Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I knew this would happen.

I'm writing this in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, at a Samsung Internet "cafe"/stylized trade-show booth. In the center of the terminal a giant chunk of man-made rain forest is hemmed in by plexi-glass boarders. It's the view behind my monitor.

I logged into my Hotmail account, but couldn't read or send any mail, so this is the only way to commumicate for now.

I postponed my original trip to Mysore, pending some great events at work. Well, they happened. Once everything became official, my trip gained a fierce momentum, picking up velocity as the new departure day got closer and closer.

I quit my job, finished out two weeks, and stowed all and sundry personal belongings.

Of note: the goodbyes and work were more touching than anything I could have imagined.

My second, revised depart date arrived a lot faster than my original date. As my depart date drew near, the sensation of increasing speed only grew stronger. The final weekend I was due to leave, time melted away in front of my eyes.

At this point in my journey, I'm on the tail end of a 10-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. I've lived the previous day (two? three?) in a metal tube, at best drifting in and out of sleep.

The first leg of the flight---from LA to Taipei---was the longest, 14 or 15 hours. I managed to swallow the time, though. You go inside and make the minutes pass all by themselves. I briefly de-planed as they refueled, and then we flew on to Malaysia.

This second leg, only four hours or so, was much tougher. I had a middle aisle seat, and was bracketed by businessmen. As the flight progressed, claustrophobia stretched the time like taffy. When we landed, I was vibrating with anticipation of getting off that plane.

The flight landed at noon, and my connecting flight to Bangalore departs at 10:30, so I rented a hotel room at the airport. $35 for six hours. Turns out, however, there's no spa, sauna or "business center" at the Transit Hotel in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Regardless, the hot shower and nap that I took was worth five times the room's cost.

I watched a little TV in the room. I turned it on to the booming sound of American voices and American TV! It was a disjointed moment, because I might as well have been in a Motel 6 in Cleveland, with Cinemax on the TV and a sterile view of airport tarmac out the window.

I haven't quite figured out how I'm reacting to the time changes yet. I think it's 5 AM on my body clock, but everything still has the copy-of-a-copy feel to it. I also feel like I need to drink a gallon of water. It's strange how difficult it is to get a full glass of water on a plane. The stewardess kept making comments when I would refuse coffee and ask for water.

Many women here are wearing Muslim headwraps. There are also Muslim prayer rooms throughout the airport's terminals.

During the interminable and Kafka-esque check-in period at LAX, I struck up a conversation with a Taiwanese girl. She was returning from a two-week vacation in Solana Beach, of all places.

After we had been talking for a while, she said, "You are not like other Americans!"
"What do you mean?" I said.
"You're so skinny!" she answered. "All you other Americans are so fat!"

Evidence that news stories about our "obesity epidemic" are doing their work around the globe.

I'm off to my gate. Ideally, there'll be a car waiting for me in Bangalore. It will take me to Mysore. Ideally.