(This post is slightly adapted from a letter I wrote to some friends and family in September of 2005 – while we were still living in India and I was still pretty new to world travel and significantly more naive. I’m still encouraged by the overall event, though my perspective at the time does make me cringe in spots. That’s just proof that I’ve actually matured over the past decade though … right? Right? – Rusty)
I was supposed to be in Leh only one week but my health coupled with travel options and the decision that I was not leaving without flying out based on what the road conditions were like … well it turned into 2 weeks.
The story of my life eh? My struggle with asthma putting me where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there for purposes I never would have guessed. I can’t remember exactly the last time that I felt as weak as I felt for much of these 2 weeks. My lungs would have been able to deal with altitude within 2 or 3 days … they’ve done it before … they would have been able to deal with the pollution within 1 or 2 days … they’ve done it before … it was just when it was combined together … plus I had eaten ‘Palak Paneer’ … palak paneer that I expect had been prepared in local water before I had had a chance to adapt. Thus it was that my body decided it was more important to send extra strength and resources ti deal with that aftermath rather than keep my lungs prepared for a fight :p
So we decided that I was going to fly out so I could avoid the pollution on the 2 day road trip that was the alternative. seems like a simple solution right? Well it was … except for a few problems 1) flights only went from there to Srinagar (where our apartment was) once a week 2) those flights were booked solid for almost a month in advance, and 3) Alexis had had a vivid dream about the flight from Leh to Srinagar crashing in a blazing inferno when it tried to land on Sept 7.
Solutions presented themselves in the following ways 1) I stayed in Leh longer then I had planned 2) I had a doctors note and should be able to get on a waiting list for the next flight and 3) we prayed until we had peace … I felt very strongly that we were not just to pray for guidance on to get on the plane or not, but that we were to pray until any assignments against that plane were thwarted.
Early in the morning Alexis and the others left by road to get back to Srinagar. I was alone but not worried … the airline manager had told me that when the list was made out today at 3 that it would be made by need not first come first serve. So I went to the office at 2:45 got confirmation from the manager that I was just to wait in the lobby until he called me and then waited. Once, when I heard a bunch of people talking in Urdu I could make out just enough to guess that they were talking about being put on the list so I asked the manager again and he again told me to just wait for him in the lobby. Then after everyone else had left and I was the last person in the lobby he turned to me and said “O.k. so buy a ticket and I’ll put you on the list you will be refunded if you don’t get on … about a 50/50 chance.” So I bought a ticket, came to him and he did put me on the list … number 12 … dead last.
He had lied to me – was all that was going through me mind. He hadn’t wanted to deal with me so he lied to me. And now I was alone with very few alternatives. I could wait a week and try my luck again now that I ‘knew how it worked’ (had I really seen that one guy bribe the manager or had it just been my imagination?). I could wait half a week and try the same thing to Jammu (and get a ticket from there to Srinagar). Or I could shell out maybe 6 times as much and buy a ticket to Delhi (the only other destination from Leh) and then from there to Srinagar.
So … I went home and packed … you never know maybe 12 (out of the sixty some passengers that I heard that those planes were legally able to hold at that altitude) wouldn’t show up. … that’s possible … right?
Have you ever been in an unknown environment and assumed the worst about someone (like I did about the airline manager)? It’s easy to do when you feel out of your depth and out of control. I’d love to hear in the comments about an area that feel you have matured in over the past decade and how that encourages you. Thanks for reading! Rusty.