Getting to Russia: Leaving Home Pt.2

Passport.

Ticket.

Boarding pass.

Checked twice.

And then me.

Antigua –> London (Gatwick – TN)
Oct 11 2015
2140 – 1030 (0750)

London (Heathrow – T5) –> Moscow
Oct 12 2015
2150 – 0340 (0350)

Moscow –> Krasnoyarsk
Oct 13 2015
1010 – 0650 (0440)

I cannot truly explain the luxury of being clumsy on the outside as well as on the inside. But I will try. Going through security…was nothing, but it was also very much like being tortured. First, I had to locate security…which was immediately to the front (my right) and then figure out the maze to getting there…which it turned out was just a few long lines going this way and that until the exit which was the maximum of 10 feet away.

I was confident, or at least I was pretending be, on the inside. After hoisting my carry-on onto the belt surface, detaching my jackets and placing them in a plastic tray, I placed my overly stuffed laptop bag up as well. And then I turned my thoughts to watching Tiffaney go through the process so that I could feel less ignorant. But I couldn’t.

“Please place all devices in the trays.
“Do I have to take my laptop out of the bag.”
“Yes. If you have any devices in your bags or in your pockets, place them in the tray.”
“Okay.”

I had stuffed my bag in a very neat and organized way: wires here; adapters there; books to that side; tablets in one pouch; phones in the outer sides; laptop and all important documents at the center; and chocolate bars and cakes tightly packed into whatever spaces were left. And now I would have to undo all of my hard work…quickly.

As I opened the bag, candy and cakes began to spill. I caught them and pushed them to the sides as I opened the bag fully. And then I was fighting with the laptop. It budged only a little each time. And then finally it gave. The other devices were retrieved with ease.

Next, I was de-clothed. I hadn’t been ready for this. I ask for each instruction, about the removal of my belt, which held my large pants on my waist, and shoes, twice. I removed them and felt more awkward than before. Trying not to feel more self-conscious I pushed through the motions of being patted, walking through the metal detector, and waiting for my belongings to get to me. And again I was fighting with them as I tried to shove everything into the bag all at once. It took awhile. Tiffany finished gathering herself and stood waiting. I tried to arrange the sweaters on my suitcase, but that didn’t quite work either.

I dragged my carry-on towards Tiffaney with my laptop bag still open, and my belt unbuckled, and the sweaters thrown over the carry-on in a haphazard fashion. I pushed the thoughts of my awkardness away, as I looked this way and that for Mr. Cavehill.

“Are you ready?”

He had been standing at the side, waiting. He led us into the departure lounge where he handed over the documents I would need, while informing us of who would meet us in Moscow. He then ensured that we had his number, as well as the number of our contact person in Moscow. He sat ensuring that we each had all the documents we would need. And then, he sat for a bit longer in silence. Tiffany and I found a bathroom and we fixed ourselves, and returned quickly. Soon, it would be time for us to board. Cavehill give us a word of encouragement while also noting that it would not be an easy feat. And then we were alone.

Cavehill had told us where the gate was, and we sat watching the airline workers as they readied themselves for the approaching time. By the time it was announced that passengers could board there was already a line.

We boarded with ease, relative ease. Despite having pulled myself together, repacked my bag, and rearranged the sweaters I was still awkward. As I arrived at the opening of the plane I stopped, and tried to hoist my bag into the plane by its handle. It didn’t work. On my left I carried my laptop bag, and the sweaters which I couldn’t rearrange on the suitcase as they had been. With my free arm, I pushed down the handle and lifted it by its strap. I had forgotten how heavy it was. And finally I was in the plane.

I had never in all of my previous pre-anxiety reruns thought that finding my seat would be an issue. But it was. After being told to go to the second corridor I was on my own with several persons behind me. I felt lost. I pulled over to the side and asked where we were. The passenger in the seat fussed with her things until she found her ticket, and told me. She was ever so kind about the whole ordeal despite being disturbed. Tiffany relayed that she had an idea of where we should be and so I began to walk feeling rather blind. It was an entirely foreign feeling of being misplaced in an enclosed space of no great size. Finally we arrived at our row, and I was confused about seats, then clumsy with the luggage compartment, and interacting with the helpful passenger who opened said compartment. Ugh! It felt like a lesser but still intense form of torture. I stumbled into my seat, strapped myself in, and waited.

I heard the sound of something hitting plastic, the plastic in my lap. It was wet. There was a small puddle on its surface. And there it was. Water was dripping from the plane. I didn’t know what to do. Calling the stewardess was an option but I would first have to get her attention and I simply didn’t know how to, and of course I was too nervous about it. Suppose this was a signal that something was wrong, and the plane crashed. Then we would die. I prayed for forgiveness, and a safe flight, and moved to the empty seat between us. The water continued to drip for awhile. I am unsure of when it stopped, but by the time we landed it wasn’t dripping anymore.

I peered out of the window awkwardly from the middle seat. The space was vast and covered in unpainted cement with a wash of orange light. The plane began its journey down the runway, and then we were in the sky. It was dark. There was nothing else to see except the light blinking on the plane’s wing. I brought my attention to the interior once again.

For the next seven hours and fifty minutes I would sit in this seat feeling cold and awkward, unable to sleep. I would close my eyes at some points and at others I stared at various sections of the plane. But, oddly, I don’t regret it in the least. Very near to the end of the flight, but far enough away from last so that I could only discern sea and land I got to watch the sun rise. It was spectacular. It was the most wonderful experience I have ever had. It was so beautiful, so perfect. I felt as though I was watching God paint the sky.

I was ecstatic. I could not have been any happier or any more at peace than I was in that moment. I was content, and elated. It was, and will remain (I presume) the purest form of beauty I have seen. Simply thinking about it makes me calm. (Thank You, Jesus!) And my journey continued with a happier me.

Having realize where the bathroom was, and how the door was operated I made use of the facilities still feeling very aware of how clumsy I must look fidgeting with the door. And then I was falling across Tiffaney to get to my seat again. We were served breakfast. It was then then that we realized that the passengers who we had envied for having empty seats next to them in the middle seat column where they could lie across and actually sleep weren’t occupants of the middle row. They had simply seized the opportunity and slept there. They were returning to their original seats. We were besides ourselves with a mixture of amusement, and bewilderment at having missed the opportunity to sleep, and to sleep in relative if not complete comfort.

The sun, had risen fully. The sky, was bright, and beautiful. This time I delve for and into my laptop bag shoving my fingers here and there trying to find my phone. Bent in half between two seats, with my seatbelt on I twisted my head in every possible way to see, then feel for the device. With my face pressed into the back of the seat in front of me, and my sealtbelt keeping my hips connected to the seat, I couldn’t reach deeper. Pulling the bag to my lap had proved to be much too much work. So I wouldn’t be doing that again. I pull my face out of the cushion while righting my position, undid my seatbelt then slammed my face and fingers into the seat and bag again. Bent forward with my face as far into the seats back as was possible without disturbing it’s occupant, I felt my phone. And then I began the jerky movement of pushing it here and there in the tightly packed bag, as I tried to get it to the top. As I had thought, it was a clumsy and tiring effort that left me breathless. I caught my breath for several seconds before preparing to take the image. I took a few snaps, and then continued to enjoy the view.

Soon after we flying over land, and I could discern trees, and streets, green blankets over the land here and there. I loved it. As time progressed we got closer and closer, and closer, until we finally touch the earth’s surface again.

And the anxiety began its slow boil again.

Getting To Russia: Leaving Home Pt.1

After three or four months I can’t say it’s a blur, a clouded moving image maybe, but not a blur. It might have been significantly better if I, as a self-proclaimed writer, had penned my doings sooner. But that is never the case as I either find other things to better the procrastinator in me, or write, re-write, write again and discard thousands of words…to better the writer in me, I guess. Nonetheless, here we are finally at the “unveiling” of all my re-writes, many thoughts about how to correctly, and adequately portray my experiences, and the feelings attached to them then and now. Initially, I wanted to follow the advice of my good friend, advisor, and editor, Chelsea. However, as I stand writing this I feel a desire to simply tell you about the instances which stand out in my mind.

My itinerary looked a bit like this:

Antigua –> London (Gatwick – TN)
Oct 11 2015
2140 – 1030 (0750)

London (Heathrow – T5) –> Moscow
Oct 12 2015
2150 – 0340 (0350)

Moscow –> Krasnoyarsk
Oct 13 2015
1010 – 0650 (0440)

As I walked along the long corridor with my mother I inhaled the salty air. It was cold, and crude, and I liked it. I felt like my nation was saying goodbye to me. It felt like the 365 beaches we often boast were waving to me with their silent voices, for I couldn’t hear them. I could only feel the strength of their breath as they wrapped themselves around me, clinging to my skin, as if saying “Don’t forget us. We will not forget you.”

And then I was in another cold: a still, unfeeling, “professional” cold of the airport’s interior with it’s bright, harsh lights which held no personality, and it’s large space which held no voice or emotion of its own. I walked to the counter. I was greeted, and returned it. Then I gave what was asked of me. I was nervous, and cold. I felt alone….I had left the sounds of my home at the door. This port, this transition, from island-sounds to no sound was a quick one. I yearned to be outside in the air with the silent, talking waves, but I dared not tempt myself with such luxuries of being too near to who I’d come to be. I was leaving myself…so I tried to embrace it. I pushed thoughts of never smelling the salty air of my shores to the farthest regions of my mind, as I slid my empty navy blue, passport across the chilly, marble counter, and waited, trying to let everything happen with as little feeling as was possible. And then it was over. I could breath again. I was taking the cold into my lungs, as I moved in this silence as though I was apart of its design.

I saw Tiffaney, and her family standing in what looked to me like the centre of emptiness. They spoke silently, huddled together in a small space. Here they stood out, and yet in the vast building around and above, they were insignificant. Under the bright, hollow lights they were less animated, and so were my family and I. We stood there talking together…about nothing. Tiffaney would be my companion for the next few days. She would inevitably leave me, but our journey together would be a long one, and so we began to connect.

“Do you know what I should put here? I don’t know if I should put our first location or our last.”
“I don’t know either. What is that?”
“Oh. You didn’t get one?”
“No.”
“The lady at the counter told me I would need it.”

I watched her as she ran off. I was anxious. It wasn’t just a small simmer like my feeling at the counter. It was bubbling now, softly, but it was bubbling. She returned with the small, thin square form and asked her aunt. She couldn’t remember. And it bubbled further. I looked around in what to me felt frantic, but to others might have looked simply observatory. I located four uniformed individuals on the floor. Of the four, one odd couple wore similar uniforms. I knew one of them was my target. They continuously moved across the floor as I analyzed the mark that would tell me who it would be. And then I found it, a very obvious difference I managed to miss, the words I needed “…Airport Authority”. I continued to bubble. I almost lost the courage but grabbed it at the last second, when she was almost gone.

“Excuse me.”
“Hi?”
“Do you know what I should put here?”

She knew. She asked where I was going, and told me that I should put my first locations: Antigua and London. We completed our forms. And then we waited. And then, it was time. But I wasn’t ready.

“So you are going to board now?”
“No. I have to wait.”
“What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t have all of my documents for the university.”

It began boiling in that way, that makes an unstable pot vibrate on a stove top. I couldn’t leave without my documents. Where was Mr. Cavehill?

“Did you call him?”
“No. He said he would give them to me here.”
“He said he was coming to the airport?”
“Yes.”
“Do you have his number?”
“Only his office number.”
“You should have his cell. Call him.”

I called. It rang. I called. It rang. I called again. And again, and again. Tiffaney’s aunt called a friend who worked with him. And then they left. And we continued to wait. Tiffaney sat calmly, as she waited for me waiting on him. I was anxious.

Suppose he didn’t come? He would come. Suppose he had forgotten? I had bugged him for the last year and he’d seen me just two days ago. He would not forget. Suppose he got there late? Suppose he got there too late?

“If he’s not here in the next few minutes you should board.”
“And what are you going to do?”
“I have to wait. I can’t do anything without my documents.”

But I considered her words. Maybe I could go and then he would send the documents later. But what would I do without the documents. I would basically be stranded, right? What would be the point of arriving without the documents. And so I resolved to wait even if it became too late. And then he was there.

“What are you doing out here? You should have checked-in already?”
“We were waiting on you.”
“Waiting on me?”
“Yes, for the documents.”
“You should have checked-in. I would have brought them to you.”
After we checked-in?”
Yes. I can go anywhere. You didn’t know?”

I hugged my grandmother, aunt, mom, brother. Then we were off. And up the stairs. And I forgot to look back. I forgot to tell them a final goodbye, with a wave from the last point at which they would see me.

I forgot to burn their goodbye smiles into my memory. And I forgot to give them one last smile, one last wave.