From Poland to Russia. That’s a domestic flight.

9 Sep

And, lift off! LOT – Polish Airlines – is in the air in route to Warsaw with final destination — land of Peter the Great – St. Petersburg, Russia.

Excitement. Apprehension. Wonderment. Those are the feelings right about now. I’m just relieved I made my flight because we’re off to a rocky start. I hate typing those words since my travel day has just begun. It’s 6:28 AM my time or 12:28 AM (EST).

My head hit the pillow around 1 AM and I woke around 3:30 AM. Taxi – Audi station wagon – wisked me to Krakow airport around 4:30 am. My taxi drivers is the same dude I bribed to drive me to DHL only weeks ago. It was nice to see his face. Safe hands… At least for the next 29 minutes or so.

Ok. So, my final destination is St. Petersburg, Russia so one would safely assume that I would be departing at Krakow’s international terminal. Makes sense. Right? I need to learn whenever I “assume,” I’ll wind up lost or screwed.

Taxi man drops me off. We wish each other “good life” and my feet briskly carry me to the international terminal It’s cool out. I have 2 t-shirts, jacket and scarf. Try to wear as much clothes as possible so they won’t charge me extra for baggage weight. Every ounce counts here.

It’s 5:05 am and the the place is DEAD. My flight is to take off in an hour. The only airline operating is Lufthansa – those folks are going to Munich. Hmmm… I don’t understand. I don’t even see a LOT kiosk or LOT gate. There’s no LOT.

I stand in the mini-airport and just look around. I inhale. OK. What am I missing here. I’m tired. Unlike Beirut, signs are in English. No LOT. There are a few stragglers hanging around – think homeless or old men up all night – and a few stragglers in line for Munich. I walk outside. Does LOT have their own terminal and in my haste of wishing Taxi man “good life” I walked in the wrong door?

Nope. No LOT terminal. I walk back in. This time my breathing starts to get heavier. I look at the time. My flight leaves in 50 mins. I spy some security dudes, lazily strolling around, heads down, in deep conversation. I walk behind them. The rollers on my bag echo off the walls.  They take no notice of the frantic hysteria on their tails…

“Oh, excuse me… English… do you speak English?”  They keep walking. I say it again, “only louder with a higher pitched tone.” They turn. “English?”

The taller, darker one says, “Yes.” I show him my flight itinerary.  He just stares and smiles at me. It dawns me he can’t read.  “Can you tell me where I check in for LOT? It’s going to Warsaw at 6 am. My final destination is Russia. Can you help me?”

He pointed to an office door with a LOT sign. I smiled. Good. Can’t imagine checking in at an office, but at least I know LOT exists. The sign said it does not open until 5:30 am. It’s 5:11 am. I’m clearly in the wrong place. I get in line at Lufthansa.  Airport people know each other. They know the system. Security – another story. Plus, they have to speak basic English.

I wait. Wait. And, wait.  People in front of me are going to the States and something is wrong with their VISA. Shit. It’s VISA again… I wait. Stare at the time. My eyes scan for LOT people. LOT badges. LOT anything. It’s 5:16 am. What happens if I miss my flight to Warsaw and then to St. Petersburg. I know what happens – but I’m still have time to fix this.

My hands start to swell. Mouth turning dry. These men line up behind me with 7 or 8 foot tools. Looks like they are carrying canoe paddles. Their loud. Polish. Speaking in constants. I can’t hear them. My eyes pour in the back of the family in front of me. Come on lady, le’ts move it. Do you have a VISA or not?

It’s now 5:20 am and the LOT door is still closed. The women moves. I smile. The Lufthansa kid smiles back. Thank you lord! I tell him my situation. Annoyance emerges. He said, “you are at the wrong terminal. Warsaw is domestic. It’s 500 meters.”

Flashback to High School crew days. Is 500 meters the entire race or the sprint? I asked, “can I walk?” He repeats, “it’s 500 meters.” Looks like I’m sprinting. The clock now says 5:26 am.

I inhale. Clasp by bags. And, haul ass through the vacant terminal. Out the door. Run into another security teen. I ask him, “Domestic?” And point. He nods. Smiles. Nods. Damn, he doesn’t speak English. He has that look.

Down the sidewalk. Keeping my head down, I start to pace my breathing.  I tell myself — no pain in shoulder or hand…there’s no pain… I notice the sidewalk is made out of the same bricks I used to pave the shed floor at Habitat.  I feel comforted by the bricks.

Stay focus. Around the corner, there’s a building. Is it? Nope. Cargo. I trot by. Next building is big. It has to be it. Nope. It’s security. The sidewalk is dark. No lights. No cars. I keep trotting. You have GOOOOT to be kidding me. Am I going to get friggin lost trying to find the domestic terminal in airport the size of Burger King. Prespiration. My stomach growls. Legs are tired. Heart moving to fast. Break it down to the obnoxious fast walk thing where the hips are bouncing back and forth. I’m willing my backpack rollers to turn faster and faster. I round the corner. There’s light. Stairs. And, the red lights “domestic.” Made it! Now, let’s hope the gate is not closed.

I see LOT. LOT exists. There are 2 people left in line to check in. I exhale. My throat is so dry that I begin to cough. Now dry heave. I’m dry heaving. Fab. The nuns look at me.  My eyes are watering.  I’m doing the controlled dry heave.  Where is my gum. I have no liquids for I’m about the go through security. Gum. Grab the gum. I pawn through my backpack, trying to control the urge to  barf. Clearly, I’m not in shape. Gum inserted in mouth and throat goes from sand paper to soft scrub. I step into line acting like everything is “cool.” Of course I didn’t just trot 500 meters to catch a domestic flight to Russia.  Who does such things….

I’m checked in. Gate guy wishes me a “good life.” Second time I heard it this AM, and it’s only 5:48 AM. The line for radiation is 20 feet. (Don’t know meters). I line up behind a nun. I look at the sign of “what not to carry on.”  They’ve listed kayaks,canoes and martial art weapons like brass knuckles,  nun-chucks and bayonets.  I sooo wanted to whip out my camera.  I mean a Kayak?  Did someone try to convince them that it would fit in the overhead space?   What is a nunchuck?  Of course, I read numb-nuts.  I could not stop laughing.  I mean out loud giggling.  I pictured the whole numb-nut and kayak scene.  Thank you God. My anxiety level is slowly resuming normalcy. Throat is secreting moisture on its own.

It’s 5:55 AM and my flight leaves in 5 mins. I’m next through the strip search of security. Two pilots and four flight attendants que in behind me. I make it through the pat down. It’s 5:57 am and I jump on the bus to take me to the LOT plane. I sit. It’s quite. One other late comer is on the bus. The bus does not move. Seriously. Am I on the wrong bus now?

It’s 5:59 am. I’m about to stand up, then the flight crew boards the bus. Please don’t tell me that’s our pilot. The bus lurches forward. We round the corner. I look out the window, searching for a LOT plane. We pass the security building, cargo building – the buildings I just trotted by moments ago. We head to the international terminal. Yep. You guessed it. Bus stops at international terminal only 60 or so feet from my launching pad only 30 minutes ago.   I knew from Poland to Russia was international.  Well, I got a quick jog on the way to the flight.   That’s all I can ask for.

I board the plane with 10 windows along with the flight crew. It’s not our pilots, just stewardess.  The ride along pilots butt in front of me and grab all the first class seats. I make my way to the back of the plane tuck my knees in. We lift off – the world is slowly waking up. I think about today – the people that will leave this world. The people that will come into this world. The people getting a promotion or the ones getting  terminated. The people who will go hungry another day and those who will embrace gluttony.  The people who want to be heard and those who are silenced.

Today is a beautiful day. Full of hopes. Full of fears. Full of life. I’m so blessed to be flying thousands of meters, feet and inches above watching God unfold this day to me. I’m gearing up for Peter the Great and Putin.

The cabin is quiet. The flight attendant hands me a 6:39 AM snack. Princess cookies! Love them. Today is going to be a good day.

I landed in Warsaw. We were welcome with another dose of radiation and a pat down.   I found a cafe that served hot sandwiches, across from my gate and started humming “Last Christmas” by George Michael.  I ordered a latte and a sandwich which I prayed was not drenched in mayo. I realized Warsaw muzak is playing an eight-track of GM for the next song is Careless Whispers. I smile.

As I sipped my coffee and stared, I tuned into the sophisticated ladies sitting next to me.  One woman is from Bulgaria woman looks like Olivia Bensen from Law & Order SVU. The other two are older – blonds – and are Lebanese. I believe they live in Beirut. A Bulgarian woman is asking them about Beirut. My ears perk up.

Bulgaria woman asks, “I haven’t been to Beirut. They wear regular western clothes, right?” They respond, “Why of course!” She goes on, “Well, I went to this party in Bulgaria. These Lebanese women were there. They had scarfs. But, then they were dancing on the tables. I was like, WOW!  WOW!  This was a Lebanese woman. When they moved fast the the scarfs came undone.”

Beirut lady, “The West side of Beirut is more progressive. You know in France they are doing a lot of questions about this. They are not letting people cover their face. And, the Muslims are upset.”   Bulgaria woman is silent. She is not going there – not giving her opinion. Conversation changes to weather.  I applaud her.

Bulgaria woman continues on…”They are educated in Lebanon, no? Women are educated. I met women in Kuwait.  They are not educated. They are covered but can’t read. In Lebanon, the woman are safe. They can work. It’s comfortable. They are safe. They have more freedoms than in other countries. Men don’t bother them.  They are safe.”

Bulgaria woman, “I did not like LA. I like San Diego. I like tan. It’s not good for the skin. But, in moderation. It’s good.”

Bulgaria woman, “Your husband is tall? That’s good. It’s nice to be tall. Tall is good.”

Beirut woman, “I was model. They come to my house to ask if I could model. I was tall. They come to my house to ask my father.”

Bulgaria woman, “ I was 16. This man comes to my house. I look Arabic you know.  He was Arabic.  Older.  I have curly hair, dark and the Arab uni-brow.  You know, the Arabic look…. He brings my father rice. He says he wants to marry me. My father got angry. Very angry. He angry with me. 16. Not married at 16. Nooooooooo…  I’m not married now. I’m 38. Yes, I look young. It’s because I’m not married, no?”

Bulgaria woman, “I have a cousin who is married to a rich Lebanese man. Very rich. Yes, she’s still married. Doctor of a very rich woman. My cousin, very beautiful woman. She has no choice. She has to be beautiful or husband gets mad.”

Bulgaria woman, “I want to have kids. But, it’s not so easy. When you’re older. But whatever the God Will. Whatever the God will. I need to find a prince… But, there are no prince. I look, but no prince. Maybe I don’t need a prince.  Maybe I just need a baby.  I’m a nurse.” Lebanese women agree.

Bulgaria woman, “I like different things. I communicate very easy with people. I like travel.”

I like traveling too. Listening. Asking questions. Curious…. So, curious…. Another George Michael song – You’ve Got to Have Faith. They’re about to call for my flight to St. Pete. Need to brush the tooth, apply lip gloss, touch the VISA and “load’em up.” We’re off. Next blog will about landing and getting to the hotel.  Wish me luck!

2 Responses to “From Poland to Russia. That’s a domestic flight.”

  1. jamie morris 15/09/2010 at 12:26 am #

    ADAY!

    I love the happiness and joy that you radiate in this piece. I, personally, would have been FLIPPING OUT!

    Love to you!
    jme

  2. Stephanie 14/09/2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Ah! you were stressing me out with your airport drama. So glad you got to your plane and arrived safely in Russia. Looking forward to learning more about Russia with you.

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