India and Bhutan: 10/13/2017 - 10/25/2017

Wednesday, 10/25/2017 - Departure: Delhi to Dubai to Boston

We arrived at the airport at 1:00 a.m. for our 4:15 flight. We were confident that we would have enough time. The Air Emirates counter wasn't even open yet. We got into a very long line. We stood around until the counter opened, and even after that it went very slowly. Having not had a full night's sleep, Craig was feeling a bit tired and weak. He was having trouble standing in line for all of that time. We requested a wheelchair so that he could sit down. Hari was our wheelchair attendant, and he was amazing.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I checked our two duffel bags. I planned to carry on my purse and the thankgka scrolls that Apa had given us. They told me that I wouldn't be able to get them through security, because they could be used as a blunt weapon. I demonstrated that the little brass caps on the wooden dowels were removable, but they said that the problem wasn't the metal tips but the dowels themselves. I didn't know what alternative we had. The dowels were too long to fit into our duffels. I started to panic.

They suggested that I place them on top of one of my duffel bags and have them wrapped together with plastic. I am always skeptrical of these plastic wrapping services...what happens if security wants to see inside your luggage? But I was willing to try anything to get this thoughtful gift home. I checked one bag, and then took the other bag to the wrapping station with Hari.

It cost 350 rupees, and I only had 200 left. Hari told me not to worry, and contributed 150 rupees from his own pocket and refused repayment. I then went back to the desk, checked the wrapped bag/thangka combo, collected my boarding passes, and headed to immigration.

The line was huge and Hari said it was about a 2 hour wait (!!) We went through the "special assistance" lane, and even though there was only a single family in front of us, it took forever. When we finally got through immigration, we went through security, and Hari brought us to the gate.

We only had about 15 minutes to spare before boarding started! It had taken three full hours just to get to the gate. We were frazzled, but we made it! We were the first ones to board the plane, and even saw the external door of the plane being opened,

The plane was cramped and we were cranky. We tried our best to sleep. We landed in Dubai and Craig was picked up by a wheelchair. They took us to a pleasant special assistance lounge where we waited for around 45 minutes before being driven to the gate in a golf cart. The driver was from Kerala and has been working in Dubai for 35 years. We talked about Kerala and he was quite sweet. When he dropped us off at the gate he gave Craig a big cheek-to-cheek hug.

Boarding was once again starting, and we once again saw the door of the plane being opened. We had never seen this before in all of our years of travel, and now we had seen it twice in one day!

The 13 hour ride seemed long as we were both tired. However, the plane was comfy. We arrived in Boston at 2:15 p.m. Craig doesn't usually get a wheelchair in Boston, but he was exhausted. We went through immigration quickly (thanks to Global Entry), and then went to collect our baggage.

I was anxious to see if the thangkas had made it safely. When Craig's bag emerged, we could see that the dowels of the thangkas had pierced the plastic wrap. One of the brass caps was missing. The plastic wrapping hadn't been thick enough on the corners. At first we were extremely disappointed. This is why we wanted to carry them. We had been forced to use the plastic wrapping service for the first time ever, and it had totally failed to keep our item safe. Now we had two thangkas with two brass caps, and one thangka with a single brass cap. It's not like a replacement cap would be easy to come by!

But my time in Bhutan with Sonam had really calmed my mind and truly made me believe that anything was possible. I resigned myself to find it. It must be there somewhere. Losing it was not an option. Think positive! So I flipped over every suitcase left on the baggage carousel to look under them. Our wheelchair attendant joined in the hunt. He found something promising, but it turned out not to be it. I persisted, and was so relieved when I finally found it just bouncing along on the belt. I felt like we must have garnered some good karma on our trip.

We took the Logan Express bus home. Within the next few days, we hung the thangkas we had received from Apa in our bedroom above our bed, with all of the brass caps in place! Just seeing them brings to mind our beloved Bhutanese family and the happy times that we shared together. We look forward to many more happy times together. As our wise-beyond-his-years son Sonam says, "Amazing awaits."

Flight from Dubai to Boston

Flight from Dubai to Boston

Arrival in Boston

Arrival in Boston

Thangkas, a treasured gift from Apa

Thangkas, a treasured gift from Apa

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