The last time I saw my friend, Jill, before I departed Denver for the next installment of Adventures Unknown, she requested a blog post about my travels. I guess it seems potentially interesting or even glamorous to jet across multiple time zones to destinations few in most people’s inner circles have journeyed.
So here I am, obliging her request. And I am SO HAPPY to report that my travels, although lengthy, were exactly what you always want travels to be: UNEVENTFUL!
It started off not-so-good with a tearful good-bye to the newest member of our family, Nora Marie:
As a bit of a backstory, I planned my Home Leave to stretch as long as legally possible in hopes of being present for her birth. She was due exactly one week before my planned departure, but I was thoroughly prepared for her arrival to be typically late and to miss the entire event. Getting on that plane while mom was in labor was what I was expecting/preparing for, and It might’ve been the hardest thing I’d ever need to do. However, in an unprecedented moment of incredible cooperativeness, she arrived one week early! This gave me a full two weeks to enjoy her cuddles, and I am ever so grateful to her parents, Adam and Val, who accommodated my wishes and let me snuggle her every day I was home.
Leaving Randy, leaving family, leaving friends, leaving Quandary, leaving Denver, leaving Home Leave was difficult, but all that paled in comparison to leaving Nora Marie. It just about did me in.
Once that heart-rending event was behind me, the rest was fairly easy. Whenever I travel, especially to far-flung places involving multiple flights, I am always amazed when all goes smoothly. But, in fact, all did go smoothly. And I am so thankful.
My first destination was:
where unfortunately, I had a rather lengthy layover. I cannot speak highly enough of a Priority Pass lounge card, which we have via the Chase Sapphire Credit Card.
It’s an expensive card, but you receive much of the initial fee back in travel credit. I’m no Points Guy Guru, but it is worth the money. The lounges typically are pretty decent, free internet, free food and drink, and at least a bit more security than out in the airport waiting areas. Some even have showers and sleeping pods.
Anyway, I wrapped my arms around my carry-on luggage and fell sound asleep for several hours on a comfy sofa. I always try to sleep as much as possible while traveling. I don’t really subscribe to jet leg, so the more sleep I can get, the better that goes for me. (I know it isn’t scientific to ‘not subscribe to jet leg’, but for me it’s all about mind over matter. Besides, I knew I had to hit the ground running.)
I was a bit concerned about the 12.5 hour leg from JKF to Dubai, but it was not a full flight, so I was able to snag a few empty seats, and in between in-flight movies, stretch out and sleep soundly again. It went by very quickly, and I never even used any of the movies I had downloaded on my iPad. And Emirates is as nice an airline as you’ve always heard it was. The food was decent; the service wonderful; the plane a bit fancy, even in economy. And the flight attendants’ uniforms were amazing.
Once in Dubai, I found my way to the Kabul boarding area. I kept looking around thinking…all these people are going to Kabul (because it’s not like they’d be transiting through Kabul to anywhere else). Why? Why are all these people going to Kabul? And then it hit me, why am I going to Kabul? But I guess it was a bit late for that question. Ha.
On the reasonably quick flight from Dubai to Kabul, I had the good fortune of being seated next to an experienced embassy employee who was returning from an R & R. Thankfully, she gave me a few tips and pointers about where to go, what to do, who to hand my luggage tags to, and processing for the final leg of the journey went as smoothly as it could’ve possibly gone.
First, we exited the plane via a different route than everyone else. Then a fully armoured vehicle took us to a special section for clearing immigration. There we waited until our helicopter was ready to take us on the very last leg of our already lengthy journey. We watched the special safety briefing about no hats or open-toed shoes, the need to wear ear protection, and how to don our safety equipment, and enter the helo. I have a really awesome photo of myself in the helo, complete with all the requisite safety equipment, but we’re really not supposed to take photos in the helo, and certainly not share them, so this photo of my personal-issue flak jacket will just have to suffice for now:
Before I could scarcely take it all in, our six minute helo ride was over and we touched down on the compound, where I was greeted by my colleagues sporting this lovely welcome sign:
And just like that, my travels are over for now, and compound life begins.
By tradition, next up: first impressions!