The Frequent Flyer

I find it strange how accustomed I’ve become to airports. Specifically, the Lahore and Dubai airports.
Every few months, it’s the same process.

Try to get done the packing a few days before the day of departure but fail miseraly and end up doing alot of last minute packing till the very end, when you’re just about to step out the door. Leave at least 2 hours prior to flight time (since it’s an international one), all the while fending off anxious calls from home. Despite the fact that I’ve been doing this alone for nearly 3 years now, they still haven’t quite gotten used to the idea that you may actually know what you’re doing. Text a bunch of people goodbye while on your way to the airport, and make a sidenote to call a few of the ones who matter after you’re done at the DutyFree.

Reach the airport and find a porter, since there is no way you’re lagging around a 30 kg suitcase on your own. Try to look sophisticated while checking in so that you can get your seat upgraded, since your father always forgets to get a front seat booked when reserving the ticket. Of course, it always helps to smile alot when the attendant at teh check-in desk is male; alternatively, if it’s a woman, feign some sort of sickness or back ache. Get through baggage control and try not to lose your cool as people keep butting in line; hand a minimal tip to the porter and roll your eyes when he asks for an extravagant sum instead, he obviously assumes you must be some sort of gori/sheikha after seeing you’ve got a blue passport and are headed to Dubai.

Make it through passport control, too used to the typical scrutinising look at the man at the desk, there’s no point wondering why he has to look you all the way up and down and stop for a few seconds just below your neck; you know he would take a picture if he could. This specific instance is the same, be it in Dubai or Lahore; clearly subtlety is dead everywhere.

With everything stamped and cleared, you finally breathe a sigh of relief and make your way to the DutyFree, in Dubai airport of course. You get through the usual important chores first and buy the chocolates and knick-knacks you always get for the same people every single time. Then, you let out another sigh and start wandering around, aimlessly looking at books and gadgets and colognes, making a mental note about what you could possibly buy as presents for someone when an occasion arises. You buy the trashy mags you love to read on the flight, so you can get your weekly dose of celebrity gossip and high-end fashion trends, and then it’s snack time. As always, you contemplate between having McDonalds fries or a latte from Costa, and try to remember what you had last time so you can choose the alternative this time. You love this little bit of time, when you can sit down somewhere, sip some nice coffee, flip through the book you just bought, and remain oblivious to the hustle-bustle of all the other travellers. It’s like the calm before the storm. They all seem so frantic, and you know that you’ll be exactly like them in time..

At the Lahore airport, it’s a little different, but the hustle-bustle is still the same, maybe that’s a universal rule for airports everywhere: must be jam-packed and busy, or atleast appear to be. There are women with screaming children, young couples who you assume are going to Dubai for their honeymoon, men of all ages hoping to strike it rich in the Arabian city, and of course, the dancing girls of Lahore who are going to do what they do best, entertain the rich ones. There is no real duty free, just a few little stalls that sell odds and ends to vulnerable tourists at outrageous prices. No Costa or Mcdonalds, so you settle for some chai. No books or magazines worth buying, so you open up your laptop and watch an episode of wahtever show it is that you’re addicted to these days. Or you open up a blank document and write a little something, like you’re doing now. Despite the difference in the 2 airports, you manage to have your peaceful me-time, and you shut out all the external noise. You force your mind to become a blank canvas, you push out all the anxious thoughts you have about how it’ll be when you return to Dubai, and you try not to let it bother you that you couldn’t say bye to a few people you really wanted to see before leaving. You also don’t let yourself wonder why it seemed so important for you to see them.

Getting on the plane is usually the most annoying part of the entire process. There’s always an enormously long queue at the boarding entrance, with all the men pushing and shoving up front. Using the power of your gender, knowing that the tide of men will part like the Nile once did for Moses, you make your way to the front and hurriedly board the plane. You settle in and hope and pray as hard as you can that no one sits next to you; you’re not the type who likes to socialise on a flight, and despite the fact that you’ve actually met some interesting people in the commute, you’re not in the mood for it today.

There was a time when you’d get startled during take off and grip the edge of your seat, but it’s become too pedestrian now, so instead you now file your nails. You also can’t be bothered to look out the window as the plane ascends, you know exactly how the lights of each city twinkle, it’s not a new experience for you. You also know not to freak out as the engine roars and grumbles, and the plane starts to bump and shake at intervals. You know now thats it’s a small aircraft, a low-budget flight, so you just try to sleep all the way through. You take a pill and hope your headache, which is another constant travelling companion, will disappear. Soon you’re lost in a dreamless slumber, awakening only when you can feel yourself descending towards the ground. Towards home. Whichever one it may be.

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Stuck in a travel-less rut

Le Louvre

I want to travel.  I really, really do!

It’s a sad fact that I haven’t really gone anywhere beyond my comfort zone in the past…7 years!

In 2003, I moved to Dubai with my family after living in Canada for 6 years.  Since then, I’ve only ever been in the UAE or Pakistan.  It’s gotten even worse since I started college in 2008.  Before, I used to live in Dubai and go to Pakistan for a vacation.  Now I live in Pakistan and go back home to Dubai for a vacation.  I left Canada 7 years ago, and still haven’t even gone back there for a visit, unlike the rest of my family. It’s like I am stuck in some sort of never-ending vicious cycle from which I can’t escape! 

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel

 

Everyone around me is going places.  New York, Bangkok, Paris, London, Montreal, Istanbul, Kuala Lampur.  I am not asking for a world tour or even an all-expense trip to one of those cities.  I just want to get out of the Lahore-Dubai paradigm.  I am not trying to play the ‘poor little rich girl’ card but it’s just frustrating to hear about all these fantastic places but not have any hope of ever visiting them!  And no, telling me that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel after I am hitched is really NOT the answer.  Isn’t this the time to realy experience everything life has to offer?  At this age, I am literally at the cusp of adulthood; this is that short window of time that I have to make the most of before I get bogged down with responsibilities that revolve around a career and a mother-in-law. 

What would be truly ideal is if I could just do a semester or a summer term abroad somewhere.  I have always wanted to attend the Cambridge Summer School program but, realistically speaking, it’s a little more than what my poor daddy can afford, that’s IF he ever warms up to the idea of letting me go anywhere at all.  But there are plenty more programmes that are a lot cheaper but still hugely beneficial.  I think LUMS does a student-exchange program as well, but that’s with some university in Austria that I haven’t really heard of. 

I was actually checking out the summer term curriculum at AUP (American University of Paris).  It is heavenly!  First of all, its in PARIS (enough said).  Its the city of Louis Vuitton and where the Revolution went down, of sidewalk bistros and feather-light croissants, wine, cheese and escargots, of Chanel, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysees, of the Eiffel Tower, high fashion, and romantic architecture.  But I digress; its basically a 7 week program from June till mid-July and it’s got all these brilliant courses, and the thought of studying them just made me drool, as nerdy as that sounds.  There’s Intro to Islamic Art and Architecture, The History of Paris and a truly divine-sounding course on comparative literature called Modernist Experiments of Migration: 

Explores the work of Anglo-American modernist writers in Paris, concentrating on the works of Ernest Hemingway, Wyndham Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, and other writers. Relates their formal experimentation to the visual arts and to the psychic dynamics of exile: the experience of liberation from the constraints of one culture and an alienated relation to the new environment.

Sigh.  One day, I suppose.  One day, I shall go to Paris, show off my high-school French, do everything on this list ( http://matadortrips.com/how-to-be-literary-in-paris/ )  and devour all that makes the city so magical.  One day, I’ll go to all the other places I have listed on a spreadsheet in my mind, thats keeps growing every week.  But I hope that day comes soon, because right now, the book of my life has only has a few chapters that even I wouldn’t be bothered to read.  One day, I’ll travel because like St Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The oh so Parisienne architecture