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Dubai, UAE - 24 / 5 / 2002

So the travels begin anew for this engineer with aspirations of gonzo canonization. Leaving on the holiest of days for the goddess of chaos, discord, and “the big joke”, I got what was coming to me. Saying goodbye to my parents in a “changing of the keys” ceremony, I left for the airport three hours early to spend some good quality communing time in the airport lounge. My plan was to take a major blow, however, as I was greeted to a new computer system at the counter, and a woman who seemed to be more interested in where I was going than actually helping me get there. Much to my chagrin, I stood there for forty five minutes, thus cutting into my social life severely as well as leaving my last goodbye with little dramatics.

I rushed to the plane with a slur in my step and beer in my belly. I looked on in horror as I stepped on to the plane and found that my seat was of the La-Z-Boy variety, not the bed-style that I had grown accustomed to. The indignity. The indignation, thankfully, was soon replaced with sheer horror as the first portion of a continuous barrage of severe turbulence began to hit the plane. My ability to pass out when faced with impending doom quickly came into play and I woke only when my body felt the lack of gravity. One such instance did give me the chance to look down on the North Atlantic. I had always thought that the white objects on the water were icebergs from the north. I then noticed that the objects would disappear then reappear in different areas. Oh to see waves from thirty five thousand feet above. I took solace in knowing that my flying experience was being shared with some sea captain down below.

I arrived at Gatwick airport. I soon left.

There is definitely something to say about flying an airline owned by rich, “liberal” Arab sultans. UAE airlines do like to take pride in its embrace of Western wants and desires, while embracing Islamic sensibilities. It is the only airline that I know of that provides up to date directions to Mecca, so you can pray after being served eighteen year old scotch by beautiful, blonde, British flight attendants.

I slept well on this second leg of my trip. I woke two hours before we landed in Dubai. According to the in-flight map, we were over the neutral zone of Saudi Arabia, and I could see the lights of Kuwait City outside my window with the inky blackness of Iraq farther beyond (that is creative voice, not political commentary). The plane was soon crossing the waters of the Persian Gulf. I never realized how many oil rigs populate the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The fiery glow of excess gas being burned from stacks atop the platforms, gave the illusion of constellations below me. As I tried to come up with prose to describe the funeral pyres, we began to make our descent into Dubai. I have decided that the pilots’ view that is provided on the big screen in the cabin is a bit unsettling for those who do not like to fly, especially when the landing strip drifts out of the camera’s view.

After debarking from the plane, I soon began to realize that there was still one more thing left to make this the most memorable trip ever. I looked at my baggage claim tickets and noticed that my baggage was booked all the way to Kabul. A kind employee told me that it was in my best interest to go to the hotel and pick up my luggage in the morning. When I finally got to the hotel and got registered, it was three in the morning and it had been twenty four hours since I had left Denver.

The next morning I awoke at ten and had myself a traditional Lebanese marine breakfast. When I received my ten a.m. wake up call, I realized I had actually woken up at seven. I had no time to try and correct this mistake and quickly made arrangements to pick up my luggage. On the way back from the airport, I was taken through the food district and noticed all the familiar names, Roundtable Pizza, Burger King, Subway, and Damascus Fried Chicken. Damascus Fried Chicken or DFC as it is more commonly called has chicken wearing a fez as its mascot. I guess an old man with facial hair doesn’t have the same distinguishing advertising power that it has in the states.

The last call to prayer has just sounded and the sun is setting into the Persian Gulf. I must get up early in the morning to catch my flight with Afghanistan’s national airline. I hope all this writing hasn’t been in vain and that I survive the flight. Out of date Russian passenger jets and out of practice pilots aren’t great combinations.

- Mike Brandenburg