13 December 2010

Young American Girl Lost in the Middle East

This would be the headline that would run across the bottom of the screen as the hunky Anderson Cooper would rattle on…from a small town in West Virginia where the local airport has only one gate to the streets of Dubai where she was never seen again…

Stuck in Dubai without a working phone, any of the local money or any idea of what was going on, I started to ponder, I wonder what Facebook profile pic my parents will chose to use on my missing ad.

It all started when I decided to be cheap.  I wanted a cheap ticket to Miami so I could go on a cruise with my parents and sister.  It costs $1000 just to get from Kandahar to Dubai alone, plus the flight from Dubai to Miami; therefore I was pretty dedicated to my mission of a cheap ticket.  I scoured the internet to no avail, until a Special Forces guy volunteered to help me and found a ticket for a really great price!  Mistake #1 NEVER trust a guy in the Special Forces.  The ticket looked simple enough: I’d fly from Dubai to Abu Dhabi then to London then to Miami.  I even read it aloud (Mistake #2 ALWAYS have someone LOOK at the ticket prior to purchasing) to my seasoned veteran world traveling coworkers to make sure it sounded correct to them.  I purchased the tickets and I’m on my way.

I fly out of Kandahar, no problem, get to Dubai at 7:30 pm. Then my Cheap Tickets Itinerary says and I quote:
“Etihad Airways 5529/Economy/BUS/1 hour 20 mins
11:30 pm Dubai
12:50 am Abu Dhabi
Your flight is confirmed.  The airline will assign seats at check-in.
Connect from bus.”

I assumed this meant I go business class (BUS) on a short 1 hour 20 minute FLIGHT to Abu Dhabi and then have to take some shuttle to a different terminal.  I follow the flow of traffic, I even double check with a woman worker at the airport who assures me to go to Abu Dhabi I need to go through customs.  I retrieve my luggage, go through customs, and WHAM!  I’m outside.  Ummmm wait, where’s my connecting flight?

There is no information desk, just some rental car hubs.  I suck in my breath, tell my self to stay calm and go up to the woman who looks the nicest, the Budget counter.  She looks at my itinerary and says, oh this is leaving from Abu Dhabi, you need to take a bus or taxi.  Say what?  (Mistake #3 BUS does not mean Business Class, it means literally a bus, that thing with wheels that transports people).  She said you need to call them.  I explain I don’t have a phone, she says okay I’ll call what’s the number, ummmm I don’t have a number to call.  (Mistake #4 ALWAYS have a phone number for your airline).  I open my laptop to try to google it, and there is no wifi in that part of the airport.  Thankfully, my phone works to text.  I text my coworker, Joan in Afghanistan and ask her to google the number to Etihad, my airline.  Meanwhile the wonderfully sweet Budget worker calls her personal friend who flew Etihad recently and said yeah, you have to take a bus.  Crap.  I don’t have that much time, I can’t miss my flight to London and then my flight to Miami and then I’ll miss the cruise ship!!!!  Deep breath, don’t go there, you can handle this, I repeat silently.

Okay, well where’s the bus station?  “Near Applebees,” she replies.  Dubai is huge, I’m pretty sure there is going to be more than one Applebees, hell there is more than one in the greater Wheeling area!  Budget worker woman lets me use her phone I call Etihad and they say that I don’t go to the bus station, I go to their headquarters on Shegzai Street.  All seems well, but I think more about it and realize, do I really want to jump in a cab with a driver who probably doesn’t speak English in a middle eastern country as a single female by myself and go to this “headquarters” to hop on a “bus” to go to an “airport” all because one strange voice on a phone says, yep that’s what you should do.  I feel like this is a lesson in How to Get Human Trafficked 101. 

I have my trusty coworker Joan text me the phone number of essentially our boss’s boss who lives in Dubai.  I debate on what is the best wording to convey, “Can you help me, I’m an idiot, who is totally screwed, but I swear I’m still a totally competent worker!”  Luckily, she assured me that what the Etihad woman had told me on the phone was correct and this was the correct procedure.  Good, phew, good to go.  Then Budget worker asks me if I have dimars to pay the cab driver.  What?!  I didn’t even think of that.  She assures me it won’t cost more than 100 dimars and shows me where the money exchange place is.  Money exchanged, address in hand, girl with a plan, I’m ready to go.  I look up to figure out the name of the Budget worker who has literally just saved my trip for me, “Grace.”  My saving Grace.  So I’m not so good at always realizing the blessings in my life, but I got the pretty blatant sign big man, thank you God!

In the end, I made the bus, and the connecting flights and spent a blissful cruise week with my mom, dad and Gretchen.  It was exactly what I needed and wanted. 

God Bless you and yours this Christmas season!  May you not ignore the blessings God has provided for you!

Hugging my family in Miami after almost 3 months in Afghanistan.

1 comment:

  1. hey sarah,

    I hope that what I send you gets to you before 2011. I continue to keep you and those around you in my daily prayers for your safety and sanity but after reading a few of your blog posts (belly dancing "busting a move" ) I think your sanity is quite alright. Please have a wonderful holiday season and know that you continue to inspire those around you....including this awesomeguy about 8000 miles away