My Journey of a Lifetime
The true story of a bizarre and unexpected journey back to my homeland.
In loving memory of my dear mother, Heather.
EXCERPT from the book -
July 18, 2012
It was a short, but emotional goodbye. As tears welled up in our eyes, our cousin handed my sister and I a Yorkie Bar each. We hugged her and her fiancé one last time then turned towards the check-in area at Manchester airport. Looking over our shoulders, mouthing “I love you”, we then walked the long glass lined corridor to the boarding lounge and waited.
And……..waited, and waited. The plane was running late. It seemed like the last couple of weeks had been spent sitting around waiting and waiting. In fact, the last couple of weeks felt so surreal. It felt like a dream. No, not a dream. A nightmare.
I looked out across the tarmac and the sun was still fairly high in the sky. We were due to depart at 9PM but it was well over an hour past that. I still couldn’t get over how the sun could be up at this late hour. It was something I was not happy about as a young child when last I’d been here, and I certainly didn’t get used to it the entirety of our stay in England now.
We finally boarded and took our seats in the middle aisle of the Emirates A380 Airbus. Deb sat to my left on the aisle seat and I was jammed next to two young oriental women who were acting kind of rude once we sat down. The one at my immediate right was holding her nose, then wafting her hand in front of her face as she spoke in her language to her companion. Their eyebrows were raised and they were clearly not happy. She seemed to be indicating through her actions that she thought we stank. Then the penny dropped. I realised that Deb had consumed a rich creamy garlic sauce with last night’s meal at the country inn that our cousins had taken us to for dinner. I had somewhat become accustomed to the garlicy smell since I’d spent the last twenty-four hours in close proximity to my sister. But when I realised and I turned towards her to whisper my revelation of their strange behaviour, my nose suddenly gained its full sense. Oh boy, this was going to be a long flight to Dubai.
Once we took off and the meal had been served, consumed and cleared away, the women beside me settled into nap time. Neither Deb nor I could sleep. I plugged the earphones in and began to watch the Fawlty Towers reruns. I was in desperate need of some light entertainment, but I can’t say that I even cracked a smile. It wasn’t just the fact that I had seen all twelve episodes umpteen times, but I was in zombie-mode. I was numb with shock, with pain, with grief and disbelief. I ordered a few Jack Daniels during the trip to try to zone out even more, but I certainly could not sleep.
Less than a month ago, life was jogging along nicely. Sure there were hiccups and the occasional bump in the road, but for the most part, I was content, with splashes of happy along the way. Actually I was ecstatic for my family members who were reuniting for the first time in over two and a half decades. My, how things can change in the blink of an eye.
I used to be a nervous flyer, not that I’d flown much and certainly not internationally. But after the long exhausting flight from one side of the world to the other, and a little under halfway back again I felt seasoned. Besides, what did I care if the plane crashed down? Like in the Alanis Morrissett song, I’d just say, “Well isn’t that nice.”
After about eight or so hours we finally landed in Dubai. I wasn’t aware where the plane had stopped after touchdown and taxiing. Being seated in the middle section of the plane, far away from the windows, I was not privy to what went on outside. It only became apparent once the doors were opened and we were ushered out of the front left door.
The stifling heat was the first thing that smacked me in the face. Then the shock of not being able to step directly into the concertina gangway. We exited down a staircase that was attached to the plane and onto the tarmac where we were met with awaiting buses. I could see the terminal a fair way off in the distance through the heat haze, but we were nowhere near it.
On our trip over to England, we’d taxied right up to the massive airport. I wondered why on the return trip we were “dumped” on the tarmac. As we were herded onto the crowded bus I began to have an internal panic attack. Deb and I were squashed, in a standing room only, section of the bus, unable to even reach up to grasp one of the stabilizer straps swinging from the roof. We were literally like sardines in a tin. My mind raced, just like the bus did across the steaming tarmac, jolting its passengers around like cane fields in a cyclone.
"What if we were being taken as hostages?" I thought
I’d heard stories about traveling to the Middle East and how dangerous it can be. Just our luck. After all we’d been through in the past couple of weeks as it was, and now this! How much more could we take? Oh the irony. Thanks Alanis! I was beside myself. If that was at all possible considering the cramped space I found myself squished into. All I wanted to do was get back home to my children, my family, my friends, familiar territory. The thought of not seeing any of my loved ones again paralysed me with fear.
"What are ‘they’ going to do with us? Where are ‘they’ taking us?"
My mind was in a whirl. I had no way of being able to let Deb know what was racing through my mind. I was too frightened to speak. Not just because of what I suspected was happening and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. But also because, what if what I thought was happening actually wasn’t, after all. Then how much of a fool would I look? I didn’t even know if Deb had drawn the same conclusion, but I am sure at one point she saw the terror in my eyes. I daren’t look at anyone else. What if someone on the bus was in on it? Or if nothing was happening, what if other passengers could read my mind and thought I was nuts? I was nuts. I was quietly going insane.
Some ten minutes or so had gone by since disembarking the plane and we looked no closer to the terminal. We seemed to be going around in circles.
Then it happened. Just like when you are drowning and all of a sudden you stop fighting it. God knows, I knew exactly how that felt. I surrendered. A peace came over me as I let go. I thought to myself,
"Well after all we’ve just been through, I don’t really care to go on anyway. If I die right here, right now, I welcome it with open arms. I am ready to meet my maker. What will be, will be."
Just as I resigned myself to my fate, the bus pulled up to the terminal and we were herded off like cattle to the slaughterhouse. It was only then that I realised what was actually happening……………..
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