(Our internet service is very unpredictable, so I apologize in advance for typos and low image quality – I can’t edit after I post, and I had to shrink the photos to get any to upload.)
We made it! And I survived, even snagging a couple hours of sleep in the airplane. This is by far the most epic journey I’ve ever taken. I arrived at my airport at 2pm Thursday, August 23, and took a 2-hour flight to JFK Airport. After a 5-hour layover in New York, we boarded our 13-hour flight to Dubai.
Wow. I’ve never flown Emirates. They are amazing. The plane was new, clean, modern. This was the entertainment console for every passenger, even those of us in “steerage,” er, I mean economy class. I managed to sleep for a couple of hours on that flight, then enjoyed a movie, an episode of Downton Abbey, and got some writing done. They served dinner at midnight, pizza at 4am, and breakfast several hours later. (I have no idea what time it was by then – the airplane windows were all closed to keep it dark, but we landed at 7:30pm local Dubai time. I have no sense of time anymore.)
We spent our 7-hour layover exploring Dubai a bit, taking taxis to the Dubai Mall, doing some shopping, and eating dinner on a veranda next to the Dubai Fountain, the world’s longest fountain (so far), and at the foot of the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building. Seeing the commercialism surrounding Ramadan and Eid, and how similar this holiday is to our celebration of Christmas blew our minds. As did the range of attire — we saw women in sleeveless dresses and women in black from head to toe, only their eyes showing. So many of the men wore traditional Emirates dress as well — floor-length white robes and white head coverings (why are the women in black and the men in white? so many questions).
Our flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka, left at 3am Dubai time and landed around 9am Sri Lanka time. I had a row of three seats to myself, so as soon as we took off, I laid down. I was so tired that I actually slept through breakfast. My husband knows what a feat that is. Once on the ground in Colombo, we took a 2-hour drive to our hotel in Chilaw, Sri Lanka. We’re on the western coast of Sri Lanka in one of their little resorts.
At first, when I saw the photos of beautiful lounge chairs on a beach, I felt rich white girl guilt. How could we stay somewhere like this and then go out to visit people living in unimaginable poverty? The hotel staff greeted us with leis and lunch, and then we all attempted to stay awake until evening, with varying degrees of success.
Once in my room, I realized that standards are completely different in a developing nation. This IS a beautiful place. The staff are so friendly, hospitable, and eager to please. The food is delicious. But I made a little friend my team has dubbed “Henry.” I found the not-so-little cockroach running around on my bathroom counter last evening before dinner. I will attempt to get you a photo. I think he sensed my extreme discomfort with his brazenness and has disappeared for now. Ever since I spotted him, sidled out of the bathroom, and slammed the door on him, I’ve been on the alert. I don’t go into my bathroom without shoes… and my camera. You see how I care about reporting the whole story, dear readers?
I slept incredibly well last night, and feel really good today, even though my computer clock tells me it’s 2:30am at home and I’ve been sweating in the sunny equatorial humidity for the last six hours. We meet the World Vision national staff shortly for an orientation to the country and the work here. Then tomorrow, we head out to an ADP (area development program) where they are celebrating their closing ceremony (like a graduation of sorts).
And maybe I’ll have a photo of Henry to share, too.
(click the thumbnail to view the full-size image)