Monday, February 11, 2013

Starting the year off right

December 31, 2012

Shared breakfast with Donna at the First Street Café in Benicia … our usual weekly tete-a-tete, with the added event of a ride to BART for me.  I’ve packed, repacked and  packed again over the past week, getting my luggage down to manageable weight and size for a woman of my years and constitution on a 5 week itinerary in India.

Yes, there is the matter of my years.  I started traveling when I was 7, so know the routine of packing and leaving things behind.  First traveling on my own at 15,  I learned the joys of not knowing exactly what will confront me, delight me, confound me.  With my first foreign travel at 19, I learned the meaning of adventure, danger, and letting the sparkles of the present flow around me.

With recent travels, I’ve also learned how much pre-arranging I need in order to keep my creatureliness in good working order.  So  most hotels have been booked in advance, flights have been bought, and this, my first experience with organized tours, will definiately be experimental.

January 1

Dubai, Le Meridian Hotel at 10 pm Middle East time (that‘s about 10 am California time).   I deplaned into a strangely familiar world with shiny marble floors, English signs, efficiency … um, but men wearing white dresses and head scarves. Large airport, enormous, I walked for what seemed like 20 minutes to immigration.  Easy, comfortable, my tired brain didn’t have to stress.   Got a taxi cab quickly and the friendly driver described the city, deposited me at the hotel (a mere $6) where I was met by a doorman who took my luggage.  At my age, I no longer need to grab it first, I’m willing to tip someone to help me.  Inside, the receptionists were hospitable, intelligent and helpful, though the various English accents are stunning … African, Asian, Indian … all speaking English with a twist.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke early and got up to walk around.  Knowing where I am physically and first hand is important to me.  I like to place myself on the earth, wherever I am.  It is a fairly mundane neighborhood, with only a few hotels.  As I walk farther, I find a clean, middle class looking neighborhood that could be Miami or Los Angeles.  Homes have clean-cut, geometric construction and are painted neutral colors; groceries or snack shops dot corners of main streets.  Not many people are out; mainly men perhaps walking to work and a few women of indeterminate ethnicity who look like office workers.  I stop for breakfast at a coffee house across from the Emirates College, where I see people in airline uniforms.  The weather is perfect, the food delicious, the service friendly.  I continue, heading back to the hotel and see men out washing cars.  I assume these are drivers whose job it is to keep the cars spic and span and ready for their employers’ use.

A little later I head the other way and realize I’m close to the very simple metro and could have gone downtown easily on my own.  Feeling it's too close to flight time to Delhi, I kick myself for not doing something (for the first time), and head back to the hotel.

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