Posts Tagged ‘Abu Dhabi

22
Nov
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Business and Pleasure

Having arrived at the Perth airport with a few hours to kill before our flight home, we decided to hit the business class lounge and see how it stacked up against the one in Abu Dhabi. To be fair, having never set foot inside any business class lounge prior to this trip, I can hardly claim to be an authority on business class anything. Then again, if America can allow a man with no experience in government, no knowledge or respect for the constitution, and a toddler’s grasp of justice to sign legislation, set foreign policy and have access to the nuclear launch codes, it most certainly can allow this novice traveler to critique an airport lounge.

It didn’t take me or my more experienced travel companion long to declare a winner in what the folks at Hanna-Barbera would call the business class lounge-o-lympics. By many miles and nearly every possible dimension of comparison Abu Dhabi was the winner hands down. Size. Comfort. Amenities. Ambience. Cuisine. You name it. Without a doubt, the Abu Dhabi facility reigns supreme over its Aussie counterpart.

The most obvious difference was in the food, which was neither as abundant nor as varied or fresh as that in Abu Dhabi. Whereas the lounge Abu Dhabi offered an array of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian main dishes and accompaniments—plus soups, salads, pastries, fruits, vegetables, and beverages—arranged like fine fabrics or gems on stone-topped islands at each end of the room, the lounge in Perth offered just one entrée and two or three side dishes that sat in metal crocks and which were crammed (along with a couple plates of sweets that were so lacking in personality that you wondered if their signature ingredient was Zoloft) onto an 8-foot section of countertop that looked like a hand-me-down from a minimum security prison or a maximum security middle school cafeteria.

Second, whereas the décor in the business class lounge in Abu Dhabi was elegant, modern and stylish, the décor at the lounge in Perth was a sterile, dated, and stale. To put it another way, if the lounge in Abu Dhabi was a set piece from a modern-day remake of the sci-fi suspense thriller “Gattaca”, then the lounge in Perth was a set piece from the 1976 sci-fi hallucination “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” I kept expecting David Bowie to wander by and say something dramatic and cryptic.  (Yes. I know the man is dead, but I prefer to believe he’s simply gone to another realm and can come back again whenever he wants. Like, say, Inauguration Day 2021.)

Unfortunately, what the Perth lounge lacked in style, it failed to make up for in comfort. The chairs were so narrow they cut into the sides of your legs, which makes it difficult to sit for any length of time and sort of defeats the purpose of a lounge if you ask me. But what do I know. As I may have mentioned, I’m not exactly a seasoned traveler.

One area in which the Perth lounge prevailed over Abu Dhabi was the restroom. Like other aspects of the lounge itself, the restroom at Perth was fairly ho-hum. Old, plain, outdated, etc. In short, it was aesthetically unspectacular, especially compared to the restroom in Abu Dhabi, which, again, was sleek, shiny, and ultramodern. It was also huge, and featured multiple stalls, multiple basins, and real cloth towels. None of this paper towel business. It was quite wonderful—provided you don’t like privacy. Provided you’re not freaked out by the attendant who wanders up and down the row of stalls and sweeping, wiping, and/or scrubbing every square inch of marble and porcelain after each squat, flush and wash and who continues to sweep, wipe and/or scrub those same surfaces at thirty second intervals in between.

No thanks. The restroom in the lounge at Perth may not be sleek, shiny, or modern, but it is clean and, more importantly, small. As in single. Solo. Solitary. As in one sink, one toilet, one mirror. And the person who maintains that little room with one sink, one toilet, and one mirror does not stand or pace around outside the door waiting to clean up after you. Call me old fashioned but I prefer to do my business alone, thank you, and will choose the older, tired, and outdated fixtures over an audience armed with ammonia any day of the week.

Another area in which Perth excelled was in the availability of wine. (Even if you are not an oenophile yourself, you had to expect that to be a category. Unless you’re new to this column, in which case, you’d do well to check out the archive and bring yourself up to speed.) Although its food menu may have been limited and boring, the wine in Perth’s business class lounge was not only free but also abundant and accessible. As in right there out in the open, just sitting in these cool little buckets that were built right into the counter. All a body had to do was walk over, choose a glass—clean or dirty, your choice—and pour.

This was not the case in Abu Dhabi. They may have had gourmet level cuisine laying all about the place but good luck getting some wine to go with it. Because I saw not one bottle of wine near the food, nor any near the beverage bar. What I did see was a sleek, shiny ultramodern bar stocked with sleek, shiny, ultramodern bottles and staffed by a handful of crisply dressed and well-coifed attendants who moved and spoke with such intensity that I found them intimidating. We may call them bartenders where I come from, but these people didn’t seem to be tending the bar as much as guarding it.

Which prompted many questions: Why are these people so serious? Are they armed? Dangerous? If I ask for wine, will they even give it to me? And if I ask them to let me see the bottle, will they demand to know why? What if they don’t like my answer? Will they judge me? What if they’re not really bartenders but trained assassins posing as bartenders as part of some ultra-secret undercover operation? What if they realize I’ve figured it out? Will they erase me?

So having wine in Abu Dhabi was clearly way more hassle than it was worth. Score one for Perth!

Anyway, by the time I had completed my assessment—the balance of which I will spare you, a least for now—the Jarhead had already exited vacation mode and was tapping maniacally away on the buttons of his work phone. I amused myself by working my way through the equivalent of an entire bottle of shiraz. I may not have drunk that much if there had been more than one glass left in the bottle when I poured my first, but by the time I got back to my seat someone had already replaced the empty bottle with a full one, so I felt somewhat obliged to keep drinking.

And from there I basically drank my way home. Even subtracting the four-hour alcohol-free layover in Abu Dhabi, it was the longest, highest, fastest, and most expensive booze cruise of our lives, and best of all, we lived to tell the tale!

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28
Feb
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Planes, Brains, and Automobiles

The flight from Abu Dhabi to Perth went pretty much the same as the flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi, only instead of spending twelve hours facing the front of the plane, I spent them facing the back. Oh, and about four hours into the flight I had to give up both reading and playing Scrabble in favor of watching movies because I was so tired that I could no longer comprehend the written word—much less devise one out of a set of seven letters.

By the time the third movie started—ten hours after we had boarded—I could no longer comprehend the SPOKEN word either, but that was partly because the actors were speaking Japanese and I didn’t have the wherewithal to read the subtitles. And so, by the time the captain announced that we were starting our descent into Perth, I was more than ready to deplane and eager for a change of scenery.

And a change of scenery is what we got….

For starters, there was the immigration and customs area of the airport, which basically looked the customs and immigration area of any other country I’ve visited except that it was practically deserted. I don’t know what happened to all the other passengers that were on the plane with us when we landed, but they most definitely were nowhere near us at that point. I’ll admit we hadn’t exactly sprinted there from the baggage claim, but it isn’t as if we had dawdled either. And even if jet lag and sleep deprivation had kept us from dashing through the airport like O.J. Simpson in a Hertz commercial, certainly SOME of the folks on our flight were just as worn out, so it’s unlikely that ALL of them were capable of walking faster than we were.

It felt kind of eerie to be the only people in the area. I kept wondering if we’d gone to the wrong place, or if the others had all gone to the wrong place. Or if instead of getting off the plane and walking through immigration and customs, I had fallen asleep and was only dreaming that I was walking through immigration and customs. Or if instead of dreaming that I was walking through immigration and customers, I was walking through a virtual immigration and customs deep within the Matrix.

“I doubt it,” the Jarhead reassured me, although I suspected he would not have minded if my brain had gone offline. “We probably just got here after the solitary, young, and childless people, and before the slow, older people, and the people traveling in groups and with children. Most of them will have brought a few more bags than we did, so it will take them longer to get their luggage off the carousel and wheel it over here.”

That sounded reasonable, I’ll admit. But if that was the case, it would have been the first time in our entire lives together that I had walked that far and that much faster than that many people without the promise of chocolate or pizza, or the threat of bodily harm as a motivator.

At any rate, we made it through the maze and soon were standing in front of a friendly red-haired agent at the rental car area. Her name was Gail—a fact which I remember only because it is also my dad’s name—and after discussing the details of the rental with the Jarhead, she took one look at me and asked if I had brought any sunblock. She then went on to tell us how easy it is to get a sunburn in Australia, especially for those of us from the northern tier of the United States.

Gail then cheerily asked the Jarhead if he’d ever driven in Australia or anywhere else where they drive on the opposite side of the road. When he admitted that he had not, she said “I see,” with a deliberate smile and more than a trace of gravity. “I’m sure you’d do just fine,” she added. “Just make sure to keep her in the gutter.”

Having assumed that the “her” in question was the car, I wondered why she thought driving it through the gutter was a good idea. Then I wondered if perhaps the word gutter meant something different in Australia than it did in every other English speaking country in the world. Then I realized that the “her” was me, and that by advising the Jarhead to keep ME in the gutter, she was trying to help him avoid drifting out of the left lane and into oncoming traffic.

It was good advice. Disturbingly delivered. But good just the same.

I pondered that advice all the way through the terminal and across the parking lots to our rental car. I was able to forget my concern long enough to take note of the pleasant breeze and snap a quick pic of the Jarhead behind the wheel, but it came flooding back again as we were fastening our seatbelts.

“You’re going to need to drive around the parking lot a while,” I informed my chauffeur. “You’re not ready to be on the road yet.”

“Sure, I am,” he replied.

“Okay, then I’M not ready for you to be on the road yet. All I can think about is you forgetting to stay on the left side of the road and driving head on into a semi.”

“Do they even have semis here?” he asked as he simultaneous ignored my request and missed my point. “Or do they call them something else?”

I couldn’t tell if his was a genuine inquiry designed to ignite a lively debate or just some sneaky attempt to distract me from my fears, but I wasn’t about to fall for it. I needed a shower more than I wanted to argue or assert my verbal superiority, after all, and our room at the Esplanade Resort in Fremantle was still about 45 minutes away. So, in the interest of time, and lacking another viable option, I slapped on my “sunnies” (“sunnies” as in protective summer eyewear—not the ubiquitous Midwestern lake fish) then closed my eyes and braced for impact.

Every few minutes I would tell myself I was being an idiot and scold myself for not opening my eyes and taking in the sights. You didn’t come all this way to see nothing but the inside of your eyelids, after all. So now and then I would open one of my eyes or cover them both with my hands and peek out through the gaps between my fingers—as if seeing only a sliver of the underside of a semi or witnessing a bloody murder with only one eye would make the whole experience less traumatizing—but that failed to quell my anxiety. If anything, these tactics made the situation worse because it seemed like every time I would venture a peek at the wonders to beyond my knuckles, the Jarhead was changing lanes and coming within a fraction of an inch of hitting a nearby bumper.

Same thing happens whenever I watch a scary movie, by the way. Just as I get brave enough to look out through the gaps between my fingers, I immediately find myself face to face with a slimy alien, a slobbering zombie, or an ax wielding lunatic. It’s uncanny how it’s never a basket of puppies, a litter of kittens, a bunch of baby goats or a bouquet of shiny balloons. And if it ever IS a collection of puppies, kittens or goats, you can bet they’ll be zombie puppies, kittens or goats, and the balloons will be shiny because they’re covered in blood.

At any rate, by the time I was comfortable enough with the Jarhead’s driving to keep my eyes open and uncovered long enough to get a good look at our surroundings, we had arrived at our destination. Not knowing our way around well enough to find a parking garage, and not wanting to run out to the street every two hours for the next 24 to drop more coins in the meter, we pulled up the valet, handed him the keys, removed our belongings from the vehicle, and trudged into the hotel.

11
Feb
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: To Board and Not Be Too Bored

If you were hoping that this post will be the one where you finally get to read about Australia, I have bad news for you. We’re not even halfway there yet.

But don’t despair. As a wise if somewhat aimless individual once put it: Life is supposed to be a journey, not a detonation.

If you are chuckling to yourself, I thank you. I am deeply grateful to you for embracing the whimsy. If you’re irked rather than amused by the reference to explosive devices, please accept my condolences on your flagging sense of humor. If you have no idea what this section of the post is about, you should probably take a nap and read it again when you’ve had some rest.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the least bit worried about detonations before, during, or after this trip. Despite the 96% chance that Homeland Security had failed to detect a bomb or gun on the person of one of our fellow travelers (as discussed in Travelers’ Advisory on March 4 of 2016) I was less concerned about someone hijacking and/or blowing up the plane than literally any other travel hazard you could name. Same goes for mechanical failure and operator error. None of that even entered my mind either before or after we’d made it through security.

No. Boredom was going to be my real enemy that day, I knew. Followed closely by discomfort. Which is why I arrived armed to the teeth with reading material—six magazines, one paperback and a Kindle loaded with multiple novels and an electronic Scrabble game—and pain reliever, eye drops, facial wipes and chewing gum. If I was going to survive this trip, I was going to need plenty to do, and I would need to do it without a throbbing head, dry eyes, oily skin, and furry teeth.

The Jarhead had suggested that I lie lay down and try to sleep. According to him, I would handle the heat, the crowds, and the lack of a shower during our 11-hour layover in Abu Dhabi better if I were well rested. Of course, we both knew that what he meant was that I would be a much better travel companion if I was well rested. But we both also knew that sleep for me was not an option. I find it hard enough to sleep at my usual time in my own bed and in an empty room, so there was zero chance I was going to fall asleep in a cabin room full of strangers at five o’clock in the evening.

And so, I kept to my own game plan and spent just over 12 hours reading, eating, drinking, playing Scrabble, and trying not to watch the clock. Aside from trying not to obsess about the time part, it reminded me a lot of my babysitting days when I would stay up all night doing whatever I wanted—only better, because it involved champagne, French Cheese and fine chocolates instead of soda, Cheez Whiz, and frosting, and because these things they were delivered to me personally by well-dressed people with great hair and exotic accents. I felt like an extra on the set of a Bond movie, or a passenger on the Orient Express. It was fabulous.

And the fun continued for several hours AFTER we landed in Abu Dhabi. For those who are unfamiliar with the city—as I was until I looked it up on Wikipedia—it is one of seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the seven emirates, and sits on an island in the Persian Gulf.  According to Lonely Planet (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi) it boasts “The world’s largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest roller coaster, the highest high tea, the tower with the greatest lean, the largest cluster of cultural buildings of the 21st century” and “isn’t afraid to challenge world records.”

Now I don’t know about any of that, since we never left the terminal. Although it might have been cool to take a tour of the city, we would have had to find a driver to take us around since, as I understand it, the traffic there is about as bad as it is in Naples. On top of that, we would have had worry about getting back to the terminal and through security in time to make our connection to Australia. So it just made sense to enjoy it from within the confines of the business class lounge.

I know. Poor us.

Seriously, though. Walking into that place was like stepping into the most elegant hotel room on the universe’s most elegant space station, or wandering into the most elegant secret lair of the world’s most elegant evil overlord. Decked out from top to bottom in ultramodern architecture, furnishings and artwork it felt more like we had landed on another planet instead of another country, or walked onto the set of some futuristic film instead of an airport, and I kept expecting the cast of Gattaca or Oblivion to come walking in and sit down to at one of the extravagantly appointed dining areas.

But no luck. In fact, besides the impressively neat and efficient staff (who kept whisking away our used dishes, napkins and tableware almost the second we set them down) the only other folks we saw, were other tourists (although, for all I knew, they were famous tourists but just not famous in America.) Which was probably a good thing since I was wearing rumpled traveling clothes, no makeup, and nearly two-day old hair by that point. Not exactly how one imagines oneself when running into famous actors—from any country.

So instead of chatting with celebs and becoming the next Hollywood It couple, the Jarhead and I lounged around and sampled the food and drink on offer at each of the three—yes, three—international dinner buffets. Avid fans of ethnic cuisine of all descriptions, we happily devoured all the familiar Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, European and Asian food we could find, and eagerly—if gingerly—sampled several of the unfamiliar ones—and found not one bad bite in the bunch.

The only down side to enjoying a lavish meal in a lavish setting with lavish seating, is that it puts the Jarhead in a state of lavish sleepiness. Consequently, it wasn’t long before he was struggling to hold his eyes open and I was struggling to hold his attention and maintain my sanity.

And so, with a headful of flat hair and nothing else to do but use the ladies’ room (which turned out NOT to be the relaxing experience one would expect to have in such an gloriously outfitted facility, owing to the presence of an irritatingly fastidious attendant, who kept walking up and down the room and furiously sweeping, wiping, and scrubbing the stalls almost the second they were vacated, making it very difficult for some folks—not saying whom—to do their business) I approached the salon and spa, to see what fun there might be to have there.

The options included manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, and hair care. Since I needed my hair washed more than I needed my nails painted, my skin resurfaced, or my body manipulated by someone who hadn’t at least bought me dinner, I decided to go for a wash and blow out.

I almost didn’t go through with it, to tell the truth. Even though it was only going to cost me about $35, the thought of waltzing into a salon and paying someone to shampoo and style my hair sounded downright decadent to me. So, hoping he would talk me out of it, I walked back over to the semi-conscious Jarhead (semi-conscious only because the news was on and he was half-listening for the weather before allowing himself to drift off to sleep) and laid out my plan. To my dismay, he said that sounded like a good idea if it would make me more comfortable.

Damn him, I remember thinking. I had hoped he would have forgotten how much I hate the feeling of flat hair. Now I had no reason not to take the plunge. Oh well, I said with a shrug as I headed back to the salon. At least I would look lovely and refreshed when we landed in Perth.

I’m not sure what went wrong during the conversation between me and the gorgeous Syrian man who stood behind me at the stylist’s station, but SOMETHING sure did because I definitely did NOT look lovely and refreshed when he finished doing my hair. In fact, although I hadn’t thought it was possible, my hair looked even flatter than it had when I first entered the salon. I literally looked like Janice from the Muppet Show: all face, no hair.

I kid you not. All I would have needed were a pair of false eyelashes, some lipstick, and a couple of wires to attach to my wrists, and people would have been clamoring for my puppet autograph. It was that bad. So bad, in fact, that I almost went to the bathroom to wash my hair. And I probably would have it I hadn’t been worried that the stylist would walk through the lounge later and have his feelings hurt upon seeing my freshly washed and wavy hair.

So, instead I walked back over to where the Jarhead was dozing and waited for him to open his eyes and start laughing.

If I didn’t die of boredom waiting for him to wake up, that is. Which was a distinct possibility. But his reaction will be totally worth it, I told myself as the minutes ticked by. Just hang in there.

An hour later I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I bumped his foot with my purse and pretended it was an accident. He opened his eyes and I said I’m sorry. And when his fog cleared, he opened his eyes even wider. “Have you already had your hair done?” he asked, looking at his watch and then back at me.

Although I didn’t get the shock and horror I was hoping for, at least he was awake.

“Yep,” I admitted with laugh. “It’s awful, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s awful. It’s just…not…you.”

Aww. He was so sweet and considerate, I almost felt bad for disturbing him.

Almost.

17
Jan
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Best Laid Plans

Once we had decided on Australia as our 2016 vacation destination, the Jarhead and I then had to buy our plane tickets. We knew they would be expensive since Australia is so far away that you can’t even get there from here without stopping off to gas up somewhere in the Middle East. But we knew they were going to be even more expensive since there was no way I was going to survive 24 hours in economy class even with a layover in Abu Dhabi.

I mention this not because I hate strangers or enjoy wasting money, or because I’m filthy rich or delusional and expect to be waited on hand and foot like some spoiled heiress. Rather, I mention it because I knew that after just six or seven hours confined to metal chair in a crowded cabin teeming with screaming children and coughing, sneezing, and snoring adults, I was going to be, either,

  1. the first woman in the history of air travel to die of acute monotony, annoyance and discomfort,
  2. the first woman in the history of air travel to be shoved out of the emergency hatch in mid-air by her own husband, or
  3. the first woman in the history of air travel to be shoved out the emergency hatch in mid-air by an angry mob that included her husband.

Either way, I was not going to live to see Australia and the Jarhead would have been left to wander around the place by himself for a week (which would have been a shame) and then return to the States alone (which would have been a bigger shame.) On top of that, he still would have had to explain my absence to the authorities and/or break the news to my loved ones, and take time out of his busy schedule to plan one killer of a memorial service. Given the cost of funerals nowadays, and the fact that, without me, he essentially would have paid double to fly alone in coach—not to mention lawyers’ fees if the cops didn’t like his story and the jail time he might get if the jury didn’t buy it—we (that is he, I, and/or my estate) would be money ahead by flying business class.

So, it made sense for us to bite the bullet and spend the money. At least that’s how the Jarhead and I rationalized it. It may have been the wrong call since flying coach may have proven more interesting from a writerly standpoint. More drama and darkness, and all that. But this way, we both got to fly in comfort and style, and no one died—not even the woman who had the nerve to join us in business class accompanied by three young children with no other adult to assist her. Were it not for the all the delicious gourmet food, the reclining seat with padded foot rest, the expansive audio and video library, and the noise cancelling headphones, one of us may not have lived to tell the tale—especially after the middle child whined and screamed for hours and then coughed so hard that she threw up all over her seat just two rows behind the Jarhead. Thank goodness for the free and abundant champagne.

Of course, we didn’t know when we were booking the flight that we would be traveling with a crazy woman bent on flying with two children and a demon, or we may have chosen a different departure.

Speaking of the unknown: there were a few other pieces of information we did not have when we blew a small fortune on our once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Australia that may have made a difference in our travel experience. For example, we were not aware that one needs to obtain a visa from the Commonwealth of Australia to enter the Commonwealth of Australia. We were also unaware that to obtain a visa from the Commonwealth of Australia, one needs to complete and submit a form to the Commonwealth of Australia, and have it approved by the Commonwealth of Australia. Without a visa from the Commonwealth of Australia, one cannot even board a plane bound for the Commonwealth of Australia.

I guess it should have occurred to us. One needs a visa to travel to the United States from other countries, after all. So why shouldn’t US travelers have to get visas from the governments of their intended destinations?

In our defense, the only place to which we have traveled by plane—apart from when we moved to Italy and the handful of countries to which the Jarhead has flown for work, which are handled entirely differently from leisure travel—is England. So we had insufficient experience with international travel to know there had to be a paper trail. That and the fact that the visa I needed when I flew to England in 2004 consisted of a slip of paper about the size of an ATM transaction receipt and was completed just before we disembarked the plane rather than prior to boarding.

At this point, I invite you to guess as to when we became aware of the need to have a visa prior to boarding a plane bound for the Commonwealth of Australia. Go ahead. Guess.

Was it upon receiving confirmation of our ticket purchase from the travel agent?

Uh, no.

Was it upon receiving our electronic boarding passes from the airline?

Nope.

Was it upon receiving an email from our credit card company congratulating us on our plans to see Australia, as evidenced by the purchase of two very expensive plane tickets and inviting us to contact their fraud unit if we had not recently booked two very expensive tickets to Australia?

Not even close.

In fact, we found out from the ticket agent at the counter as we were cheerily checking in and eagerly waiting to hand over our bags. Oblivious Americans I’m sure she was thinking while simultaneously apologizing for the inconvenience and describing the potential legal consequences to both her and us if she allowed us to board a flight to Australia without a visa.

My stomach churned as I thought about the extra money we might have to pay if we had to change our tickets to buy ourselves more time to get a visa. It churned even harder as I contemplated how much time and money we might have wasted if they denied our visa and we couldn’t go at all. Seriously. I nearly threw up my breakfast just hours before that little demon child did it on the plane.

But while the financial manager in me was growing sicker by the minute at the thought of all that wasted money, the hodophobic part of me was celebrating the fact that by not leaving for Australia, I didn’t have to worry about never making it back home from Australia. Meanwhile, a third part–the small, quiet, and rarely taken seriously mature part–was listening to the agent who, having stopped apologizing was now offering to have another agent explain to us the process by which we could obtain a visa.

Online.

And in about 20 minutes.

Sah-WEET!

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was that I had tuned into that conversation when I did. Or how grateful I was that I’d taken St. John’s Wort with my breakfast that morning, which is probably the only reason the whole shebang didn’t come back up on me right there and then.

And for a change, I was grateful that the Jarhead can be a bit *cough* rigid when it comes to time and travel since that’s the only reason we wound up checking in three hours ahead of the flight instead of two.

It’s not often that we’re early for anything, so I don’t know what benefit is ordinarily derived from punctuality. I only know that this time, it definitely paid off. Because less than a half an hour later, we were back at the counter with our boarding passes and visa confirmations, and on our way to the Land of Plenty!

 

 




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