Archive for the ‘Before we depart’ Category
“The art of writing
is the art of discovering
what you believe.“
The crew on the Virgin Atlantic flight from Logan Airport in Boston to Heathrow Airport in London was the worst. Not the crew as a whole, but particularly the one (of many) blonde stewardess(es) who woke me up four times (FOUR!!) within two and a half hours. First, she felt it necessary that my pillow be behind my back instead of in my hands on my lap. You know, because if a pillow gets loose in the cabin during takeoff, that’s real trouble. I managed the near-impossible task of falling asleep before we ever even rolled away from the gate, but she had to ruin what had the potential to be some fantastic sleep. Well, as fantastic as it gets on a plane.
Next, a couple of hours later, she woke me up to make sure my seatbelt was on. It was. But, the seatbelt light wasn’t even on, which I pointed out to her. Her response: “For your safety, it should be on at all times.” REALLY? You felt it necessary to wake me up to to check that my seatbelt was buckled under my blanket? You suck at your job.
Rant about airplane safety: I’ve been on enough planes where I feel comfortable saying that, if anything were to happen, Gob forbid, that seatbelt that’s buckled across my lap is going to do nothing for me, especially not save my life. If anything, it’s just there to keep me in my seat for an extra half second while I pull the clip up to release it. Airplane safety, to me, seems like a bit of a joke. Sure, I understand not smoking on the plane and not opening the emergency latch mid-flight if there is no emergency. But seat belts? I don’t buy it. It’s different than a motor vehicle seatbelt, which actually has a locking mechanism and has saved lives. These seat belts on these planes are just ridiculous, like the ones on a school bus. If it’s just holding my waist down, and not my upper body, then it’s just going to hurt me. In my opinion, if there’s a problem on a plane, there’s very little that can be done to avert disaster.
I woke up, again, this time on my own, and got up to stretch a little bit in the aisle. I used the lavatory, drank some water, and returned to my seat. Across the aisle to my right, two men had changed their seating and I was now staring at two empty seats. “Jackpot!” I thought. I collected my blanket, pillow and headphones, and snuck across the aisle into my new paradise. I plugged in my headphones, chose something to play in the background, and curled up into a ball. What felt like hours later, but was only mere minutes, the blonde woman again shook me awake. She had become the bane of my existence on this flight.
“If you want to sleep in these seats,” she said, “you’ll have to pay extra.” I was exhausted. I was still half asleep. I wasn’t really listening. I said “fine, whatever,” and rolled around. She tapped my shoulder again, this time harder. “Sir, what are you doing? If you don’t pay, you have to return to your seat.” At this point, I was ready to smack her in the face. I didn’t. I sat up, nodded, and said “Fine, I’ll pay.” All I wanted, for crying out loud, was some uninterrupted sleep on the flight. She strutted up the aisle without another word toward the rear of the plane. Moments later, another, kinder and prettier flight attendant arrived next to me. She knelt down, and asked how I wished to pay. I pulled out my American Express card and said “credit, please.” She smiled and took my card. I asked what the charge would be in US dollars. She clicked a few buttons on her little portable register. The privilege of sleeping on these two seats cost me $43. It was a bit steep, especially so many hours into the flight, but I paid it. I didn’t want to sleep sitting up, nor did I want the devil, err, the evil flight attendant, to wake me up ever again. As soon as I signed the bill, I laid my head back down and was sleeping again within five minutes. Unfortunately, as the captain prepared the plane for landing, my sleep was again disturbed. It would have been fine if it were anyone else, but there she was, her cold eyes looking down at me telling me I had to wake up, sit up straight, and, again, fasten my seatbelt. Ugh, the seatbelt. I know that you can’t be laying down across seats without a belt on during the final descent, and I knew that this wake up call was inevitable. It always is. But I wish that the same lady who charged my credit card woke me up. I just hated this woman so much at that point that it didn’t matter I had slept for over three hours.
Alas, this terrible travel experience finally ended and we landed safely in London. The whole group, all 40 something of us- 46, if I had to guess, but don’t hold me to it- walked through the labyrinth that is Heathrow Airport, through yet another security checkpoint. Down a few flights of stairs and up some more escalators, we wound up on a bus that drove us to the terminal where we would eventually catch our connecting flight to Amman with British Midland International airways. Three new friends (Melanie, Eric and Amanda) and I walked through the terminal a bit and found a nice little restaurant. We sat on two couches and ordered some drinks to kill the hour until we could board the plane.
The flight to Jordan from England was a much, much better experience. There was only one blonde flight attendant, Georgie, and she was sweet. Sarah, another member of the crew, was so kind throughout the flight. (She’s also beautiful; her deeply green eyes and sharp, dark features pulled me in from the moment I saw her as I boarded. The English accent doesn’t hurt, either.) She and I got to talking when I woke up, on my own, from my nap around 12 p.m. (London time, 2 p.m. Amman time). My seat, 28D, was in the final row of the plane, just in front of the lavatories. So, when I woke up from my glorious, uninterrupted nap, I ventured into the crew’s staging area/cabin located at the plane’s rear.
The timing was perfect, as the crew had just rolled out drink carts, so I had the space to myself to stretch out a bit. Sitting ans sleeping on three planes in one day caused the worst feeling in most all of my joints, especially my knees and neck. Sam and Matt eventually found their way to me, and the three of us stood there, chatting, until we were forced to return to our seats for, you guessed it, the final descent. We had to buckle our seat belts, after all, because the little light went on.
We touched down at Queen Alia International Airport, and as I looked out the window while the plane descended and the landing gear roared from below, I was overcome with happiness, and joy. It felt so nice to be returning to this place that I fell in love with just last year, and to the people who welcomed me and my peers into their country. To see the desert and the tarmac as we descended was, for me, pure bliss- especially after the long, long day of traveling that was now coming to an end.
Disclaimer: I began writing this post on a (digital) post-it note on both of the flights, from Boston to London and then from London to Amman. I finished it earlier last night, and tweaked it a bit more this morning. More soon, photos too. I think I may set up a flickr account, or some other web-based service, as viewing photos in a slideshow is much easier and more enjoyable than within a blog amidst all this text.
I’ll end this post by apologizing for how long this post is. I guess I had to rant about the longest day of travel I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for reading, y’all.
One more thing to add: after revisiting, I may have miscounted. The mean flight attendant woke me up THREE times in a matter of two and a half hours. Still, it was annoying.
This morning, I didn’t wake up. I just haven’t slept. I spent all of yesterday saying goodbye to family and friends, as well as procrastinating packing. I got to see a lot of my cousins, aunts and uncles at my cousins Joanne and Charlie’s home. We watched some television together, shared a kettle of tea and many, many desserts. Around 10 p.m. I left with my brother, and returned home.
We spent the rest of the evening, until about 1 a.m., together, playing Fifa and watching television. A few good friends, Frank and Rob, came over to say goodbye and bid me farewell. We chatted a bit, and they eventually left to head home to go to bed.
After my brother called it a night, seeing as he had work this morning, I spent a few more hours watching the last few Mad Men episodes I hadn’t seen. Around 2, I finally made my way upstairs and packed.
This morning, after not sleeping, laughing and spending a good time with my family and friends, and packing, I arrived at JFK Airport and flew to Boston. I landed at 9:47 a.m.
Now, about 10 hours later, I’m at Logan again and boarding the flight to Heathrow Airport. For now, London is calling. More to come soon, after a long flight. And finally, some sleep.
Being back in New York, I know I’m home. It just feels right, you know? It feels natural. Not to say easy, but rather comfortable. I didn’t feel at home in Boston, I was never comfortable there, and it didn’t help that I spent the better part of four years bouncing in and out of residence halls.
I don’t want to be misunderstood; I am incredibly happy with the education at Northeastern, and that I wound up in Boston for my undergraduate studies. However, I will be clear on one point: I have zero to no love for the city of Boston as a place to live. People are rude, life’s expensive, and it’s a fake city. (Take that with as many grains of salt as you would like, as this is all coming from a New Yorker.)
In two days time, I will arrive in Amman, again, almost a year to the day from my first visit. I’ve spent just over two weeks of my life in Amman, and about four years in Boston, but can say that Amman felt like a more natural fit for me. Maybe that’s just a first impression, and five weeks this time around will leave me feeling otherwise. I don’t think that will happen, but people always (used to?) say, “Never judge a book by its cover.” (I question whether or not the phrase is still in use, because I haven’t heard it since middle school.) You might say two weeks in a city is that kind of an experience; I got to experience all of the best Jordan had to offer. Maybe you’d consider two weeks an insignificant amount of time to “live” somewhere. Maybe last time I was just a visitor. This time, though, I will throw myself wholeheartedly into this country, the host family experience and the culture. I take off tomorrow.
A week is an strange period of time; the same seven-day cycle repeats over and over (and over and over) until a new month arrives. Months fly by, as seasons come and go, trees blooming then barren. So much can happen in just one minute in this world. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but the Don Henley classic “New York Minute” really resonates in my life. So much more happens in a month, a year, a decade. But it’s always a particular moment around which vivid memories exist.
This past semester of my life has been an interesting one. These four months, I have been pushed more than ever before, and spread far too thin, almost to the point of nonexistence.
I’ve grown, and grown up, a lot. I learned more about myself and other people, and I’ve cried a lot. It’s been a roller coaster, for lack of a better term, and I apologize for that awful cliche.
Now, as I sit in front of my screen thinking about the week ahead, I can’t help but feel anxious. Will Jordan live up to the memories of last year? I loved Jordan last summer, and I only spent two weeks there. This time around, I will be living and breathing Jordanian culture for five weeks. I’m eager to meet my new host family, and also to reconnect with and visit Mama Munira. It really hasn’t hit me yet, that I’ll be around the world just one week from right now. I’m sitting here answering calls at the Boston Globe, and when I return to my dorm room later tonight, loads of laundry, folding and packing await.
Even if it doesn’t seem real to me just yet, if it hasn’t hit me, I know in my heart that I’m about to embark on a life changing journey. And deep in my core, I feel a sense of joy and excitement that I haven’t felt in a very long time. I’ll be moving from my shoebox sized room in Boston back to my home in New York on Sunday night, but it feels as though I’m not really going home until next week, when I will depart for Amman.
I’m a soul in search of a home away from home, because I can assuredly say I haven’t found one here in Boston.
In the early hours of Thursday, May 5, I sat in a room that, just a few short hours prior, was my own. Room 512 in White Hall, where I had lived since August 2010, is now a hollow shell once again. It’s now an emptier room than I became accustomed to throughout the semester, with walls bare all around me, save just one poster: the Manhattan skyline, backlit by a purple and blue sunset. I don’t like the emptiness. The stark room had me feeling very cold, and very alone. Just a week ago, this whole building was bustling with freshman celebrating the end of their first year of college. People would come and go through the halls and up and down the stairwells, in and out of my doorway. Music and laughter filled all the halls. Now, everyone has gone back home, wherever that may be, and White Hall was slowly being shut down for the summer months.
I saw the sun breaking through the darkness of the night. The beads of water on my window screen catch the earliest signs of daylight, and the sky is slowly brightening over campus. Over the course of that Thursday, I packed up all my things – blue and green coffee mugs, a bookshelf, three lamps,
a lot of way too many clothes, books, school work from the past two semesters – into boxes and shopping bags (and garbage bags; thanks for forgetting my suitcase, dad.) I left Boston with my father and his girlfriend, Barbara. Before all that, though, my computer decided to crash and burn around 6 a.m. just as I finished sealing the last box full of my stuff. Well, at first, it wasn’t a big deal. I figured the battery died and I forgot to plug in the power cord as usual. So, I proceeded to do so, and let it sit for a few moments so that it could catch its breath, so to speak. The boxes were all stacked neatly on top of one another along the red wall that I will miss so much, and my refrigerator was unplugged and defrosting. My bed was no longer a comfortable sanctuary, since I had to throw my sheets and pillowcases in with my final load of laundry before ultimately packing them… somewhere. I can figure it out where exactly as I unpack, I won’t worry about it now.
There was nothing left to do but wait. Waiting. Waiting. I tried again to turn on the computer. NOTHIN’ but a black screen. The computer won’t even turn on at this point, and I begin to freak out just a little bit. Ok, a lot. I was panicked. Just under a week until I take off for an adventure that I can’t wait for, and the most important thing on my “DO NOT FORGET TO PACK” list is not working. Really now? I couldn’t help but think that my computer had just been run into the ground over the course of finals week, during which it was used extensively. But, then again, I also thought the technology gods were playing a joke on me. After I paced my room staring angrily at the blank laptop, trying to will it back to life, I went down five flights of steps and into the Residential Life staff office of my building. From there, I made an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar on Boylston Street. I tried to stay calm. “They will be able to fix it,” I kept saying to myself.
Now that I had an appointment with the Macbook gurus over at Apple, I went and took one last trip to the Marino Center, which is Northeastern’s beautiful gym, for one last workout in the Hub. One last shower in White Hall. And thank goodness, because I will not miss those communal bathrooms one bit. Ok, maybe a little bit. It is nice not having to worry about ever cleaning the bathroom. After my wash, it is finally late enough (or early enough? I find time a funny thing to keep track of, especially when I don’t sleep…) for me to get one final breakfast meal at the International Village dining hall. At 7:30 a.m. I walk into a mostly empty dining hall, where I order an omelette with spinach, tomatoes, onions and green peppers. I popped two slices of whole wheat bread into the toaster, and fill up a nice tall glass of orange juice. I was sort of hungry, but really, though, I was trying to make myself forget about my potentially huge laptop problem. And what better method than to drown out the worry with some delicious food. And the food was delicious, as it usually is.
Around 8:15, I left International Village and walked back through Ruggles Station to White Hall. Campus is such a different place in the interim period between semesters. A few short days pass, and all of a sudden everyone is gone. Campus was like a ghost town that morning. As 9 a.m. approaches, I packed up my laptop and began to head to Boylston Street. Even the city seemed more tame, more empty. The sunlight was being overtaken by massive gray clouds, but alas, it never rained. At the Genius Bar, Rob, the technician, takes a look at my Macbook. He’s very tall and quiet, and strangely reminded me of Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame. After about 10 minutes of looking over the computer and turning it upside down a few times, Rob looks up at me with a look that I read as, “you’re fucked.” After a few seconds of silent eye contact, I blurted out, “So, what’s the diagnosis?? Can it be fixed in less than a week?” It was the logic board. It had, according to Rob, burnt out. GREAT! GRAND! JUST WHAT I WANT TO HEAR. Rob tells me that all power and function of the Macbook runs through the logic board, and so the computer will need to be sent out to Apple or kept in-house and taken apart. All of the connections will need to be removed, and the logic board will need to be replaced. WONDERFUL, that sounds simple and painless. (Please, note the sarcasm.) I ask Rob how long a process like that takes, to which his reponse is “usually one week.” :0
That is not acceptable. Normally I’d be fine with one week. What’s another week, anyway? But this was not a normal week. This was my final week in the states, and my final day in Boston, before I take off for Amman, Jordan with my peers on May 11. I asked Rob if it could be fixed that same day, to which he laughed in response. Thanks guy, that made me feel a lot better about this. I took my laptop with Rob’s diagnostic notes attached and sadly packed the useless pile of metal into my bag. I quickly made another Genius Bar appointment from one of the many Macs in the store, this time in New York. From there, I trek back to White Hall where I see my father and his girlfriend, sitting in the black minivan and waiting for me. After a brief hello and kisses, we began loading the car. My dad freaked out. “All this shit, it won’t fit.” This guy needs to relax. I don’t know what it is, or why, but he ALWAYS freaks out. Over nothing. “You rented a minivan, dude, it’s all going to fit,” is what I would like to say. But instead, I just keep my mouth shut and nod along. I have found that letting him ramble without interruption or response is sometimes the only way to respond. Five or six trips up and down the elevator later, the back of the minivan looks like a perfectly executed game of tetris. Well, minus the part about the filled-in lines at the bottom disappearing…
I took one last walk through campus with my good friend Jennifer as the sun breaks through the clouds once again. It was noon, and the sun was getting hot. (When I get to Amman, ‘hot’ will take on a whole new meaning.) We strolled down Huntington Avenue so that she could feed her parking meter, and we laughed at the absurdity of only receiving 12 mintues per quarter. Thanks, Boston. Jennifer and I hug. She will be a graduate of Northeastern by this time tomorrow, and come September I will have one less friend here. I feel sad knowing this, but I also am so happy for her. She worked her ass off this past semester, and got herself a job lined up with a commodities trading firm for right after graduation. She will leave Boston, and me, and head back home to Stamford, Connecticut. As we approach the corner of Huntington Avenue and Forsyth Street once again, we say our final goodbyes and go our separate ways, her blonde hair fluttering in the wind. I’ll miss her, a lot. Of that, I am certain. But I’m also certain that this is not truly goodbye, for I will see her blue-green eyes again.
5 hours later, I arrived at my home in New York, and it took nearly as long to unpack. I’m not quite sure how, but every year when I return from Northeastern I am astonished at how much crap I have. After high school, I lived in one room. And so did all of my stuff. Now, I come back after my third full year at Northeastern, and I can barely put things away in that room. My closet and drawers at home are already filled with t-shirts and such that I felt weren’t worthy of coming to university with me. Somehow, I managed to accumulate clutter at school, because all that I brought home this year is certainly more than I brought with me back in August 2010.
So, the mini-van is empty once again, and I rushed off to Roosevelt Field mall, where I had my second Genius Bar appointment of the day. I arrived at the mall in record time and spoke with Ray, another Apple Genius. He informed me that, after inspection, it appeared Rob’s initial diagnosis was correct. Sh#t. Ray told me that it would take up to a week to fix the logic board. F*ck. Now, I tried to remain calm, but the possibility of not having my laptop with me on this trip terrified me. I left the Apple store with my tail between my legs and a heavy weight on my shoulders; what would I do if they couldn’t fix it in time?
Well, 12 short hours later, I recieved a voicemail from Mike at the Apple store. He called toinform me that my laptop was ready to be picked up at my earliest convenience. Let me tell you, that guy made my day! I borrowed my brother’s Volvo and drove on over to the mall and picked up my Macbook. It felt as though I was reunited with a long-lost love. With my silver baby back in my possession, I drove home grinning from ear to ear.
All of these events took place over the course of a week. It was, in fact, my final week in New York. As I post this, my journey to Amman, Jordan is less than 24 hours away. My bags are packed, for the most part, and I have said many farewells. I will miss this place and these people, but I cannot wait to see these new places and digest the cultures of Jordan and Turkey. What the future holds, no one knows, but I know that it is promising. As the sun comes up over the horizon, I realize that it is my last day in the states. Tomorrow at this same time, I will be seated on Delta Airlines on my way. Let the adventure begin…
Well, here I am, on a new website with a new account and all the good stuff that comes along with it: another username and password to keep track of, more emails flooding into my inbox, and another bookmarked web address. In this age of new technology and constant, almost instant, updates, I find it difficult to keep up with all of it. First there was email, and what a concept that was. I used to think, “Will people really stop sending letters and notes to friends and family and start typing to each other? Will people sit staring at a screen to read someones email? No way!” Turns out I
missed the mark was way off, as email has evolved into a vital form of communication, both personally and, perhaps even moreso, professionally.
As I sit here, exploring this new realm of internet space- this thing called the blogosphere- in preparation for my first taste of international reporting in Jordan and Turkey in the coming months of May and June, I wonder: is this really the future? Has our society come to individuals sitting, mostly alone, and staring at computer screens? Even in public spaces, where folks formerly spoke to one another and conversed, maybe even with a stranger, the most common sight nowadays is a sea of individuals, each one minding his or her own business; one business man sending out an email; another following the stock market up and down; a schoolgirl with headphones in, contemplating what she’ll listen to next. Is the internet destroying our interpersonal and societal skills? These skills that have taken ages to develop? From the day we are born, we make sounds, and eventually those become mutually understood sounds, sometimes called words. Now, it seems, the only sounds are those of footsteps and the clickity-clack of a keyboard, or the button-pressing someone typing a text message from their cell phone instead of, oh, I don’t know, calling someone from it.
It is for these reasons, among others, I sometimes wished we still lived in a simpler world, where things weren’t so… strange. I think technology is great, don’t get me wrong, and has assisted humans in ways I can’t even comprehend, but perhaps it is also a disservice. As I look ahead to the coming weeks, when I will be traveling around a Middle Eastern, third-world nation, I eagerly await the lack of a cell phone. Sure, I will still have my laptop and camera with me in order to publish my adventures along the way and share all that I am learning with all of you. But, it will mostly be packed away in a hotel room or bag some place- well, the laptop, that is. The camera will be attached to my hand, unless I come across some food, in which case I may pause to photograph it before continuing to indulge in what I can only imagine will be delicious Jordanian delicacies. My point is, I’m really excited to not have a cell phone with me all the time. Here, home in the states, it’s unacceptable to go about my daily life without it. My dad will get angry if he calls and I don’t answer, as will my aunts. Friends will give me grief (endlessly) for failing to answer a text message. My brother will leave
obnoxiously long, (mostly) entertaining voicemails.
It is just the way of our society today. We live in and for each moment and expect our life to be available at every moment. Thinking about this obsession we all seem to have for instant gratification, I long for the days when I would travel on a bus to school and walk to and from the bus stop with a group of friends. Now, I can’t see myself those groups of high schoolers strolling down the street after the bell rings, but not because they are no longer there. It isn’t that at all. It’s the way they walk, now. Back in the late 1990’s and first decade of the 21st century, my friends and I would share tales of our day and talk about the people we met, the things we learned. We would shoot the breeze, make plans for the evening or coming weekend, we would laugh. Now, as I watch these 16 and 17 year olds “hanging out,” I get the feeling that they’re confused and think they are alone in their rooms. No one speaks. Each one is occupied by their own cell phone, iPad, iPod or other new-age, portable device. I bet some of them spend time with their friends not speaking to anyone and tapping away on some device I haven’t even heard of yet! And this from a 21 year old university student living in a bustling urban environment. I don’t hide under a rock or avoid the new technology, because I believe in the pending war between humanity and the machines we’ve created (a la the Matrix.) That is, of course, unless we kill each other before our technological advances reach such heights that they will pose a threat to us.
So, in closing this first blog post, I’ll say that I can’t wait to be in Jordan, where I hope I’ll see fewer people on cell phones, a more cohesive and communal society, and an amazing new world. I truly believe that this trip will be incredible and eye-opening experience, and I look forward to sharing it with 18 soon-to-be friends and colleagues, 3 professors, and a multitude of unknown acquaintances.