I am alive and in Nepal! (But dead on my feet….)
Me at Heathrow before baggage drop with my many bags.
I saw Dad’s plane (to Tanzania) taxi and take off while eating a salmon sandwich (which, randomly, was cheaper to get from Pret than Smiths!). As I continued eating my sandwich/finished it, I saw my plane arrive (an AIRBUS A380, for those who are interested. Suffice to say, it was the biggest plane I’ve ever seen in my life with two full decks!). Then I went and got a hot choc and sat chatting with the various people who sat down on the sofa with me; a lady going to Bangladesh to visit her parents, a guy going to Uganda to visit his parents, and a young family going to morocco to visit their family. they had two little girls and the youngest,~4 or 5 years, called Hanna was very eager to talk with me. She was lovely, and wanted to know all sorts of things like what I was playing with the cards (Solitaire. I lost.), where my plane ‘lived’ (the sky?) etc!
We eventually got on the plane only to be told that the reason there were many people in high-vis jackets with “Etihad technical” on their back crawling over the plane was that ONE of the computer cards on ONE of the BACKUP systems (system 2, I think he said!) was A BIT faulty. So they had to change it out (the captain said it was because the paperwork would be a nightmare otherwise!). By the time that was fixed, we’d missed our take off slot and the route we were taking (UK to the Middle East via Germany) is some of the busiest airspace so we had to wait 35 minutes for a new slot in that airspace. once we were in the air, the dinner was about to be served (it was ~10.15/10.30pm by then), but we hit turbulence. Long story short, it was past 11 by the time dinner was served, so I didn’t eat much of the VEGAN meal (apparently vegan and veggie get the same meal, so I will just input “normal meal” next time I check in as they got tomato sauce and pasta as one of the three “normal people” meals.) Of the Vegan meal, I ate the odd carrot-noodle salad thing and put the roll in my bag for later. Then I cleaned my teeth etc and tried to sleep.
I actually fell asleep!
I was very fashionable with my glasses over the eye patch (above) and snuggled in my hoodie and the provided blanket (I didn’t need my sleeping bag liner in the end, but I would have if I didn’t have thick jeans on as it was not warm). About one in the morning the couple headed for the Maldives (they were lovely by the way, and the picture above of my fashionable night attire is thanks to them) needed the toilet so had to wake me as I had the aisle seat (I only asked for it as I thought I wouldn’t be sleeping and constantly needing the toilet myself). As I woke, I realized the way I had slept had done something to my back. I used the knee cream from last year’s injury (as it is an anti-inflamatory) and then spent the next half and hour or so walking up and down the aisle until the discomfort went. several members of cabin crew asked me if I was lost and that the toilet was at the other end, but I assured them I wasn’t lost, that I didn’t want the toilet and I was just trying to work out a kink in my back. I figured the best thing would be to lie flat on the floor, but I doubted that would be allowed (I guess a person lying on the floor might be construed as a safety hazard for safe exits). I managed another hour’s sleep after that and then woke up and watched the first half of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (which is super good, by the way, even though it was on a tiny screen and had distracting Korean subtitles when I wanted English ones as the volume wasn’t that good).
Breakfast was a sandwich. The “normal people” options were ham or cheese. I got given an aubergine sandwich, because I am apparently VEGAN. I took the aubergine out and just ate the bread then had orange juice to wash the taste away. I’m sure, for a vegan, the food was wonderful, but not for a kinda-veggie eating at weird hours (by my watch, it was 3 am).
As we landed, I pulled up the under-craft camera feed, as I was far from the window, and thought the pixilated swirls of turquoise and then yellow/browns looked like modern art! Abu Dhabi looks kinda crazy, with the plots of sand marked out for houses, and the fancy waterside with trees, and then just sand. There is no horizon, as the sky was cloudy (maybe smoggy?) and the sand was pretty colourless too. The airport is a building site, as there is a new terminal being built and the landing runway is actually a couples of miles from the terminals, so you taxi forever past piles of bricks, mounds of gravel and walls of sand (too neat for dunes, so I guess it’s acting as a wind break). The tower is a fancy curve, though, not the make-up brush of Heathrow.
Despite our hour delay in taking off, we were only 35 mins behind schedule (and the crew were quick to assure that anyone with tight connections would be fine). On exiting, there were staff with the names of everyone with a quick turn around. These people were escorted straight to the planes, ignoring the security checks (I guess if the whole terminal is solely for you and your partners, you can skip security).
Going through security seemed stupid, to me, as we’d come from Heathrow, whose security felt far tighter, by the way. We queued up, were told we couldn’t have fluids, so I drank most of my litre of water I’d been saving from Heathrow for the layover, only to be told I didn’t have to by another guy. My liquids and electronics could remain in my bag, and they didn’t care that I had a quarter of a litre of water. I didn’t have to remove the stuff from my pockets, or my hiking boots. Even though the alarm went off, no one checked me. All in all, a waste of time.
The layover was pretty boring. I wasn’t as tired as I might have been, as I had maybe three hours sleep, drank Sifa-coffee (aka, orange juice) and ate the roll I’d saved from earlier. I used their digital do-da to find out which gate I’d be at in six hours time, so went there. The gate was not one of their swish A380 gates with the walkways, but a big hall with chairs and doors that would take you to the buses that took you on to the planes. It was pretty empty and had about 6 gates there. The toilets there, though, were much nicer than the ones near duty free and the fancy gates. Being on the bottom floor and without three stories of glass windows, I reckon it was cooler too. I guess there is some moral/life lesson about not judging by appearance to take from this but I’m a bit too tired to work it our right now.
I lay on the floor for a bit to iron out the last discomfort in my back (all gone in 15 mins!) to the amusement of a family of 4 daughters sitting at the other end of the row (the girls all wore pretty much the same thing, as did most families of kids, so it was easy to work out who was with who). Then I idly watched the sky new arabia, trying to guess what it was all about. I could understand the stock market stuff, as they had graphs and helpful up and down arrows, but the rest was a bit of a mystery (including the “live” fake view of London. Anyone from London knows the Shard isn’t directly behind the Houses of Parliament, but there was a red block with white squiggles that I think meant “live” on the picture). There was a report about prescription medicines, but I have no idea what was said just that they had a three minute series of shoots that looped several times.
At about 10.30, I got myself a blueberry muffin (nice, but not as good as Lidl’s!) and then booted up my laptop, as I’d been saving the charge for them. I wrote for a bit (probably want to check it’s legible) and then realised two hours of my two hours 57 mins charge had gone (in two hours 30 mins) and the gate call would be soon. So I shut down and drank the rest of my water (and then went back to find the nice toilets!). We boarded (as one of the last on the bus, I was the first one the plane!). It was 1pm there, so it was boiling hot even going 2 meters to the buses and then 5 to the plane. The vegan meal this time was nice – tofu curry that I had to down with water, and a rice salad thing I was too full to eat entirely. I watched two more movies (couldn’t find Batman Begins, unfortunately) but i watched, on a screen not much larger than my phone, Gifted (I want to watch it again, but on a proper screen with decent resolution!) and Beauty and the Beast. “Be our guest” just looked like bright blobs of colour!
Dark fell really early (7 o’clock!) so it was pitch black by the time we arrived at the airport, but it was still hot, and very muggy. Immigration was super quick though (the man at desk was surprised that I had a 90 visa and was going to apply for two extensions, but asked no questions thankfully), but baggage reclaim too a while. We first had to go through cabin bag screening (even more ridiculous than Abu Dhabi as it was just put your bag in and walk though, then we’ll sticker it no matter what as everything set off alarms).
At the luggage carousels, it was chaos. There was a staff member taking all bags off halfway around the conveyer belt and dumping them into a massive pile that was hard to find anything in. I did not realise this until after I had bagged (sorry about the pun) out a spot near the end with a trolley (there weren’t many and I was glad I’d nabbed one). As my bags came around, I had to shout across that those were my bags and I’d pick them up when they came around, thank you! The guy looked a bit disgruntled at this, as I’d probably made his job moot.
I was about to leave when customs called me over. Clearly a young, white girl on her own with two massive suitcases rang alarm bells. They wanted to x-ray my old stay-in-nepal bag, not the nice new red one (Hemi’s). This seems to be the only time they actually bothered to look at the x-ray. Unfortunately, as the suitcase was full of books, x-rays couldn’t penetrate, so they asked to to lift the 23kg back up and carry it over to the customs office (accessed through a removed window that you had to step through over a knee high rail). It was interesting getting in, to say the least.
Inside, I was asked what was in the suitcase, and I said that it was books, because I was coming to work at a school, and netballs (aka “British-basketball”). They looked suspiciously at me. I opened it up and showed them a suitcase full of books (padded with netballs and pads).
Customs Woman: Oh, I see. Books. Yes. Are they good?
CW: You’re teaching?
Me: Yes (I thought it easier than explaining classroom assistant!)
CW: Good luck. You can go.
Finally, I was allowed to close my suitcase, take it back out the window and leave, but was then asked to show the tags that said they were mine along with proving the Etihad labels matched the stickers on my ticket (they did) and I exited. Virginia (the person I’ve been organising this with at the school) found me immediately, and we found a teacher, Jess, and piled in the pickup truck. My seat belt was the one that didn’t work, so I braced against the top of the cab as we hurtled over the bumpy roads.
The two guys staying at the guesthouse (Dom and Luke) helped with our bags, as did Nikita, another teacher. We grabbed toast and jam and sat talking in the living room ’til eleven when I figured I should go to bed. I worked out how to use to shower, eventually found my pjs (Hemi put them at the bottom so her neat packing was messed up!), then tried to go to sleep. Except, I was about five hours jet-lagged (hopefully only four now), so it was only about seven in the evening to me by that point and I wasn’t sleepy. Eventually drifted off after two, then woke up at eight because it was light. Rolled over and dozed for an hour and a half. Dragged myself out of bed, make breakfast and unpacked largely (socks and pants etc are strewn on the bed as I don’t have any drawers so will get baskets to stuff them in and dump on a massive shelf in the wardrobe). At some point I’ll work out where the iron is as everything is creased.
Dom took me to the school and we wandered out. We both got given badges, but no lanyards. Mine has a very old picture on (taken from my email picture!) so I need a picture pasted on top tomorrow. The badge says I’m american, so I want to paste over that as I’m a proud Brit. Then we tried to find room 23, apparently the room I might be based in. Except room 23 didn’t exist. So that’s a job tomorrow; work out what room I’m actually in. Tomorrow, apparently, will be stressful as I need to give biometrics to register on entry and go through the system of gaining a log-in and email for the computers and sync my laptop to their system (I’ve been told, ominously, it’s a pain. Yay!)
The house has really clever extension leads that will fit pretty much every single plug type except British (!), so I am glad I brought my own extension lead and adapter. I’m sitting in the living room right now, and the rubbish cart just went through (belching fumes and blowing a whistle that riled up all the dogs around). I can actually see a “hill” (in Britain, we’d call it a mountain) and apparently, when the monsoon finishes, I’ll be able to see further. No sign of smog, which is very nice, but haven’t seen Himalayas yet as it was very dark last night and the clouds are gathered around the nearest hills. I’m told, on a nice day, I’ll be able to see them.
Having to remember things like no toilet paper flushed away, and to get all drinking water (including teeth cleaning water) from the blue cylinders. The water tastes a bit odd (the smell reminds me of mildew and cut-grass after rain!).
Today I’m just settling in, but tomorrow I find out what I’m actually going to be doing (and find room 23?).