05 December 2011


When my husband and I moved to Singapore earlier this year, we flew on Singapore Airlines. After extensive research – and I do mean extensive – my husband decided to book our tickets for our American holiday on Qatar.

Just before midnight on a late Thursday evening, I headed to Changi Airport, a few minutes from our house. I was happily surprised as my cab pulled up to the first set of doors and I saw a display of Angry Birds above the doorway. As I looked to my right, I saw that every doorway in Changi’s Terminal 3 were covered in different Angry Birds game scenarios. I loved it!

The inside of the terminal had a few decorations but they were only in a few areas.

Paul wisely advised me that I needed to do my best to not sleep on my 7ish-hour flight to Doha so that I could sleep on my 14-ish hour flight from Doha to D.C. Smart boy.

With two hours left in my first flight, my midnight coffee had pretty much worn off and I decided that I would take a little nap, stay awake during my three-hour layover and then sleep again on my second flight. Of course, 10 minutes after I decided to close my eyes, the cabin crew came in to serve a meal so I was awake.

In Doha, I paid a fee of $40 U.S. to spend three hours in an enclosed lounge that offered small bites and beverages, lots of tables and chairs and a shower. The shower ended up being the only worthwhile experience.

Just after I sat down in a less populated area, a woman came up behind me. She very rudely and quite loudly stomped over to speak with a man sitting behind me. A rather tall woman with average build bent over so that her face was no more than two inches from the well-dressed Middle Eastern-looking man’s face.

“Will you please stop staring at me?” she crudely yelled. I was so taken aback that I turned around to see who this woman was and to whom exactly she was speaking. I think the man just quietly replied with an “O.K.” or something like that. The woman immediately turned and went back to her chair about 10 yards away. I was dumbfounded. I could not believe she had just done that.

This encounter reminded me of a similar experience I had hours earlier. I had a doctor’s appointment in town the day that I left for the States. I wore a sundress that, I admit, showed some cleavage. I decided to take the bus home since there was a stop conveniently located a block away. It was raining, so I was carrying the bottom of my long dress in one hand and my umbrella in the other.

Right after I arrived and sat down on a bench, an old Indian-looking man sat upon the bench in front of me. A woman about two decades younger accompanied him. He did not just stare at me, sitting on the bench with the bottom of my sundress resting on my knees so as not to get the dress wet, he gawked and gazed for a period of time that made me feel uncomfortable on more than three occasions. At one point, he spun around (because he was facing front and I was behind him), stared at my chest, stared at my legs, stared at my chest again and then looked into my eyes and saw the disgusted look I was giving him and then he turned away. And then he turned around again seconds later.

While I might have wanted to say something like, “What is with the staring? They’re called boobs and I have seen more of them on the other side of Orchard Road than I have seen almost anywhere. Mine aren’t that big even by Asian standards. What is your problem?”

I instead simply stood up, walked to the other end of the bus stop a few meters in front of the man and stood on the other side of a sign so that I could not see him and he could not see me. I took myself out of the situation instead of choosing to cause a scene. The woman in the lounge chose to cause a scene.

After I showered, brushed my teeth and put on fresh clothes, I headed to the area of Doha Airport with the big, lighted sign that read, “U.S. FLIGHTS.” I thought it was quite convenient to have all U.S. departures in the same area. As I approached the gates, however, I realized the reasoning behind this great convenience.

Everyone flying into a U.S. destination had to go through an extensive security check, even after clearing security in at least one prior location. Signs with the infamous and highly dreaded “TSA” letters were plastered all over the walls and security apparatuses.

I stood in a seemingly endless line as I watched two security agents check passports and boarding passes four line turns ahead. Just after I made my first turn, I noticed a security man approaching. He was pushing everyone to the left in order to make room for others to pass on the right. He pointed at me and ushered me ahead. I skipped in front of no less than 40 people and wondered why I received this special treatment. Was it because I was American? An Indian woman and her husband in front of me were not American so probably not.

Then, when the Indian couple passed the check, then man tried to move forward with his wife (I assume). He was stopped, however, and I heard a male guard say, “No, this line for women only.” Ahhhh. Discrimination in my favor. I looked around and noticed that the 40+ people I moved ahead of were indeed all men.

The security near the departure gates was unlike any I had seen. For the first time since I left the States, I had to remove my shoes – cheap flip flops, by the way. I placed everything onto a conveyer belt and then watched as four people tore into everything I owned. They opened my purse and my carry-on luggage, pulled everything out and searched my bags for contraband. They were no match for my impressive packing, however, and failed to close my carry-on bag. I told them I could handle that part.

Twenty-seven hours later, I landed in D.C. I went through a bit of confusion upon landing because I did not remember which airport I flew into or which airport I told my friends I flew into. I eventually figured it out and partnered up just fine.

My friend, Katie and I were chatting earlier today about things I may have taken for granted while living in the States. Other than semi-free speech and freedom from censorship, I could not think of many. I had no idea, however, the simple things I missed out on while living abroad. 

No comments: