By the time you read this post, we 'll be on the final leg of the transit, on our way home to Sri Lanka. This passage consists of travel by land, sea and air. Though this is supposed to be an eagerly awaited joyful event, the airline ticketing agencies or a bank or some other body makes sure to take the joy away and make it as stressful and traumatic as possible.
We've been so disappointed in these airline ticketing systems, I personally don't believe that we're going to make this flight, even when we board the aircraft, even when we taxi to the end of the runway and turn around, even when the big Rolls Royce Engines on the Airbus rev up sitting at the end of the runway, even when it hurtles down the runway faster than a F1 racing car, even when the we take off into the November skies. I only believe when we bank right and head east.
Every year they make some mess with the booking ans we are wait listed and I've lost count how many times we had to run through the airport terminals after FINAL CALL. It was only last year we had to spend the night at the airport waiting for the airport branch of the airline to verify my son's booking. Even though they make a very big fuss about overbooking, once you get into the plane there are so many vacant seats.
I don't like night flights, because I miss seeing Sri Lanka from the sky for the first time of the year. And when we go home in the midnight we become helpless in out own home. The strong point is you can get home without ben seen by the prying eyes.
37000 feet from the mean sea level. Outside temperature, minus thirty five or forty degrees Celsius. The engine note changes when you swallow. Why not have another Heineken?
The PA system crackles that we are going to land in Colombo in a few minutes, so return to your seat and buckle up. And no smoking goes without saying.
The most ecstatic moment of the whole flight is touching down on the tarmac of our own airport. Even though the landing procedure is the same on the return journey, the feeling is entirely different.
The aircraft is losing height. The wind starts to howl against the open wing spoilers. If you pay close attention you feel rather than hear the hum of the powerful motors opening the wheel bay, the landing gear lowering and locks into place with a gentle thud. My on and I both remember the 'Microsoft Flight Simulator' we play at home. The wind howling against the open wing spoilers and the powerful jet engines screaming in reverse thrust raise into a crescendo.
We are on the glide path with the nose slightly raise to enable the huge rear landing gear to hit the tarmac first. Finally when the rubber meets the asphalt at high speed, leaving a new black rubber skid mark on the runway we feel the thud throughout the cabin .Then the nose wheel settles down, with the hiss of hydraulics, the weight of the aircraft is transferred to the powerful suspension system. The wheel brakes, reverse thrust and wing spoilers all work in unison, and plane slows down.
I feel a lump in my throat and my eyes moisten, momentarily forgetting the grease devils, undisciplined drivers, the crime rate. I get a bit carried away anyway, like some others.
The aircraft now taxis to the gate. Though we can't get off till the the jet bridges are connected to the doors, almost everybody stand up and spill into the aisles, blocking them. Only few wise dudes stay seated. It's a good idea to check if you are leaving anything behind. Better peep into the overhead bin to check anything from your cabin luggage had spilled out, because the ride was so rough closer to Colombo, due to turbulence.
We go through the jet bridge, take several turns and we are in the lobby, filling out the mandatory forms. It's amazing to see how many people travel from country to country without a pen. They bug you for your pen. Why the hell can't these dudes remember to bring a pen?
The first queue in the motherland, the immigration and emigration. They stare into the computer screen, then at your passport photo, study your face and stamp your passport, that you have landed. On second thoughts, sometimes they give you a brief smile also. "Welcome back. Have a pleasant Stay!" These are only in Hollywood movies.
The Duty Free Shops on the Arrivals Lounge always remind me of the cross streets of Pettah, vendors trying to lure you in. Why do they always have home appliances? And why not laptops, computer accessories and digital cameras for a change?
Dudes cast stray glances at your Duty Free Wine. You can't spend too much time here as your luggage is now taking free rides on the baggage carousel. If you get fashionably late, the security dude who has an eye over them is a bit pissed off. If you get very late, and forgot you had to collect them, then your luggage could go missing, too. Who knows?
Sri Lanka customs let us through without much fuss, may be because they feel sorry for us. The ATMs in the airport refuse to spit out the cash with the kind of card you have, no matter what.
It's safer to get a taxi from that reputed taxi service, housed in the airport.
Some dudes fall over each other trying to help to load our luggage into the van expecting a tip in dollars. Dude we pushed them ourselves through the worst parts of the journey. They won't back down.
I replace the foreign SIMS sith local SIMS that I've prerved in my wallet for one whole year. Then reset the time on my wrist watch and the phone. I hear Sinhala around me giving a feeling of nostalgia and our people are everywhere.But oh, dudes the way they drive! And the first thing I notice is how much they honk! I had forgotten about these three wheel driver and private bus drivers.
We pass Minuwangoda and Gampaha. I start a small talk with the van driver. "How much is petrol? How much is diesel? There were grease devils here, right? They are opening the new expressway on 27th, aren't they?" Mostly updates.
At the beginning mu dudes used to come to pick me up. The novelty wore off when we continued to go away for the last ten years. Now the drop us off on our way back.
At last here we are. HOME SWEET HOME! THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!
PART TWO when we really get home. If you can't wait, you can read the rest in Sinhala by visiting my Sinhala Blog
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