“As far as I’m concerned, it’s still Saturday.”

Day O – March 18

Last night at about 2 o’clock I was finally done packing. I skipped some of the things I wanted done before leaving along the way, and tried to be super picky about which clothes to actually bring, but still ended up with too many. That’s ok though since the total still weighs no more than 13 kilos.
And since then I’ve been feeling this strange calm I haven’t felt in weeks. I’m ready for the 6th and most intense move this year.
So. Time to go to Asia!

My parents and two of my closest friends show me off at the airport. The goodbye is a quick hug in a line that is already closing in behind us, whereafter I leave them on the other side of the fence.
It’s getting late, so I make a dramatic run to arrive a tat late at my gate. Turns out the plane came in late itself, so now I’m sitting here waiting anyway. Ah well, at least I got a little run today. The last in an every-other-day series where I got to 7k in 30 min, that’ll slack over these next few months I fear.
Once boarded I have to hand it to them; Emirates is very fancy! 200 movies to pick from, a nose cam with a pretty cool view and as many complementary drinks as you can drain. Even the food is very good, for a plane. And I’ve got my own private lane.
So, this is it. Here I go, all by myself.
We’re hardly on altitude before I remember the first thing I forgot.
1) some tape to scrapbook with – I know; lame!
2) the doorstop dad promised to get me last night right after dinner, but then forgot about again.

Next movie: Drive. And a first wave of homesickness washes over me. This is currently the favorite movie of the guy I’ve been fooling around with these past weeks. What started out as a one-time incident, happened again and again, then turned into a no-strings-no-feelings regular and ended in –thank you Mark Zuckenburg- a complicated relationship. However, we said no-strings still applies and we’ll see what feelings will be like when I get back.
Again, but much stronger this time, am I caught by the thought “What the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why now? Really?” Only a few hours in, only just on the road, with still no freaking idea of what I’m about to get myself into… Yet at the same time I realize I’ll be back on this very plane 11 weeks from now and it will feel like it was just 11 days ago and much too short.

It’s funny how such a short day can feel so natural, may it be with a little help of the wine; 3 hours later it’s pitch-black outside and local time at current position is 11pm. My watch tells me it’s not even dinnertime yet, but I could go for a nap.

We touch down on Dubai at midnight where it’s 20°.
First thing I do is go into the tax-free to get some tobaccos. My regular, Luckies, are expensive -130 local units- so I buy a carton of Gauloises for 42 dirham. Comes down to €9,15. Then off to find the smoking area, that should be on the other side of the terminal, about a mile away.
This place is HUGE!
I find a crowded room, white with smoke. Luckily a few doors down there is a so called pub, also crowded but with AC so you can actually see and breathe, and I find a seat. I ask the person whose table it is if I can sit down and thereby start my first conversation with a stranger. He responds with “Sure, then can I have a cigarette?” He is a 65-year-old Swiss telecom manager, who was here to set up a system in a small town in Saudi Arabia. He has to leave for boarding before he can tell me much more of the 15 years of travelling he’s been doing after a career as a snowboarder, and about his latest hobby: skydiving.
I order a glass of wine and am shocked when presented with the bill. Alcohol is prohibited in this Muslim country, and it is sold only on the airport, in maybe 3 places, at about 10 bucks per glass. I’ve had 3 of those little bottles on the plane already so I start to feel slightly tipsy. A sudden rush of loneliness comes up and I long for my iPhone, a facebook-chat or any way of contact with my people back home. None of that is around however. I’m here on my own, setting out on an awesome adventure with no other to keep me company than my backpack, and I’m going to love it. I still have to tell myself this in a convincing manner, though.
Another hour until boarding the double-decker airbus to Bangkok, so I’ll have another smoke as the second stranger boards this table’s empty seat; an elder British lady who’d been visiting a friend in Africa.

Again I come in a little late but boarded just fine. I was late this time because I got to talking in the pub with a South-African fellow – born to Dutch parents, the Van Barendrechts, but didn’t speak a word of Dutch. He bought me another glass of wine just so he wouldn’t have to drink alone. He told me that next time I should spend a day in Dubai; it’s worth it, and assured me again I’m about to have the time of my life.
These 3 encounters ensured me once again I have nothing to worry about meeting new people, chatting to strangers. I’ve lost my shy years ago and have been a very outgoing person since, but still I’m in a situation I’ve never been in before, and have a lot of new impressions to take in, to find a way of dealing with.
Also I’m proud to have already gotten “You don’t sound Dutch at all,” twice. I hate that double-Dutch accent.
At 2am I wake up to the smell of food; not as good this time but still a nice, warm breakfast at local time to current position: 8am. As the sun rises over what must be the Himalayas, we fly into a new daytime. Time to destination: 4hrs.
So far I’ve slept less than 2 hours so I shut my blinder to all that beauty and try to catch some more, dreaming of what it will be like, 11 weeks from now, passing through the gate back at Schiphol.
3) a set of playing cards.

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