Suggested Precautions When Traveling to Kathmandu at 3 a.m.


As soon as I closed my eyes Deirdre’s iPhone went off.  It was 3 a.m.  I normally find Apple’s default pleasant, but this time it was nails on a chalkboard.    I counted to ten, opened my eyes, kicked my legs forward and launched myself up.  Deirdre and I started getting dressed, neither of us speaking as we finished packing.  I nervously went to wake up Morgan.  It’s taken all 19 years of her life for me to narrow her morning personalities to two categories: cranky and cranky as hell.  I left open the possibility of a third category since I had never woken her up at 3 a.m.  Actually, I’ve never woken anyone up at 3 a.m.   Morgan makes a strange noise when I wake her; it’s what I imagine a hungry baby pterodactyl sounds like.  When I tapped her on the back and whispered “wake up” she made the noise, rolled over and went back to sleep. Luckily she was only classified as a category I because she got out of bed shortly after.

She hadn’t finished packing though, so Deirdre and I left to meet the rest of the fam in the lobby without her.  Everyone was moving slowly and I sensed from the start that we were behind schedule, if only by a few minutes.  We tried to drag our suitcases down the marble stairs quietly, but this was as promising as Tim trying to play his drums without waking me up in my bedroom next to his mancave.

When Morgan finally came down, we said goodbye to our lovely hotel concierge (link provided because I highly recommend it).  Even though they didn’t open the breakfast buffet early for us like they did when we went to the Taj Mahal, the concierge still felt bad for us.  They’d witnessed all of our antics in India–they’d seen Morgan fall down the stairs and sprain her ankle, us leaving 6 a.m., and us coming back after 11 p.m., filthy, sweaty and starving night after night.  They sensed, perhaps better than us that our journey had just begun.  We said goodbye and piled into two cabs and made our way to the airport.  It was 4:10.

When we arrived there was some sort of dispute over the payment to our cab drivers, which I never bothered to get clarification from my dad about and surely am not going to bother with now.  All you need to take away is that we lost six minutes in the process of trying to figure out how much we owed each guy.  We then beelined to the airport entrance only to be halted by two security guards.

“Boarding passes?” one guard asked us.

“Boarding passes?” My dad repeated back to him.

“Yes, sir, boarding passes.  I cannot let you inside without a boarding pass.”  Aside from his gun and his shirt not being that tight, he may as well have been a bouncer because he seemed to be enjoying denying us entry.

Apparently we missed the memo about needing a boarding pass to simply enter the airport.  If you aren’t flying and want to get inside to just to pick up your Mom or see your friend off, you have to pay and go through a separate entrance.  Even if you can’t afford the plane peanuts, the airport is still the place to be.  Why?  Because unlike the rest of Delhi, it is clean and air-conditioned.  It’s the nicest place that homeless people, and people with homes for that matter, will ever be in Delhi

But we stood there, baffled, trying to make sense of what the guard was saying.  Were we really not going to be let inside?  I dug my passport out of the bottom of my backpack and showed the guard.

“I am sorry, madam, I need to see a boarding pass,” the guard was adamant.  I hated being called madam. I would have been annoyed but I was already ticked that it was 4 a.m. and I was being denied access to a place that sees 34 million people travel through it a year.  Seven out of 34 million.  Were we that special?

This is perhaps the only place in the world where our American passports were deemed worthless.  An American passport could grant me political asylum, entry into an embassy and believe it or not, it can sometimes even get me on a plane.  But it cannot get me into an airport. Go freaking figure.  The guards stared at our group while my dad stood there and searched for an online boarding pass on his phone.  I exchanged looks with my mom, which was sign language for “No boarding passes printed out in advance? How andersonlike.”  I knew all dad had was a google doc I made with everyone’s confirmation and ticket numbers so wasn’t sure why he was even looking for something legit.

I guess I get it, but really, what is it about us that made this security guard really think we were going to the airport at 3:30 a.m. just to hang out?  Actually, it’s 4:45 a.m. because we were late. I wanted to explain to the guard that even if I were to expand my list of places I want to voluntarily be at 4:45 a.m. from 3 to 500, Indira Gandhi International Airport is still not one of them. But since you asked:

  • my apartment bed
  • my home bed
  • a really good party, à la those Lexus commercials.  I never know what exactly they’re doing. Someone got married but then the groomsmen are eating at a hot dog stand, and then all of a sudden they’re playing croquet.  I don’t know why, but I feel a strong urge to be there.

Like I’ve said, FF loves to stereotype, and this time I was begging for the guards to profile us as dumb white tourists we were so we at least could attempt to make it to Kathmandu, even if it meant running through the terminal like mad men.  It wouldn’t have been the first time.  If the Andersons were to to declare an official sport, it would be Airport Running.  So not being able even to even run to the terminal would be a new low, perhaps only behind the time Morgan lost her visa application in the airport and was not allowed to go through security until we found it 20 minutes later.  Besides, this was the flight I booked and I didn’t want to miss it.

I finally got the racial profiling I so desperately desired because we eventually were let through after my dad showed the guard some fake email on his iPhone. But I couldn’t believe that the conversation lasted as long as it did.  I sarcastically thanked the guards for their help and sped ahead to find the check-in.   But another six minutes had gone by.   After trespassing into the airport, we power walked to the Jet Airways check-in. Still open. We had our entire lives packed into high school backpacks so went through security relatively quickly, allowing us to make up time and reach our terminal without having to run.

While I planned on passing out before the flight took off, there were some arab men behind us that were causing problems in the row behind me, Deirdre and Tim.  They refused to put their seatbelts on.  Several flight attendants came over and asked them, first politely and then sternly, to please put their seat belts on, stating that the plane could not take off until they complied.  My mental Homeland Security color warning jumped from yellow to red, but then I figured that if any terrorist was going to hijack a plane he surely wouldn’t pick a such a crummy flight to Kathmandu.  Our family dying would barely make channel 5 news.  Besides, if I was going to die, I wanted it to be on the next leg, flying into Lukla, the most BA airport in the world.  Then I would at least make the updated version of the History Channel’s most dangerous airports in the world program (link to part 2)

Shortly after we took off it finally happened–the it being that Tim got sick.  I couldn’t believe it had taken five days.  Tim’s name is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest person to vomit on the six inhabited continents.  Since he achieved this feat on our last trip to Asia, we could now take his condition less seriously, as evidenced by the mass text Morgan sent out before we left:

Morgan: Everyone send me your bets for the day of the trip that you think Tim is going to throw up. Winner gets 10 bucks and an extra food on the designated day that wins.
Me: Tuesday because that’s when we go to the Taj Mahal but we might change it to Wednesday for scheduling purposes so please adjust accordingly
Mom: at the Taj
Morgan: Ya I think so too.
Kevin: obviously whatever day we go to the Taj

The reason so many of us thought the Tim was going to puke at the Taj Mahal was because of the stark parallels to the last vacation incident.  It was in Cambodia at an ancient temple. That day we were hot, sticky, and nowhere near a bathroom.  We’d also woken up early and were dehydrated.  As we were walking around, Tim said he didn’t feel well, but no one ever balks at this because Tim never feels well.  Tim has to work a food pantry? He doesn’t feel well.  Tim has to study for a math test? He doesn’t feel well.  Tim has to altar serve at Mass? He doesn’t feel well.  I’m not saying he’s lying, just admiring his inherent ability to contrive a fever and a headache on command.

So he threw up right there inside the temple, where Buddhists still go to worship.  Buddhists and tourists alike were grossed out and gaped at us while we my mom helped him. But there was nowhere to go and nothing she could do to clean it up.

The Taj was the exact same, but he didn’t get sick.  Probably because we barely ate that day.  So when Tim ran to the bathroom right after our flight departed for Kathmandu, we were caught off guard.  He was in there quite a while, and I felt bad as I watched other passengers line up outside to go to the bathroom, unbeknownst of what they were going to walk into as they shut the sliding door, squatted and took a whiff.

The flight attendant knew what was up because when Tim returned to his seat next to me, she asked him if he wanted a drink to ease his stomach.  Although he refused, the flight attendant brought him a green concoction with little bits of leaves floating around.  He graciously accepted and drank some of it.

“Does it help?” I asked Tim, not eager to try it myself.

“Not really.” Tim mumbled. I was afraid that might make him puke too.

Even before Tim puked, I was avoiding the plane bathroom.  Is there anything worse than being crammed inside one of those bathrooms with the freaky flushes? I always wait to flush after I wash my hands so I can run out quicker because I fear the toilet is going to suck me down if I hang around too long.

Maybe Tim’s misfortune brought us more sympathy because I am pleased to say the plane was not hijacked.  We landed and not long after we entered Tribhuvan Airport’s  one terminal, we navigated to the bathroom.  There were two stalls, each featuring its very own hole in the ground, about 50 flies and a bucket of water.  The bucket of water is to create your very own manual flush.  This time I did not risk getting sucked in, but easily could have taken a misstep in.  But the hole in the ground, the bucket of water, and flies weren’t a big deal.  The bigger deal was your worst bathroom nightmare: digestive problems with no toilet paper.

Now to avoid you from refusing to read FF ever again, I’ll avoid details.  Besides, it wasn’t me that was that sick; I’m just speculating.  Instead I will defer to this handy-yet-crass site to describe how sick you will get in India (I imagine a combination of the Tijuana, the Wet, and the Chili would be the most accurate. But again, just speculating).  The reality is that you are going to get sick.  It’s nothing on the food or the water or the safety.  Honestly. It’s just different and your body isn’t used to it.

And just because we were in Nepal didn’t mean it all of a sudden went away.  We My mom and Deirdre brought travel packs of Kleenex, but at our going sickness rate, one could easily use an entire pack in a single Pepto Bismal-required trip to the toilet. We needed to be frugal because we had four days left and hadn’t even started the trek.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and such a predicament forces you to preserve a Kleenex in ways you didn’t think were possible.  Next time you go, grab a Kleenex instead of the toilet paper.  Split the tissue in two. It so thin it it’ll rip in your hand, but this way you get the entire area of a standard tissue twice instead of just once. Now imagine using those two flimsy squares in  the world’s most famous diarrhea scene.  But instead of being in an open street, try standing in a narrow stall over a tiny hole in the ground.  If you prefer, you may also imagine vomiting, because Tim’s stomach was still unsettled after we disembarked the plane.  For our purposes, it doesn’t really matter which way it’s coming out.

Now imagine that unexpectedly becoming the only bathroom you had access to for eight hours.

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One thought on “Suggested Precautions When Traveling to Kathmandu at 3 a.m.

  1. Pingback: Little Miss Boarding Pass | Frequent Failer

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