Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In Transit

I wrote the post below while sitting at the Abu Dhabi airport waiting for my flight to Karachi.

I am currently sitting in the waiting lounge between gate 21 and 22 at Nadia International Air Port in Abu Dhabi. The temperature here is 32 degrees and its not like the Toronto 32 where the night cools down or Karachi 32 where the sea breeze would temper down the evenings. As I stepped out of the aircraft at terminal that didn’t have Jetway facilities I was welcomed by the hot desert air. At first I thought it cant be that hot, its probably just the engines, but I realized in a short bit that that was not the case.

If I were to give an award for the cheapest, tacky and ill equipped airport that I have been to, Abu Dhabi would be it. National flag carrier did not have access to jetway facilities, the security staff can barely communicate in any language other than Arabic. I asked one of them a question about the location of the gates and got a “yes, yes” in response. The maintenance staff is primarily south asian, Pakistani, Indian, Bengalis, and all of them are familiar with Urdu/Hindi so that’s a bit of relief.

Another sign that I am currently in Asia was the lack of civic respect that other travelers had towards the folks waiting in the lounge. There were several individuals smoking away under a no-smoking sign. When requested, they said “this the last one.” The attendants weren’t too bothered either, they walked passed these smokers without giving it a second thought. A norm for them I am sure.

The funny thing is that no one seems to paying attention to the PA systems. There are regular announcements about reporting to gates but people only move when an airline representative comes in the waiting area and shouts “anyone traveling to (put destination here)” He shouts a few times, gathers the bunch that he can and like a cowboy managing his herd, leads these passengers to the relevant gate.

At the moment, the terminal is full of Pathans, I have nothing against them except their stare which is rather disconcerting. To add to that, I am wearing shorts, I guess they like to watch bare legs on anything that walks up right. Me, the stewardesses, maybe an ape even if it passes by here. I have walked to gay neighborhoods of Toronto, Montreal and New York but have felt such piercing stares (Ryan, I can feel the pain of your Pizza Panzerotto experience).

And another feature exclusive to our part of the world, the physical expression of male bonding. Men walking around holding hands of other men, others holding each other by their wastes. Throw in a few dykes and fancy floats and we can have a pride parade UAE style.

My flight will start boarding in another 45 minutes. I would then be heading home after 3 years. There are 3 people in my hometown who are aware that I am coming, the rest would be get a surprise, hopefully a pleasant one, when I call on them. The thought of that, the anticipation of the responses and mostly being in Karachi with childhood buddies make all this worth it. And to be honest, its not bad, but rather a very amusing experience. Cant wait to breather the Karachi air, and maybe cough afterwards, but still breathe on.

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