Friday, March 14, 2014

Storyteller: In Transit

August 1st and 2nd 2013


These next two days went by in an absolute blur.

The group met up at Piarco International Airport on Aug 1st, 2013. Mind you, two days prior to that, the date was set for July 31st and if it wasn’t for a happenstance conversation with another participant, me and a few others might have been at the airport a day earlier.

Anyways, as per tradition, I had KFC before the flight and packed a “just incase” chicken sandwich as I always do (I doh play with my belly) and I assembled with the group, said goodbye to my family, and I boarded BW Flight 907.

I sat in aisle seat 39C next to Gabriella, another participant. I was impressed by the air plane; it was so fancy! At least, fancier than the planes Caribbean Airlines provides for passengers going from Trinidad to New York and vice versa. There were individual TV monitors on the back on each chair! No stretching your neck to view the one monitor that is provided for every three rows or so. The sad thing about novelty is that it wears off. Initial delight lasts only so long, eventually becoming just another normal thing, so I try to enjoy life's simple pleasures when I can.

Even the in-flight meal was a welcomed change from the in-flight snack passengers get on the New York flight. However, the "Did you know...?" blurb on the meal tray is always perpetuating some historical absurdity about the Caribbean. Ok, maybe it's not a "historical absurdity" per say. My issue is with this whole Christopher Columbus "discovering" us thing.

Yes, it was a new discovery for him and the people he represented, but why is Caribbean Airlines writing this as though it's from the perspective of those said peoples? The islands were already inhabited before 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, by the Caribs and Arawaks. And while yes, they acknowledge that bit, as Caribbean people, where is the headway in mentioning Christopher Columbus, if it's not to inform de people that he washed up on our shores bearing gifts of genocide, strife, and heartache? Using the word "discovers" promotes this colonial mindset inferring that our presence on the world map needs to be validated by outside parties.

9 hours and 20 minutes later, Pilot Steven Dass had transported us safely from Trinidad to London, Gatwick. From Gatwick, we had to transfer to Heathrow Airport by coach. I was just excited to breathe London air or smog, depending on your perspective. I was even more excited that the study tour allowed for an optional in-transit tour of London (Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and South Bank). Unfortunately, it was dressed up to sound like much more than it was, which was just a quick turn on the Tube.

And even more unfortunate, we didn’t get time to do it, because storing our luggage into Yotel, Heathrow was.. technical. The inspiration behind Yotels come from Japanese capsule hotels, so you can imagine, they're quite incommodious accommodations. They only allow for one passenger or two travel companions to freshen up and take a nap if needed in between transit.  We had to split all our luggage into two rooms, piling them one on top the other and practically taking every corner of space available. Muscle had to come out for this one.

We ate lunch at the airport with my initial plan being to have fish and chips. Who goes to London and doh nyam on some fish and chips?! I ended up having a chicken wrap with fries and a chai latte, because I wasn’t too interested in the 'mushy peas.' You doh ever hear de people talking about the mushy peas that comes with the fish and chips eh, so I really didn't know it was a common side. Besides, if it wasn't rolled up in newspaper, what was the sense?

I doh have enough noggin to understand the British Pound monetary system. The mathematical side of my brain seems to be turned off or it jus eh wukkin right. I just give the cashier my money and tell she take what she needed. It’s the coins, really, that confuses me. One shilling or a bob is 5p.. And a six pence is equivalent to 2 ½ p.. And what’s a "pence" anyway? And what's a "p"? And isn't "pence" and "p" the same thing?

Checking into Air India was rather simple. They made accommodations for our large group. And by the way, the Air India mascot kinda resembles the Mario's pizza mascot, just saying.

Getting to the gate, however, wasn’t so simple. Heathrow Airport follows very strict guidelines. A recording kept playing over and over, "if you can you can pour it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it,” it needs to go in a bag. I had to rummage through all the random spaces where I stuck my liquids, creams, gels, etc. and ram them all into ONE small clear plastic baggie. The whole scanning process is just more tedious than that of JFK International Airport. They scan your bags as is and look for banned items themselves in the monitors.  I guess this was one of my first noted differences between the Americans and the British, right?

We had some time to kill, so the group split up and hit some duty free shops.  I hit Boots, but there is no Boots in NY or Trinidad and then we boarded the Air India flight.  I was tinged with awe and respect when I saw that the  flight attendants were wearing saris.. and effortlessly so. This is when it kind of hit me like.. oh my goodness, I'm going to India!

And the seats on this plane had an added bonus! There was a cool foot massager at the base of each seat; I cringe now to think of how many stinky feetsesses graced those contraptions, but at that time, why think? Just go for it. Same strategy I use when eating street foods.

If the way the plane took off was any indication of the kind of driving we would be subjected to in India, then we were in for anything but a smooth ride; de plane kinda jerked up in the air and flung my upper body back into the seat.

And if that delicious, ah swear eh, the most satiating in-flight meal I have ever consumed, was any indication of the type of food we would be eating in the next few weeks then, hello belly wuk.

During the 8 hours and 40 mins that the flight took, I watched two Bollywood movies, tried to brush up on meh Hindi, and slept. Gravol was my friend.

Thank you for spending this time with me.
And I hope you join me next time for the continuation of the story...

Marsha Merissa Sancharia

1 comment:

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