My phone said it was 12:45am when I set my alarm. It was on airplane mode and I don’t know how long we had been flying for. I was the last one with my reading light on. I set the alarm for 3:30, but was awoken at 2:00 (6:00 Azores time) to a bright and beautiful horizon – shades of orange and green in the distance with blue clouds over an indigo ocean. Some of the people around me seem to have stayed awake for the transition from X-Men to a cartoon with a girl riding a hummingbird. Their eyes are bloodshot and contrast with the color of the sun’s light seen from both my windows.
At 7:20 we pass the Corvo Island crater peeking through the cloud cover. I used the lavatory over the Atlantic Ocean as the intercom announced our descent. I hurried back to my seat but there is no land in sight until I spot the island under a pile of clouds seeing only the outline of the surf hitting the shore. We arrive at Lajes Field Airport on Terceira Island of the Azores archipelago, Portugal at 7:40am. The countryside is beautiful. We are taxied in the plane, then bused over to the waiting area – from door to door supervision – with outlets, vending machines, phone banks, and chairs.
We are stuck for two and a half hours inside except for pet owners that are allowed to walk in the fenced-in parking lot. Smokers get to go into an enclosed room and just through the door leading to there I’m overwhelmed with the smell, but step in to get a picture of the mural and I can imagine that the walls are yellow around the corner. I’ll wait my turn and eventually charge my electronics, but we figured a seat by the window was more important. Some people laid on the floor and others were quick to load up on snacks.
Back on the bus, back on the plane, and it doesn’t seem any emptier than before. I actually think we picked up some new people along with trinkets and postcards to be sent home. We are due in Naples, Italy at 5pm and it’s 11am here when we start to roll on the runway. It will be dark when we reach Chania, Crete, Greece and I was looking forward to the view. I’m wishing we would’ve taken our second boxed meal with us to snack on. I’m starting to get hungry, but there should be another meal served, or so I’ve been told.
The plane is in the air and the hot towels already offered. A stewardess comes around and tells me to close the window. I ask her why, she reaches over me, closes it, and tells me, “So people can sleep.” I open it back up and let her know I enjoy the view and look around to see no one having an issue with the light coming in my window. These guys are coming from work, leave, and days on planes – if they are tired they will sleep and my window will have nothing to do with it. I didn’t appreciate her rude behavior, but not enough to do anything about it.
Apparently one guy was sleeping so well that he missed the last flight’s meal and had to be woken up by employees cleaning and restocking the plane and given a personal bus ride to the station where the rest of us were. We all got to talking and one guy was telling us how his mom duct taped mittens to his hands to keep him from scratching his chicken pox. A guy beside him wondered if it was because he was growing his nails – because people are born without them now?! They gave him a pass saying that he could already be jet-lagged. This same confused individual wants to get a tattoo, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Lunch was chicken and rice with coleslaw, chocolate cake, and cheese with crackers. We arrive in Naples at 4:30pm and are allowed to de-board at the rear of the plane and walk to the waiting lounge. I enjoy the bit of exercise, but still wish to be taking photos. I get a Pinwheels (chocolate covered marshmallow) from the USO and a bag of Cheetos, then brush my teeth. We sit at a table with Kyle Lejune Keller (the guy with the lemon towel) and chat while waiting for people to open the bathroom door and be surprised to find someone in there – so much for locking or knocking.
When I’m done eating we can explore more of the airport. There is a playroom for kids and a café with knickknacks – decorative plates, snow globes, and teacups – on the shelf. There are two floors here. The bottom where all the coming and going is had, and the top floor where all the waiting is to be done. It seems we are leaving some people here as I see a guy outside make his way around the corner with wheeled luggage in each hand, with bags on top of them, and a bag on his shoulder. Three hours after landing and we are called to go back through security – IDs out and shoes off.
While we were waiting a command was looking for one of their men. Turns out he had walked to the gym to take a shower. Part of me applauds his bravery, but the other part thinks he was dumb for doing so and I’m not trying to do anything to compromise me meeting my dogs at the airport when they arrive. The heat is flowing freely on the plane and the stench has already been growing. The seats are finally emptying out and guys are spreading out so they can stretch their legs while they nap. I don’t want to give up my window seat – and I’m having no trouble sleeping here using Caleb to cuddle with.
I started to read for a while and then realized I had read the same paragraph three times. I put the book away and snuggled up with Caleb. I was about to go to sleep when I saw the food and drink carts getting pushed up the aisle at 8pm. I stared at the TV screen to keep me awake until our tuna sandwich with Taralli cookies, Gran Merenda biscuits, and fruit cup arrived. Ate, looked out the dark window, then I went to sleep an hour later. I woke up three hours later to darkness and Chuck on TV. I listened to some music until the plane started its descent at 10:15pm and I was able to get some blurry photos of the island with the light of the full moon.
Another de-boarding and another bus – this one mostly standing room – and we are delivered to our next room to wait for two hours while they clean, refill, and unpack the bags of those people who are staying. They sell sandwiches, lots of liquor, and a large variety of chocolates. One guy buys a four-euro Gatorade. We sit down to read, but the lighting is dim and my eyes quickly get heavy. We get up to walk around, talk with some guys from Caleb’s command and I get a mini box of Smarties and half a Kit-Kat bar from them, and then walk around some more. One of the guys bought two bottles of wine and we wonder if they will be allowed into Bahrain. There’s a lot of movement and announcements and we hope to be leaving soon.
Traveling like this feels like being blindfolded while driving through Yellowstone National Park. You can sense the awesomeness around you, but it’s all too far away to see or take pictures of. This day concludes over 24 hours in and out of airplanes and airports. We’ve crossed six time zones today, three yesterday, and have one more to look forward to. My body is confused on being tired and hungry and I don’t know what time of which day it is. I sleep between meals when I can’t keep my eyes open, but part of me wants to have a regular 17-hour day and I feel like an infant – wake, move around, eat, sleep, repeat – it’s all part of the grand adventure.