Arriving in Sana’a: Friday, May 30, 2008

7 06 2008

As I alluded to in my post about Dubai, I faced some difficulties after arriving in Sana’a. After boarding my flight for Sana’a an airline employee came and asked me about how many check bags I had and what their claim numbers were. This was my first sign that something was wrong, but when I asked the man what was wrong he said nothing. Because I had a 23-hour layover in Dubai, I expected that my bags had been put somewhere, and now they were checking to make sure they made it on the flight. Since we were still on the ground, I hoped that the questioning and getting my baggage numbers meant that they would make sure my baggage would make it on the plane. I was fairly light-hearted at that point and joked that if my baggage was really lost I’d be doing some shopping sooner than expected.

The flight to Sana’a was a couple of hours, but didn’t have the on-demand shows. They had individual TVs, but they only had a few channels and you had to watch whatever was on them. My TV would not stay on for some reason, so I listened to my iPod and looked out the window. The flight went over the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. It really is empty, not just of people but of everything. When we left Dubai I could see sand and some scrubby plants and some signs of human habitation. After a while, however, all there was to see was rolling sand dunes without the least discoloration to indicate any plant life, or any kind of life at all. I learned then what a really deserted desert looks like. I doubt that there are many people in the world who have ever seen an area so devoid of life.

Arriving at the Sana’a Airport, I was surprised to see the runway and taxi-way lined with fighter jets and military helicopters. Apparently, Yemen saves money by combining the commercial airport and the air force base. The airport is very small. There are no gates, so we disembarked with the rolling stairways onto the tarmac and took a bus to the building. It is very small, essentially three rooms: customs, baggage claim with two carousels and an exit/greeting area.

I easily made it through customs and waited by the baggage carousel, and waited … and waited … waited until it was very definite that all the bags off the planer were there. There was a surprising amount of unclaimed baggage, but none of it was mine. I filled out a claim report with the airline and was told they’d call me when my baggage was located. I was told probably tomorrow, which was my own guess since I was sure they were just left in Dubai, not really lost, and would come on the next Emirates flight the next morning.

Even though I felt fairly sanguine about the whole situation, I found it difficult to sleep that night, not just due to jetlag, but also because I was very stressed about not having my bags. It meant I had no clean clothes, I didn’t have my Arabic books for class the next day, I didn’t have a way to plug in my computer or charge my iPod, making my hesitant to use these the distract myself from the stress. I frequently woke up that night worried about how I would even be able to replace some stuff, a lot of which I doubted I could find in Sana’a, if my bags didn’t come.

We were met at the airport by Mohammad, one of the schools employees. I say “we” because there were actually four of us who were coming to be students at CALES that were on the same flight from Dubai to Sana’a (the other three were all on the later flight from New York, that left them with just an overnight in the airport in Dubai.) Two of them were dark skinned (Indian from India and Peruvian) so Mohammed didn’t recognize them as students and they ended up making their way to the school some other way. He did find the other girl, Lauren, and eventually me waiting to report my lost bags.

He took us from the airport to the school. The school is two buildings, not quite next to each other. The classes, offices and some housing are in one, and the rest of the housing is in another. Lauren’s room was in the build with the classes and I was in the other building. We were taken to our rooms and told that Nasir, Mohammad’s son who was also at the airport, would show us around a bit in the afternoon. I unpacked what little I had in my carry on and napped a bit. I also did what I could for church, since the equivalent of the Sabbath is on Friday in the Middle East. I didn’t have most the things I’d planned to use because they were in my luggage, but I read my scriptures and watched two talks from the General Young Women’s meeting in April. Eventually, I got brave enough to wonder around the building exploring. (More to come on accommodations in a latter post.)

Mohammad met me once I’d gone most of the way down from my room on the top (sixth) floor. He showed me to a computer where I was able to e-mail my family and let them know I’d arrive safely, though without luggage. It rained very hard in the afternoon, and Lauren, Nasir, Mohammed and I sat waiting for it to stop before we could go out. We walked around a bit because I needed more passport photos to register in Sana’a, or something. The streets were flooded from the rain, literally. Some places we were wading nearly to our knees to cross the road. (They have really high curbs and more steps up to enter all the buildings for this reason.) After getting the pictures, Nasir took us to an Ethiopian café for tea or coffee. I had hot milk. I don’t actually like milk, but was unable to convince Nasir that I only wanted water. The milk was flavored with sugar and probably cinnamon and cloves. Once it cooled off enough to drink, I found it very good.

On the way back to the school, we stopped at a restaurant and had fool (a bean dish) with really big (bigger than large pizza) flat bread called rashoosh. It was good. Once back in my room, I got ready to bed and quickly fell asleep, but as I wrote before, I had a rough night of it.

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2 responses

10 06 2008
Kent

They probably don’t drink water there, but other liquids instead. Things tend to have different uses in different parts of the world. When I was in France, it was uncommon for people there to drink milk. To them, milk was for making cheese, yogurt, and such. Corn is pig food to the French – not to be eaten by humans. On the other hand, horse meat and snails are delicacies.

10 06 2008
Mark

Reminds me of our trip to Italy. We arrived in Milan without our bags but we were not staying in Milan. It took three days for them to eventually catch up to us in Piza. Fortunately we packed our carry on bags with 3 days of clothes and essentials so it wasn’t too bad.

Now that you have bags and are settled in I hope your trip will be a more enjoyable experience. I love the picture of the sail hotel between your hands.

So are you going to observe the Sabbath on Friday or Sunday?

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