Travel in Style, was my modus operandi for a few years of my life. Of every 30days, I would be spending 10days up in the air and on some foreign land (foreignly China). It was crazy times, but I was so fortunate to have an amazing travel buddy, whom I have featured on a few posts thus far. My lovely mentor twice++ my age, but talks at my level of youth then (and now still). It was thanks to his fame and his good karma that I got to travel in such high style all the time, and we would giggle over it after the events.
We flew so often that the ground crew knew us, and they greet him by name (then again, of course, he’s famous). As our flights were always wee hours in the morning, and I live at the other end of the country, I always ended up checking in very early and then napping at the first class lounge. Mentor would always arrive fashionably late, and the staff would wake me up before he came in through the door. On days we left directly from office, we got rides directly to the gate (because he was always so late).
I was such a kid then, and would always gorge on the Haagen Dasz ice-cream, and then feed my eyes with free magazines (The Economist was free!) Haha, such a cheapskate I was.
When we landed on the foreign land, things normally got crazier (haha, scoring on oxymorons). This was also part of the reason why I don’t talk much about my work travel – I was pretty appalled by the privileges I was enjoying. Mentor was embarrassed at times too, but he had his way of putting things into a more reasonable perspective for me to accept that aspect of life / our work.
There was one trip, when we had to make it through one of the largest cities in China to get to our hotel. When I texted my ex-classmate to let her know I have reached (my lovely ex-classmates always visit me at my hotel in their respective cities), she was shocked, “No traffic?” Ignoramus me happily said, “nope, no traffic!” Well, the truth was that the traffic was cleared ahead of us (not sure how long before.. tsk), so we could pass through without hindrance. Anecdotes? I’m really not sure, man. But it was a story I would always remember.
All the rest of the cities I worked on were lower tier ones, thus having police escorts weren’t that big a deal, and not something that I would feel so guilty about.
Anecdotal ones would be this one time when the bureau staff picked me up right off the plane – from the runway tarmac. I was alone that trip, and was freaked out when they tried to scoot me off into the car. I was half wondering whether I was in the middle of a kidnap, and kept trying to head towards the rest of the people who were on the same plane I was. When they brought me to the lounge, I was given a darn huge bouquet of flowers, but those didn’t ease my nerves at all. Creepy!!!!!!! Cultural difference, that’s what it was. Creepy versus Hospitality. Yikes. That was also the trip I got really peeved with a >10minute display of fireworks, for manymanymanymany reasons.
Those four years was the period when I was living such a five-star life that my immune system was in shambles. I could not even take fruits cut by non-fruit/veg knives. So, no fruits, no salads, no ice, no milk. It could also be because my entire bio clock was worked upside down from the crazy schedule.
Maybe I had to balance karma a little, by my little deeds, or so my little brain / ego thought. That was the same period when I would take at least two weeks out to rough it out in village development work. These were the more memorable fun bits that I would be happier to write about though. There are also times I wanted to kick myself for rash stupidity (like the Delhi trip that I regretted the very night I got my visa approved). The oldies in office would always laugh at me, yet they know me enough to just point out certain possible blindspots and let me work out the rest of the experience myself.
All in all, I am really fortunate to get to enjoy both polarities. Learning different things, experiencing different perspectives, and finally, a decade later, figuring that they are not meant to be polarities but aspects to be digested, organised, some discarded, and then reconciled to form a bigger, better(?), more supportive picture.
I miss you too, LTK.
I know and trust you’d be proud of me. ❤