Sunday, April 14, 2013

We're off! En route through the Middle East

My parents dropped Ben and I off at the airport last night, gave quick hugs and said we'd see them again in a month. It felt like we'd only been in Chicago a few minutes because, well, we had.

On Wednesday we had breakfast with friends in Whitefish before hitting the road to Portland, camping en route in the Umatilla National Forest, poaching a "seasonal" camping spot in a narrow, lush valley beside the Umatilla River in eastern Oregon. The valley came out of nowhere, a crack in an otherwise Iowa-like landscape that transported us to another climate in under 20 minutes. After accidentally tossing the shrimp we brought with for dinner into the river (blonde moment), I crafted spaghetti in an IPA+butter sauce with bits of deer stick as we sipped our remaining before heading into the tent for bed. We woke early the next morning and headed to Portland, where we'd leave our car at the R&R household for the next month and a half, while we travel and Russell and Rachel have their first baby! Friday we flew to Chicago, spent a night and day with the family, and headed out on a Qatar Airways red eye to Doha.

And here we are. I've been here before, in Doha, under probably equally stressful circumstances, but at a totally different time in my life. My first time at the Doha Airport was 5 years ago, when I met Rebecca en route to our Nepal journey. We had never met the kids at Harka, had never really traveled to such a place, were both fairly fresh out of college and had been thinking about our trip for months. Now, 5 years later, I get to bring Ben to meet the kids I can never stop talking about, just finished my winter job on Tuesday, and have only been thinking about this trip for about a month. I haven't really even thought about it until a couple of weeks ago when I realized- holy crap! We're traveling again!

The apparent ease I feel with traveling to Nepal from being there twice already is probably good and bad, good in that there is nothing to be nervous about (fyi, for all you scaredy-cats out there, Nepal was just put in "good standing" on the State Department website after being on the warning list for nearly 15 years), bad in that I didn't even look at the visa requirements until three hours before our flight yesterday, when I realized we each needed to have 2 official passport photos with us. Thank the good lord Shiva Walgreens is only three blocks from my parents' house.

So here we are, on the road again, currently posted up in Doha for 10 excruciatingly long hours staring at Middle Eastern men who stare back blank faced (really hope that if I become a foreign service officer, it is not in the Middle East), women with beautiful eyes and equally beautiful Coach purses, and screaming children with heavy sideburns. We both slept tumultuously on the flight over, as the plane held the greatest proportion of children and infants I have experienced on any flight, ever. In fact, at one point I woke up from a dream in which I was at an amusement park racing go-karts with three 5-year-olds, probably incited by the yelping child to my right and my recent completion of the Cirque du Soleil movie.

Luckily, I was just forwarded two videos of the kids at Harka from Anthony, a friend who was just there for 3 months with the kids. The videos were of the quirky girls and boys dancing to Michael Jackson, and it reminded me that some children are just hilarious, and not as annoying as children that have just endured a trans-Atlantic flight. I can't wait to see those kooks in a couple of days, even if it is going to be 1879243 degrees outside!

Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

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