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Traveling 10,000 kilometers to celebrate Mother’s Day

This has been a lucky year for me. The reason being, I could be with my mother on Mother’s Day after a period of seven long years. I had to travel more than 10,000 miles, and fly for more than 20 hours, in order to do so. But, the joy and happiness at being able to make it on this auspicious day is something that will be a highlight of my life. Traveling from Kathmandu in Nepal to Orlando in America is a long haul journey by any count. Add to that the many hours waiting in line at U.S. immigration in Abu Dhabi International Airport of U.A.E., and the equally long line at Chicago O’Hare International Airport security to board the American Airline plane to Orlando, and what you get is a jet lagged, brow beaten, mind boggled passenger. I don’t need to tell you how stressful it is to have to face U.S. immigration officials, who are liable to ask all sorts of funny questions regarding your visit.

I was, of course, ready for that: I was visiting my mother, who has been in the States for the last 11 years or so, and I wanted to make it in good time to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. However, the immigration officials appeared to be more brow beaten, jet lagged, and mind boggled than me, due to having to stay awake in the middle of the night, and face hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the subcontinent on their way to America. Each with well prepared answers to whatever questions happened to be thrown at them. So, I wasn’t asked any questions. However, they did confiscate two packets of dried meat (sukuti) I had carried with me for my nephew. I blame myself for that, since I was naïve enough to admit in the customs declaration form that I had some agricultural goods with me. If I had packed them in my checked baggage, and not mentioned them, my nephew would have been a happy man, chewing away and getting the real taste of Nepal.

Anyway, the journey was an interesting one, with a vivacious British born American girl beside me from Kathmandu to Abu Dhabi, and a young guy from Iraq from there to Chicago. And, I think everybody has seen those fantastic advertisements of Etihad Airlines, in which Nicole Kidman stars, so flying on this splendid airline was a joy, what with perky air hostesses from all corners of the globe, five-star cuisine served at regular intervals, including drinks of your choice (I had Dewar’s Single Malt all the way), and a flight route that took you across the Mid-East, Eastern Europe, Russia, Norway, and on to America. Abu Dhabi to Chicago is almost a 15-hour flight, and you get to experience the deep night as well as the bright day, including a dazzling sunrise. As day breaks, you look down and see huge ice floes everywhere, as you near the Baltic Sea; entire rivers and lakes frozen solid. It’s something, let me tell you, going from the arid regions of the Mid East to the icy regions around Russia.

And, did I tell you that Abu Dhabi International Airport is practically run by Nepalis? Surprised?

By and by, high on Dewar’s Single Malt, and sated with fine cuisine (we were served dinner as dawn broke), we landed in Chicago. A shuttle train took us to another terminal to catch the onward flight to Orlando. Well, all said and done, O’Hare is an excellent airport, especially after you pass security, but did I tell you about Abu Dhabi International Airport? Man, it’s just too perfect, even if you have to walk miles to go from one gate to another. Of course, there are escalators all along the way to make the transit easier. And, did I tell you that Abu Dhabi International Airport is practically run by Nepalis? Surprised? Don’t be, because I foresee Nepalis running all the airports in the Mid-East sooner than later. It made me real proud to see our smartly dressed kinfolk (both girls and guys) efficiently manning the security gates, handling the airport transport facilities with ease, and operating the many kiosks, duty free shops, and restaurants and cafes with aplomb.

Hail to these guys and girls, they are making the whole country proud. Excellent ambassadors, and examples of what we Nepalis are capable of, given the opportunity and the right environment. I must mention a smallish Nepali fellow giving instructions to passengers waiting in lines at the U.S. immigration counters; he carried a fair degree of authority, and seemed to be pretty capable. Here, in case you are wondering, America has a special immigration department at Abu Dhabi, so that you don’t need to go through another when you land in America. Pretty neat arrangement, if you ask me; saves a lot of ulcer creating stress till the last moment before you enter the States. Needless to say, this meant that the long flight was much more pleasant for all aboard.

Now, how did we celebrate Mother’s Day in America? It so happens that this day falls on May 8 here while ours is on May 5; so what we did was that we decided to have it on May 7, a Saturday. I have quite a few of my family members in Orlando, so it was a great time to get together and swamp my mother with all sorts of presents, click some photographs, and eat, drink, and make merry. I am happy to say that my presence appeared to put an extra glow on my mother’s face. However, she is a finicky sort of person, with high taste, and she didn’t go gaga over the modest gown I had brought her from Thaiba in Kathmandu. Next time, I better be more careful about what I bring!