Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Traveling home

I have been traveling for 2 days, journeying from Randall Street, Monrovia to F-11/4, Islamabad. 

This is the text and picture I sent on WhatsApp to friends:

I have a long journey ahead, 3 flights before I reach Isloo. I have to be at the airport by 08:30 AM to catch a 1050 AM 2-hour Arik Air flight to Accra, Ghana. I board the Emirates flight to Dubai at 1830 hrs. I will be at Accra Airport for about 6 hours. They have a great lounge I will be in lounging in. Then I arrive in Dubai at 0550 AM, wait for my Emirates-sponsored visa and spend day in Dubai until my Friday 0350 AM flight to Islamabad. 
I have been making this journey back to Islamabad from Monrovia with Emirates almost every single flight. For the first few times, I tried various routes: Egypt Air (via Abidjan, Cairo, Dubai and Islamabad), Ethiopia Air (via Accra, Addis, Dubai and Islamabad) and Kenya Air (via Accra, Nairobi, Dubai and Islamabad). When I had extra disposable income while working for the UN, I took some business class flights with Emirates and Kenya Airways. Needless to say it is very comfortable traveling in business class.

Traveling this route since 2003 has made it a truly well beaten path. Traveling alone on these flights, especially in the early years, gave me the confidence to travel, time for introspection and a sense of direction (pun intended).  I really indulged myself in my day-long stop overs in Dubai, enjoying being a consumer, shopping like mad for gifts for myself and family. 

Traveling with one's child is quite a different but equally interesting experience, if not more. 

Monrovia to Accra

Haresh and I woke up a sleepy Kavita at 0700 hrs. While I did my last-minute packing, Haresh bathed Kavita. She cried bitterly but was distracted from her grief when we switched on Channel 307 on DSTV. She perked up and, Haresh and I enjoyed a cup of tea together. 

Our company driver, Morris Duo, came upstairs to get the car keys and our luggage. Christiana Lloyd, our housekeeper, also arrived and helped to wash Kavita's milk bottles. We made our way down after saying good bye to Christiana. 

Haresh left the office keys with our neighbour, the owner of High Tech, so our staff could get it and open up the office. 

En route to the Airport, Morris told me he left his house at 3 AM and reached the house at 4 AM because he wanted to make sure he was on time. He said otherwise there was no way for him to be able to find a car. He gave a driver 200 LD to bring him.

Kavita and I slept on Haresh's arm for the 45-minute drive to Roberts International Airport. 

Haresh advised me to go in and check in while he looked after the sleeping Kavita. Just before I went into the terminal, I spotted a former UNDP colleague of mine, Gbleh Bo Brown. He and I used to work on the Community Based Recovery (CBR) Programme together at UNDP. I had heard he went into politics. He and I greeted each other and, he told me he's the Maryland Senator. It was really nice to see him. We agreed on getting together after I got back from Pakistan.

Temperature check at RIA Airport
I was delighted to see one of the thermographic cameras NATC had installed at the Airport was at the entrance. But honestly, they were not using it because they were checking the temperatures using a hand-held digital thermometer.
Shrink wrap, also shrink film, is a material made up of polymer plastic film. When heat is applied, it shrinks tightly over whatever it is covering. Heat can be applied with a handheld heat gun (electric or gas), or the product and film can pass through a heat tunnel on a conveyor.
I got my luggage shrink wrapped for $ 5 a piece. I checked in at the Arik Air counter and, telephoned Haresh to say he could bring Kavita to the entrance gate. We hugged and kissed our farewells. 

Kavita chatting to the passenger in the row behind
us during the Monrovia-Accra flight
Kavita was awake and wanted to pull her own Dora the Explorer carry-on (gifted to her by Grandma Becky on her first birthday). All the airport staff were amused to see her, so determined and confident. Everyone stopped to greet her and, interview her: "How are you?", "What is your name?", "How old are you?" Nearly everyone expressed a pleasant exclamation when they heard Kavita say, "I am three old." 

We did not have to wait long to board the flight. I had to pull Kavita back as she just started walking on the tarmac to the bus. 

After all these years, there is a real familiarity and ease with which one operates at RIA. It does feel like one's own airport.

Accra to Dubai

Kavita's astronaut shoes
The flight from Monrovia to Accra is a 2-hour flight. Arik Air was pretty decent for this journey. We were served hot meals for breakfast: chicken or beef. I got chicken for myself and Kavita had beef. I felt the chicken was too dry and spicy. Kavita did not eat the beef but happily ate the dry rice. I was fascinated watching her pat the rice before each spoonful. 

Before we knew it, we landed in Accra and descended the airplane. It was much hotter than Monrovia. We walked past the thermographic cameras which were actually being used.

A fellow passenger asked about how to get to Emirates flight. We made small talk and were asked by an Airport staff to take a seat while all the transit passengers were together.

On the Monrovia-Accra Arik Air flight
I've been through transiting through the Kotoka International Airport for more than a decade. For the first few years, transit passengers used to just walk up the stairs if I remember correctly. But afterwards, transit passengers were escorted by Airport staff out of the Airport and re-herded into the Departures Hall. One would collect one's bags from the baggage claims, load it onto a trolley, take it down the ramp, and out the exit. Then, one would push it out from another side exit, out on to a car park, somehow, haul it up the pavement, and push it up to the upper level, cross the street, and enter the Departure Hall. Kotoka is a respectable, well-sized international airport except for this flaw and, that there aren't any jet bridges.

Upper right: Checking in at the Emirates counter at Kotoka International Airport
Upper left: New Arrival Halls at Kotoka International Airport
Lower left: Filling up the landing cards at Kotoka
Lower right: Kavita chatting to the passenger behind us during the Monrovia-Accra Arik Air flight
Kavita dragging her Dora suitcase
up to the Departures Level at Kotoka
So, the Airport staff, a very smart and kind young lady, asked us to take a seat while she gathered all the transit passengers from various arriving flights. I sat down while Kavita ran up and down. Passengers walked into the newly-vamped Immigration Hall. I noticed my fellow passenger strike up a conversation with another one. They were both Liberians living in Australia and had come to Liberia for holidays. Finally, we were asked to follow the lady who after a few steps, asked us to stand in a queue to sign in a book. This notebook was being used to record the names, passport numbers and nationality of every transit passenger. During this time I met a British-Ghanaian (at least that is my guess after I heard their accents) family filling up their landing cards. They had 3 kids, 2 boys and a girl. The parents were very stylishly dressed. We were given plastic ID cards that said "Transit."

Anyway, we proceeded to the Baggage Claim. I noticed a desk with huge bouquet of flowers, a welcome desk for an evangelist type preacher. We got our bags and, the kind Airport staff in charge of the transit passengers offered to push my trolley while I handled Kavita. Acts of kindness during international travel can be rare.

Transit passengers queueing up
to write their names in a blue name at Kotoka
Kavita insisted on pushing her Dora case the whole way. Bemused persons watched her. Finally we got up to the Hall where luckily Emirates had started checking in passengers. Before we knew it, I had my boarding passes, including the ones from Dubai to Islamabad, and our hotel vouchers for our 21-hour stop over in Dubai.

One of my fellow passengers ended up paying almost $ 160.00 in excess luggage for her flight to Australia. I was kind of surprised she did not weigh her bags before leaving or that Arik Air did not charge her. Either way, she said she spent most of her traveling money but had a card for emergency use.

I was looking forward to a relaxing few hours in the Sanbra Lounge which has put Kotoka Airport in my high regard. For a mere $ 25.00, you can get a pass to a really luxurious business-class-style lounge with unlimited drinks, snacks, wifi and even a hot shower. What more could one want? About to enter the lounge, the check - in ladies remembered Kavita from last year   in April while Haresh and I transited en route to Dubai-Islamabad-Mumbai respectively.

After a hot shower at Sanbra Lounge
Kavita was very excited by the sleek lounge. We had some snacks and then went off for a leisurely hot shower. Thankfully, I had brought a change of clothes and an extra towel because the bathrooms did not stock up on bath towels. Afterwards, we went down to the Duty Free to buy some gifts. We came back up and met a Pakistani family. The men were sitting separately and a lady with a toddler was sitting close to our sofa. We chatted briefly. She explained she's been living in Ghana for 4 years. Her husband has a business. She thought Accra Airport was pretty boring but I pointed out that it is still better than Islamabad or even Karachi Airport. In fact, Islamabad was listed as the worst airport in a newspaper.

Soon, it was time to board the Emirates flight which was a bit of a hassle as usual because there is no jet bridge. We got to to our Gate and then started to walk down the flight of stairs to a waiting bus. One of the staff there demanded I show him my boarding card so he could direct me to the right bus. I had several hand bags with me and Kavita tripped and fell. The same genius told me to take care of my child and then told me to get on a bus. I was livid. I complained to one of the ground staff after I got off my bus near the Airplane. That lady kindly helped me to take my bags up to the Airplane. My mood improved.

Soon we were seated. We had seats next to a Chinese fellow going home to see his family, not far from Hong Kong. Kavita excitedly put on her head phones and I put on Winnie the Pooh for her using the easy touch screen. Kavita soon fell asleep and even missed her meal. I enjoyed mine while trying to watch "Spectre". I watched almost all of it, some of it interrupted by uncomfortable sleep in a cramped seat where one could not even stretch one's leg. I did not really enjoy the film and, seriously wonder why we are so fascinated by this assassin? Women play a decorative, strong but still somehow vulnerable role next to this strongest of men who is saving the world.  I also mostly watched "Jurassic World" which was slightly more entertaining and less offensive.

I usually watch many more films and, was lucky that Kavita was asleep. I could have watched many more films but the noise of the engines and the general cabin's hum did not permit me to really enjoy watching movies. I was also really tired, having got only 3-4 hours of sleep. But, it was very difficult to sleep. I kept changing sides, pulled up legs, took Kavita in my arms, put her back down, put one cramped leg up and the other one stretched, and tried all kinds of airplane-seat positions to get comfortable. Such is airplane travel.


Sleepy Kavita just after the 8-hour flight
from Accra to Dubai
The 8 and a half hour flight soon came to an end and, Kavita and I stumbled out of the plane. Luckily, she agreed to wake up and walk on her own. She and I walked to find the Arrivals Hall. She became fascinated with the moving belts. We soon got our visa and proceeded to Exit 1. I was extremely happy and relieved. (Haresh and I have had an unfortunate experience where we ended up staying for an entire day at the Airport waiting for our visa). Kavita and I boarded a bus with other fellow transit passengers. The lady in charge, sitting next to the driver, talked to her supervisor or colleague the whole way, complaining about how someone had talked to her really rudely.  After about 10 minutes we arrived at the Copthorne Airport Hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel and our room. It was clean, bright and very spacious. I guess I was surprised because I had googled at the hotel's name after I received the voucher at Kotoka Airport and the reviews were not that great. I was expecting an unkempt room with dirty linens and worst, a dingy bathroom. But could it be so? Could Emirates really put its transit passengers in a crappy hotel?

Kavita said she was hungry. We went downstairs and enjoyed a lavish breakfast at the breakfast buffet. Why does free food sometimes taste so good?

Breakfast at Copthorne Airport Hotel
We came back up and enjoyed a luxurious bubble bath. I had the TV on and tried to find a cartoon channel but instead settled for an Indian movie channel. All the announcements were in Arabic! This is one of the charms of Dubai, I suppose. One really can see, eat, drink, talk and enjoy all things desi.   You turn on a TV channel at a hotel and are bound to see a couple of Indian channels. The proliferation of Indian culture in the UAE is really impressive. It was nice to hear some filmy dialogues in the back while we cleaned our travel-weary backs before climbing into our bed and, catching 4 hours of sleep.

A clean soothing room after more than a full day of traveling
Happy to be in our hotel
We went back downstairs to purchase some Wifi time so I could send messages to friends on where and when to meet. I messaged my ASB (American School of Bucharest) friend and we agreed to meet at Dubai Mall for dinner. I also arranged to meet with my nephew and niece (Haresh's sister's son and wife) to meet at Fili's later in the night. All in all it was a good plan.

We went downstairs again at 3 PM for a bite to eat from the buffet. We had 3 meals covered for our stop over. The lunch buffet was quite good.

The Hotel staff advised us to take the Metro to Dubai. The station was close and we walked to it and, bought a day pass (just in case I had to take a ride back). It only cost 22 Dirhams which is about USD $ 6. Kavita really enjoyed the train ride to Dubai Mall and, did not hesitate to make comments on everyone around her, including "Why are those peoples sleeping?"

Scenes from the Dubai Metro
We got off our station and started the long walk to the Mall. I remembered this walk from before and braced myself  (I didn't have the stroller, it was checked all the way to Islamabad) but happily, Kavita walked the whole way. I stopped now and then to take photographs of the scenes of construction and traffic. There were so many people walking to and fro. There were magazines stands with free copies to pick up including one with Idris Elba on the cover. They were playing very nice jazz music. It was such a vibrant place, the walk to the Dubai Mall itself, very different to our every life in Monrovia.

We finally got to the Mall and we were soon in consumerist paradise. Everything was shiny and attractive. I love stationery and was tempted to see a stall with 3 notebooks for 40 Dirhams. I wanted to stay and look at beautiful paper and pens but pulled myself away. I needed to get to the Fountains while it was still day light. We made our way to the Fountains after going down 3 floors using the Escalators. Kavita was a little restless by now and, it was time to give her a treat for being a patient and cooperative child for walking all those miles. I spotted an gelato parlour close to the exit for the fountains. I got Kavita a vanilla cone. I gave it to Kavita to hold while I paid for it (19 Dirhams). Out of a corner of my eye, I saw two young men chatting to Kavita and asking her to come to them. I am sure they meant no harm but how could they dare to ask a child to come to them when the parent was not even aware? I gave them the dirtiest look possible and they left their table.

We walked to the Exit towards the fountains. The place was jam packed with people, just outside the revolving doors. I had no clue how we would be able to see the fountains. We ended up just sitting on the stairs with a crowd of tourists and visitors. Kavita finished her cone while I enjoyed watching people taking photographs with cameras and selfie sticks. The fountains started and I could only see the shooting jets of water high in the air. Arabic music started and it was a really festive atmosphere.

We walked a bit and took some photographs. Actually, I asked some people to take it for me and of course, they were happy to oblige. Is social interaction better than a selfie stick?

I wanted to go and check my WhatsApp at a cafe. I did not have a local number so could not log into the public wifi. I convinced Kavita to walk back into the Mall with me. We stopped at a Starbucks where I got my frappuccino fix and asked for wifi. They gave me a card and I quickly checked my messages. My friend from ASB, Natalie Long, told me she'd meet me at the Rivington Grill at 7:30 PM. Her mum was also going to join us. Afterwards, I was going to meet my nephew and niece, Rishi and Sanaisha, at Filli's for tea. I told Natalie I needed to get some underwear and might be a bit late. So, off I dashed to find a department store where I could find some undies for Haresh and I.
Scenes of construction visible from the walk from the Metro Station to the Dubai Mall entrance
We walked past the fountains with the diving swimmers and up the escalators. As I walked up, I remembered this bit of the Mall from my visit in 2014.

I quickly found a Debenhams. Kavita, however, became enthralled with the balloons at the entrance and insisted she wanted one. I tried to distract her but to no avail. I then asked one of the ladies at the perfume counters if Kavita could have a balloon with a wink. The lady said it was not possible but engaged Kavita in a conversation and became so impressed she gave her a few perfume samples.

I did my shopping as fast as I could and, left the shop. All the staff were of course enamoured with Kavita and stopped to talk to her.

I was kind of tired of running around and decided to stop for a cup of tea for some internal peace. The cafe overlooks the skating rink. I collapsed into one of the chairs and, asked for a hot cup of tea with milk and sugar. Kavita was only too happy to look at the skaters below. Despite how loud the Mall is, I managed to relax a bit. I saw a desi father smack about 4 kids who had apparently been running amok and everyone was going mad looking for them. I asked for the wifi, checked my WhatsApp and saw that Natalie was already at the restaurant. I paid my bill and rushed off.

I exited the Mall and walked the small bridge to the Souk Al Bahar. I walked around a bit to try to find it. I think I first went to the entrance of a club before going up the escalators to the right place.

Natalie had got us a table on the terrace overlooking the fountains which I would finally be able to see properly. Her mother was there and, we just had the most wonderful dinner together. Natalie's mom is sweet, warm and funny (and, it was her 62nd birthday the next day). We exchanged stories, anecdotes and a few good laughs. I sipped some red wine which really should be drunk in temperate weather. The fountains came on a few times while we were dining and once to Edith Piaf's warbling voice. It really was grand. Spending time with a childhood school mate after all these years is really quite special. We met at an international school, were schooled together and would have never met again if it were not for the internet and Facebook. One is lucky to see friendships bear fruit to be enjoyed for years and years to come.

Natalie and her mum accompanied me to a taxi stand where I hugged them good bye and caught a taxi to Bur Dubai. The taxi driver was not too sure about Filli's until I explained to him that it was always full of desis. He was from Kerala but understood Urdu. We chatted a bit, talking about his 12-hour shifts.

We arrived at Filli's about 20 minutes later. The taxi fare was 23 Dirhams. We walked into the cafe and, at even at 10 PM, it was full of people who were enjoying the cool night air outside on tables. The cafe inside were also full. I explained to Kavita that her cousin was coming over and she must say "Hello Rishi Bhai." I ordered the famous zafran chai and really enjoyed it. Rishi and Sanaisha soon joined us.

We exchanged some good gup shup. Their parents are in India as my sister-in-law's husband is recovering from by pass surgery. In fact, Rishi's brother Pavan is also in India with his wife visiting his parents.

After some time, they dropped Kavita and I off at our hotel. It was about midnight. As soon as we walked into the lobby, Kavita asked the staff standing there, "Where is my suitcase?" Of course, everyone was extremely amused.

We went upstairs. Kavita took a warm bath. We changed our clothes. I packed our hand bags. I messaged everyone I needed to including my mother who I asked to bring a sweater for Kavita since we were in our summer clothes and I seemed to have forgotten to bring anything with me. The telephone rang to remind me that the shuttle bus was waiting for us.

We got into the bus after depositing our bags in a cute little carriage attached to the back of the bus. There were some other passengers waiting for us. We started and, Kavita started singing and talking. She saw a hoarding of a super hero and, started talking about how she would also be a super hero.

I was quite amused at looking all the hoardings of Bollywood stars as we drove. There are the white Oscars at the other end of the world, bemoaned for their shocking colour blindness and here we have the complete dominance of Bollywood gods and goddesses as brand and cultural ambassadors - the faces of Indian cultural hegemony - who actually are admired and crazed over from South to East Asia, from the Middle East to all of Africa. In fact,  Natalie and her mum shared their favourite Bollywood movies with me.

Before long, we were at the Airport. It was about 2:00 AM. We were led to a small counter which I had not seen before but were informed to keep walking to the main Departures Hall since we already had our boarding cards.

Dubai to Islamabad

I took a picture of Kavita just before we entered the Hall with the immense hoarding of an Emirates crew member. It really is a stunning installation, welcoming one before entering the Airport.

I had Kavita hoisted on top of the trolley which I was manoeuvring with one hand while holding one of Kavita's cute little hands. I quickly made way to the Gate. I noticed a staff standing next to a sign  which warned that passengers were allowed 1 7-KG hand luggage, asking passing passengers to weigh their hand luggage. I hoped he would not ask me because I had 1 x 2-3 KG back pack (with my laptop), 1 x 0.3 KG  diaper bag, 1 6-7 KG carry on, and of course, Kavita's 2-3 KG Dora carry on. Luckily, he let me pass. I showed our passports (an American and Pakistani) to the Immigration.

I have, previously, cursed the very sight of the Emirati immigration officials. In 2014, Haresh and I got stuck at the Airport because for some reason, visas on arrivals were not processed that day and we had to spend the night at a ridiculously-priced Airport Hotel and still did not get the visa until the end of the next day. We would watch the Immigration officials  leisurely walk from one end of the empty Hall to the other, chat to their colleagues, go for breaks, and worst of all, constantly preen themselves.

This time, I just admired these men's immaculately-pressed white robes, their Keffiyeh, and their trimmed beards.

We breezed past after getting our passports stamped. Now we needed to get everything through the security: I had to fit all my hand bags into those trays, take out my laptop from my backpack and stuff into a separate tray, and take off all my jewellery and watch.

After we got through I went to a screen which showed the Gate for our flight. We walked towards the gigantic elevators and rode to the upper level. I met a British Pakistani lady who asked about the Gate to Islamabad. Her teenage son was right behind her and I told she should trust her son who clearly did not seem lost. He had quite a bit of hair gel in his hair and had his little brother's hand in his.

I started walking towards our Gate. I already had so many hand bags that I knew I could not really do any shopping. The only thing I wanted to get was chocolates. We stopped to get a stash of them: Toblerone, Guliyan, Toffiffee and Hanuta. The lady at the counter stuffed them into the famous Dubai Airport Duty Free bag.

I kept on walking to the Gate. By now, Kavita was truly exhausted after 2 days of traveling. She did not want to push her Dora bag. She wanted me to carry her! I somehow managed to convince her to keep walking until we reached the Gate. It was about 2:30 AM. There was a huge crowd queuing up. Kavita was inconsolable and cried asking to be held. I couldn't pick up her up as I slowly moved in the line.

No one around bothered to help with my bags. I felt stressed and tired until a wonderful woman could not resist standing by. She offered to pick up Kavita who continued to cry. Then she got hold of my bags while I held Kavita. I was so relieved and grateful. We chatted as we inched to the counter where the boarding cards were being checked. I found out she was traveling with her Pakistani boyfriend who hailed from Karachi. He had been living in Beijing for more than 10 years and was planning on getting married to his sweetheart. He said his girlfriend loved Pakistani children.

We arrived at the Gate. I was told I needed to check my carry on in. It was quite a commotion because the passengers behind me were still allowed to go through while this gentleman was also dealing with me. He clumsily gave me my boarding cards, a sticker for my carry on and a small plastic cable tie. I was a little cranky myself.

We went into another waiting room which looked like the wildebeest stampede of the Rift Valley. Everyone was heading to the next Gate. The Emirates staff were calling out "Women and Children first" but were not really implementing what they were saying or trying to organise this stampede into a proper queue. At first, one wanted to blame Pakistanis for being jahil gawar but I interrogated my underlying arrogant assumptions. I became enraged in my head and wondered why the heck couldn't the Emirates staff organsise the queues?

Scenes from Dubai Mall
I walked to the jet bridge with Kavita and the couple helped me right to the end. I gave my carry on to a crew member and then entered the plane. Of course the welcoming party never offers to help you. Lately, I have never felt those smiles are really sincere. I started walking to my seat and then demanded one of the smiling air hostess to help me. She first had a brain malfunction and then mental reboot, discernible by a faint blink of the eye (reminded me of Trevor Noah talking about the liberal white woman's reaction to anything that does not make sense in one of his stand up comedy routines) and then agreed to help me. She relieved me of Kavita's Dora bag and the diaper bag. We followed her to our seats and I gratefully thanked her.

I was so glad to have finally made it. That final stretch to home.

We settled in and of course Kavita was eager for me to put on a cartoon for her.

I believe some British Pakistanis were seated in our end of the plane and there seemed to be a terrific jhagra going on. This one fellow said to another that he shouldn't talk to his father like that  and that he would come over. This other fellow kept threatening something too. The first one then came over and said self righteously that his father had 'buried a 33-year old son in Mecca' to which the other person did not really seem to care for. I was quite intrigued as to what started this tiff.

After this, I saw a woman arrive in tears. She had 2 screaming boys tugging at her kameez, wanting to be picked up and she was struggling with bags. This was nearly 3 AM and of course, children were exhausted. She asked why the women and children were not boarded first. She nearly shoved her bags in the Stepford-wife air hostess' hands who then pretended she really loved helping passengers. I really felt bad for the mother with 2 crying kids. I saw another cranky fellow ask for help to have his bag stowed above. One of the crew made a face and then removed a bag of blankets which freed up space.

Clearly, very few happy faces were to be seen.

The magnificent fountains at Dubai Mall

To borrow Madeleine Albright's recent words as she endorsed Hilary Clinton, there should be a "special place in hell" for airline crew who despite their fashionable uniforms, immaculate hair dos and beautiful figures, are really arrogant, crappy waiters and waitresses. After all, what do they do except serve us food? I never knew the challenges of traveling with children before Kavita (and actually despite traveling all my life, can't remember former slights and insults and grievances) but I do now and, sorely realise that the airline industries do not really cater to folks traveling with kids. They will not offer you help or try to make your time a little bit more comfortable.

I couldn't really watch any movies and was exhausted. Kavita also fell asleep. Thankfully, it is only a 2 1/2 hour flight. The lights were dimmed in the cabin because it was a night-time flight. I sleepily watch other passengers line up to the use the bathroom. I saw mothers pop into the crew's cabin through the curtain asking for milk and shaking the baby's bottles.

We started descending and I could see green Islamabad from my window.

One of the male crew members actually snatched the Emirates blanket covering a sleeping Kavita. Nice, Emirates!

We landed into a foggy Airport. I did not look forward to waiting in the Immigration queue in the Arrivals Hall which is really at best a bus stop. I waited until all the passengers had left and then carefully took all my bags from the overhead compartments.

Luckily, one of the crew members offered to help me with my bags. I told her I was taking one of the blankets for Kavita because it was so cold outside. She said she'd ask her supervisor. I did not wait for her to do so.

I held a sleepy Kavita, wrapped in an Emirates blanket, and descended the stairs. I thought our faces would be met with freezing cold but it was not as bad as I had it in my mind.

We were finally here in beautiful Islamabad. And I must give full credit to Kavita, the best travel buddy. In Dora's words, "we did it!"

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