So remember my visa hassles? Well, in the end, it went through. I needn’t have panicked so much. Next time, I tell myself, I won’t. Though I know I will. Old traumas die hard.
As the trip neared, I started to get excited. I started to read, to plan, to let that feeling wash over me. It isn’t just that Ireland is one of the few places left on my bucket list. I like to think that I’ve ticked most places off my bucket list except possibly Kenya or South Africa. Actually, at the risk of sounding like one of those, any country in Africa will do. But even as I don’t feel the wanderlust, when the possibilities raise their head, I think … maybe this too.
So yeah, it’s not just that every literary great in the modernist English canon seems to be from Ireland, not the rolling hills, and the romance of it, and the fact that I secretly like Riverdance (well the music anyway, okay even the dancing) but that I’ve never actually traveled solo. Ever. I’ve done girlie trips and a work trip, but nothing entirely on my own. This is the first. And I think it’s time. So much so that while there were people who might have jumped on this (and MinCat this does not refer to you, I’d have jumped on you jumping on this trip), I pretended not to notice their hints.
So I have expectations and apprehensions for this trip. It could be the one.
Two days before I leave, I am paralysed by the inability to decide whether I should do the James Joyce tour on Day 1 and leave the general tour of Dublin for the last day, even though it makes more sense to do the general tour first. V snaps at me for how much I’m on the phone, but I’ve done no research for this trip – well, practically none – I’m trying to cram it all in last minute.
I run my dilemma past him, and after smirking, he says I should do the James Joyce first and then other one later. But I’m still not sure, his word is not the final one anymore. The next day I run it by MinCat. I propose skipping Joyce, and she says: “I think you’ll regret that.” And that settles it.
The idea of leaving the kids makes me uneasy. It’s been a while, and they’re older. I tell them, and they don’t seem happy, but not as bad as expected. On the day before I leave, I take them to the library. I suddenly realise I could borrow a travel guide, something we always did on our trips, but it’s been so long I’d forgotten the routine. V tells me to reserve it and I ignore him, but when I get to the library, it’s not on the shelf, but it shows available. “Is this a sign?” I think.
I realise my belief in signs is an attempt to control the uncontrollable in the absence of prayer. Earlier, I emailed the free general tour asking a question that I did not get a reply to. I wanted a reply, as a sign that I should go ahead with my plan. I didn’t get one, and I had to make a sign-less decision.
The day before the trip V decided to get standoffish with me. I can’t figure what ticked him off but I don’t let it bother me. I have inklings that this might be the making of me. Well, even if it’s a disaster it’s a milestone. And I can’t look over my shoulder too much, even though I’m increasingly becoming a person who is walking alone even though someone is walking beside her.
I leave the house, alone, with a slightly unsettled feeling. I get the security guard to call me a cab, and for the nth time, I wonder at how seamless all this is in Hong Kong. Sure, I worry but it’s more out of habit than anything else.
When I reach the in-town check-in, I encounter my first glitch. Apparently, my flight can’t be checked in there. I need to go to the Airport. It’s a minor problem, as fortunately I have enough time. However, it’s a lesson for the future. Call and check.
I barely have time to grab a danish at the lounge and do a quick Skype with the kids. When I get on the flight, I’m disconcerted at how ugly business class looks (nevertheless, I harboured fantasies of being upgraded and didn’t wear torn jeans) and how small the economy seats are. It really is cattle class, ain’t it? My reservations about flying return.
And then I realise, I’ve checked myself into a window seat. I don’t know how this happened. But it’s too late, so I sit down. However, finally, I just work up the courage and ask the air hostess if I can change. And she says yes, and points to me to – wait for it – one of the front row seats (with extra space) that has been vacated by a lady with a baby. I can feel the daggers on me as I slide into one of the best seats in the house.
And then it’s beautiful from there. I oscillate between watching movies (2) and reading my book with the radio on. The food is great. I force myself to nap and I get some sleep in. The service is good, no incessant announcements and generally helpful (and elegant) hostesses. They make me half belief in air hostesses looking pretty. The reality of the experience is so dreadful might as well have something nice to look at? This while I’m reading a book on feminist aesthetics. The irony does not escape me.
Disembark at Dubai, and get my seat for the next leg changed. The upshot of this is that I realise I can have a meal coupon. Terminal 3 is fairly empty but this is good because there’s place to sit. And contrary to popular opinion, the wifi works. Because here I am.
So Dubai Airport. Well, I can only speak for Terminal Three, which is where all the Emirates planes land. In this age of the Internet, I highly recommend doing a bit of research even on airports. However, my research on Dubai Airport said it sucked, which was surprising because I had heard it was uber post. It was also mentioned that Emirates flights land in Terminal 3, which is new and generally better, and I guess it was.
At least, I found a place to sit and managed to get free wifi. Though yes, as someone mentioned, it kind of sucked. Apparently, one gets one hour, but I really got half. Seriously though, we are in the 21st century, and does their need to be a limit on the wifi?
Had four hours to kill and they went by fairly quickly, thanks to an hour and half of blogging. I began to think that maybe I really did have Internet addiction because the urge to check Facebook and write was so strong. Then I wandered around looking for places to use my coupon for lunch. Credit goes to Emirates for giving pretty good choices.
I finally went with my gut and located the buffet at the Mezzanine lounge. Tip for anyone travelling through Dubai Terminal 3 with a longish layover – that lounge is a good one. The buffet is suited to Indian tastes. There was some Indian-ish looking Chinese, unfortunately the gravy was sweet and sour pork. I had a good chicken biryani and some amazing shahi tukda.
Headed down for my flight resisting the urge to buy anything just to get change. Figured I’d find a way to do that in Ireland.
Slight incident at the gate when I couldn’t locate my boarding pass. While the Emirates person at the gate said she’d get her colleague to print out one for me, seeing as I had already been checked for it once. However, guy in security jersey said no, I couldn’t board without the pass. For once, I garnered up some attitude and glared him down. I mean, I was searching in a panic, no need to get snotty. I found it in my file. The issue with playing too safe I guess.
On my flight I had an Irish guy next to me. He was super sweet (though very Irish looking which I now realise is a thing. Something about the nose. Not my thing. Also he clearly was religious because he made the sign of the cross before takeoff. Twice.) Problem was I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. He was from an inner county, maybe that’s why.
The seat wasn’t as comfortable as on the earlier leg, but blessedly was an aisle. Irish boy got up only twice the entire flight and apologised both times. They are unfailingly polite, those Irish. I’ll have to mind my pleases and thank yous. How do they do it? (not the thanking but the not needing to pee. Not the Irish in particular, all boys I mean.) Was exhausted by the time we arrived. Hadn’t slept a wink.Was beginning to regret the travel.
And finally, some 20 hours later, here I am in Dublin. Ghosts of Joyce, Yeats, Wilde, Eliot (?), Michael Collins, all ye dashing souls who made history and art, here I come.
My first view of Ireland.