Well I made it uneventfully through the 30 hour slog of travel back to Afghanistan. This one took a toll on my body like never before, especially during the near-8 hour layover in Dubai airport in which I felt like the rolling of time got a flat tire and was stuck by the side of the road in a mud pit, but only for me.. everyone else was moving on through. Finally getting onto the plane at 3:00am felt only like a half victory because I was then crammed like a sardine into a seat next to two big military guys (and by big, I dont mean muscular.. I thought you had to be fit to be here, but maybe they were ISAF). Of the handful of other women on the plane, most were dressed in such a way that I could tell they worked at the Embassy or some other Western-run unit. Meaning, they were wearing normal clothes, without any down-to-the-thigh shirts and no scarves to be seen. I always feel weird/bad when I start to subconsciously judge these women, as if I’m becoming submissive to the ills of this culture, because there are two ways to look at it: one, they are ignorant, or two, they refuse to give up certain personal freedoms that they believe in. In my decisions, I usually go for a happy medium that makes me feel comfortably adherent but also myself – yet this doesnt prevent being leered at, so I suppose I could dress like them and still get the same response.
Anyways. The best part of this long, abusive trip was when we bounced onto the runway. No I’m not joking. That was the worst landing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was sitting by a window over the wing, watching our progress, and saw us coming in too fast.. and sure enough, just has our wheels were about to hit the ground, the pilot pulled up last second on the throttle just slightly and we BOUNCED and then three long seconds later, came back down HARD, swerving severely and of course still at an extremely high speed. Everybody was white knuckled, trying to look calm, as we careened down the runway and finally slowed to a stop.
Then, “Welcome to Kabul International Airport.” comes over the intercom.
The pilot finally apologized half-assedly, after we’d already taxied most of the way to the gate. This country has ruined my enjoyment of air travel.
I managed to get through the rest of the transition OK: my bag came through from LAX, thankfully, and I snagged a luggage cart without a porter trying to grease money from me, found a snack vendor to charge my dead phone (for free, bless him), and called up Transport to send a car to take me home. Got back to the house, chatted with one of my housemates for a bit, and proceeded to slumber for the next 9 or 10 hours.
Yeah, pretty much the worst way to overcome jet-lag — by sleeping throughout the day, but I just didn’t have the care or energy to do anything else.
I finally got up around 7pm, and fired up this hunk of plastic to check email. Got caught up on the world, sort of, and am contemplating the next few weeks and months. It’s strange to be back, after having such an amazing break at home seeing friends and family and doing the things I love to do. I did so much, but still didn’t get my fill, probably because I knew I’d be coming back here.
It’s dark now and I can hear the mosque, as well as the music playing in my housemate’s room, a dog is yipping, cars on the road nearby are motoring along.. everything is ‘normal’ but I feel more out of place here than I did before. It was nice to stare down from the plane at the mysterious landscape again, to drive through morning traffic back to my neighborhood, to feel some Dari phrases coming back into my head, to smell the smells that will always make me think of here and other South Asian places.. but I feel more removed, and not with as much motivation to reconnect. More on that later. For now, I will enjoy the cool night breeze, and some dried mango slices brought to me from the Philippines, from my housemate. He also delivered on his promise to bring me a hammock. He’ll be one of the nicest people I remember from this place after I leave.