I am aboard my final flight from Heathrow Airport in London to Newark, New Jersey. The last leg of a month long journey to the end of the world is at last underway. I have spent the last two days, as best I can figure with the 11 time zone changes thus far, in airports or airplanes. I have had no Internet or phone contact to speak of. It has been an interesting series of people and places.
I began the day at 5 AM yesterday in Katya's flat. She was leaving for an early flight and so I went to the airport for about 6:30 AM. I sat in the waiting area of Petropovlovsk-Kamchatsky Airport for 6 hours waiting for my flight to be posted on a small sign near the security gate. It was boring but I had no other option for getting to the airport so I took the opportunity to just relax and reflect on the past month. I was approached by countless people and asked a myriad of things, none of which I understood and none of which I was able to successfully answer. This would have been frustrating prior to today, but now it was just a matter of course and I was completely used to it.
The flight from Petropovlovsk was about 9 ½ hours long and when I arrived in Moscow it was about 1 hour later in the day than it was when I left. Chasing the sun for the entire trip and crossing 8 time zones was a reminder of how far I had come. Once in Moscow I have to collect my bags, get to the international flight area of the airport, recheck by baggage and get my boarding pass. I was happy to have a woman who spoke some English at the window. She was happy to check my bags all the way to Newark so I would no longer have to deal with collecting them. I met two couples from Frankfurt whom I recognized from the Petropovlovsk Airport and we began talking about our trips to the peninsula. It turned out we all had Business Class seats so we went to the lounge together and enjoyed the buffet of food and drinks for our upgraded plane tickets. I ate more than the four of them combined but after I told them about my trip to the field they seemed to understand my need to revisit the fresh vegetable tray three times.
From Moscow's Domodedovo we flew to Frankfurt, Germany. I was the only passenger in a row of three and saw this as an opportunity to sleep. I believe that two sets of drinks, one snack and one meal were served. What they may have been I have no idea. The crew wished me a nice stay in Frankfurt as I disembarked, it was the first time I had seen them. The airport there is huge, and by that I mean I walked for about a half hour until I found the terminal where my next plane was parked. When I got to the gate people were already boarding for Heathrow. And so in an indifferent stupor I got in line and found my seat. This was my third airport and third plane flight today. I had hit the wall. By the end of this flight by my calculation, I had spent 28 consecutive hours in either an airport or an airplane.
Luckily for me I sat next to a very nice businessman who was returning from a day trip to somewhere, I actually forgot where and we chatted the entire flight to Heathrow. He helped me figure out where I would get a bus to my hotel where I would spend my 12-hour layover in London and he even let me use his Blackberry when we landed to call home, it was a company phone but it was still very nice of him to loan it to me. A few minutes exchanging the last of my rubles for pounds and I had bus fare. Waiting for the bus made me wish I were sleeping on the airport floor; I was almost unable to continue standing. But once at the hotel room one look at a bed with clean sheets and private bathroom and I was washed over with relief. I slept like a stone and awoke once completely unaware of where I was and utterly confused – after I realized my location, I fell back to sleep knowing that my alarm and wake-up call would make sure I caught my plane.
Using the clothes I had put in a Ziploc bag a month ago, I got dressed for the last flight home. I had hidden the bag deep in my unused baggage so that I would not be tempted to take any clothes out of the bag before right now. It was a good decision because somehow a few articles of fresh clothes after a shower can make all the difference between feeling human and feeling like the inside of a laundry bag.
Heathrow was also a huge airport, but easy to manage. The people at British Airways were fantastic and the woman at the window decided that since the automated kiosk would not print my boarding pass correctly and I needed to see her about the problem I deserved an upgrade in seating. This was a very nice bit of news. My last flight would be in the club seating area. I had no idea what this meant at the time, but I thanked her and headed out to find breakfast. I used the last of my pounds and left all the rest as a tip to the guy at the counter. I explained to him that I had no idea how much a pound or a pence was worth so it if was too little of a tip it was all I had and if it was too much then it was his lucky day because I had no use for the money where I was going. He found this amusing and never let on which of the two options was true.
So, let me tell you about British Airways club seating. I have a comfortable seat with adjustable lower back and headrest support. I have a footrest with three positions that can make a bed for me, which I plan to use shortly. I have a personal TV and headset with a selection of news channels and movies. I am watching a movie about Iraq, with a son who is a US Marine I have gained interest in these films. I have an adjustable tray for cocktails, meals, my laptop and currently my glass of chardonnay. I've had a hot towel, small package of personal care items, pillow and blanket left for me. My menu selections include among other things, asparagus ravioli, piccalilli sandwiches and scones – I love scones. Like I always say, if people want to be nice to you, you should let them. Life is good.
For all of the uncertainty that I experienced getting to this moment in time, I am being rewarded. At least this is how this feels. I am still looking forward to arriving home but man oh man, this is one sweet ride.
Well I am home all in one piece minus one camouflage duffel filled with my dirty field clothes. The airport will be delivering them to my home. Hopefully no one will open the bag because I plan on opening it outside and no one should be subjected to the odor contained within. For now I plan to spend some time with my husband and daughter catching up on a month's worth of news and stories and talking to my son on the phone. I'll be in touch soon with more stories and videos for the website. Wishing you blue skies and soft landings.