Stories

Wheels Up

Kabul airport, September 2014

Au revoir Kabul and onward to Paris! From a dusty airport in the mountains to the florescent beep beep beep of Duty Free in Istanbul, as much as I travel I will never get used to the disorientating feeling of rapid change.

I started my morning in an armored vehicle slinking in and out of dirty curtain-doored checkpoints, with pat-downs by half-asleep women wiping their breakfast hands on my inner thighs. The flight was sun-lined men in ill-fitting khaki, edgy NGO workers, and wide-eyed scarved women and what seemed like an entire daycare of children and their fathers missing their afternoon nap. I stepped off the plane to a crowd of over a hundred Sudanese men and women cast in grey rainy light draped in matching light blue patterned fabric robes, shawls and headdresses, traveling for hajj. Now I’m drinking Efes amongst bulk lokum and mid-grade fragrances.

I struggle with goodbyes and changes, with the confidence of knowing things will be good where I go and stay good where I leave them. Behind and ahead will always be hard – weary of the change that is so much a part of my life, but wary of constant that rarely is.

I had my standard silly and shameless bout of in-flight movie teary eyes, fueled this time by Efes and the film adaption of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, listening to the main character Oskar talk about extending realization, pausing inevitable change:

If the sun were to explode, you wouldn’t even know about it for eight minutes because that’s how long it takes for light to travel to us. For eight minutes the world would still be bright and it would still feel warm.

I’m convinced my emotion comes not only from sappy cinema and high altitude drinking, but from the quiet realization taking place in my cramped dark corner of a plane, the light of a small screen catching the moisture in my eyes, that change is coming. Travel brings not just rapid slideshow scene flip, but forces you to move quickly, to realize finally, to blow right though those eight minutes of delay.