the streets…I think it was cats, anyway.  I drifted out until my room phone rang brining me back awake again.  It was the front desk calling to tell me they had a driver available to take me back to the airport at 4:00 am.  I had a few more hours of sleep before waking and being unable to go back to sleep.  That’s why I am writing this blog, trying to empty my mind so I can get drowsy again.  All of this adventure…on my first day.  Seriously, I thought this might be the most lighthearted of my blog posts on this trip.  A few more hours before I take my wrinkled, matted self, back to the airport.  Who knows what my next two flights will bring!  Stay tuned…

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