Thursday, June 6 6:40am, Paro Airport
Oh, the hoops to go through to leave. Security check at the entrance to the airport, again at the terminal – at this point we say goodbye to our guide and driver who cannot go further. Pay airport departure fee at airport bank. Get luggage checked at security. A small Buddha statue slows things up as we must find the receipt for it. Next boarding passes making sure to get seats to see the mountains on the right side of the plane (we got seats on the right side, but the only row that had no windows!). Next emigration security check, next customs check, next carry on luggage and body security check, then identify our luggage, then wait to board the plane. No problem. Charlotte is cruzing into high anxiety. It makes things much more interesting. We walked out to the airplane, Druk Airlines, and found our seats. Charlotte went up a row to take pictures of the high Himalayan peaks. It’s a bit rough to recognize them – they don’t have nametags. An hour later we dropped down onto Katmandu, Nepal. After refueling, its back in the air to Delhi. More mountains, including Everest (we think). In Delhi we go through all the immigration hoops and get our luggage but there is no one to pick us up. Charlotte makes a call and 15 minutes later a couple guys show up and organize a deluxe taxi which takes us to a nice hotel not far from the airport. We get a nice rest. At 9pm we got a taxi back to the airport. We again went through all the security checks. At the last check, they took away our spare batteries. The security people also take my boarding pass, saying I’ll get it back at boarding. They tell us not to worry. We worry anyway, but it all works out fine. So now its 8 hours in the air to Amsterdam.
Friday, June 7 8:20am, Amsterdam, Netherlands
This is a huge airport. We find restrooms. Store our handbags. Change rupees to euros. Get a round trip train ticket to the Central Station. At Central Station we are in downtown Amsterdam. We wander around in the cold drizzle until we find a place to dry off and have a bite to eat. We are back to the world of high prices. A McDonalds, Burger King, KFC or whatever on every street. The first 10 minutes of our walk was interrupted by a rude beggar who Charlotte tried finding change to give him $1 but was never successful. He called her the stupidest person he had ever seen and that was the last we saw of him. We bought some gifts, an umbrella and a warm sweatshirt for Luke. We got on a canal ride and spent an hour weaving through some of the nearly 100 kilometers of canals and 700 bridges. Life in the houseboats we saw looked intriguing. Lots of the buildings were from the 16th or 17th century. They nearly all have windows at the top of the gabled roof because when anyone moves in or out, the stairways are too narrow, so everything goes out and come in the large window facing the canal. The houses are so narrow because back in the days when they were built, owners were taxed by the length of frontage to the canal. Later we found a nice bar with good character on a busy back street corner. They had Asian carpets on each table. We had a dark beer and toasted our third wedding anniversary. We watched people and world cup soccer. It’s a really interesting, somewhat young crowd. People from all over the planet and what a wild variety. We saw the whole lot. A bit later we got a huge wrap of Belgian fried potatoes and wandered more. We saw a few of the marijuana café’s. Two ways of finding them: 1) they smell like high priced reefer and 2) the only source of lighting is usually candles. We headed back to Central Station past a couple of crazy musicians playing some kind of flute and a goat skin bagpipe. At Central Station we paid to use the toilets and when Charlotte came out she led me on a mad dash to try to find where she left our bag of gifts. Luckily they were safely sitting at the bar we were at. On the way back to Central Station we went by the Amsterdam version of Hooters, called Teasers. About ½ the clothing as a Hooters – just imagine. This place seems like the modern Mecca of sex, drugs and rock n roll. We figured out which of the 15 tracks to go to to get back to the airport and in a zip we made it back. We got our carry on luggage out of storage and hiked out to the area where we are to board our flight to Memphis. There being hardly any seats in that waiting area, we adjourned to a nearby casino and while Charlotte fed the slot machines 6 euros, I watched England beat Argentina 1-0 with a few hundred other world citizens on a large screen. The plane boards very slowly, they are rescanning all the carry-on and bodies. Charlotte forgot to get her book ($14) she just bought after it got x-rayed and they won’t let her off the plane to go get it. She’s a little pissed. The name of our plane is Madera Teresa. We agree that Charlotte gave that book away and it will probably do really good things for whoever gets it. This is for sure the longest day of our lives. On this date, June 7th we are crossing 12 time zones going East to West. It will be 36 hours and half a planet before we reach June 8.
Friday, June 7 8:45pm, Memphis Airport
Wow – are we beat zombies? Yes. We’ve been on the ‘road’ for about 52 hours now with very little sleep. We don’t recommend it. Sitting with about 70 people headed to Jackson. Haven’t recognized anybody yet. We arrive in Jackson and meet Holly as we are waiting for our luggage. She takes us home and we begin to settle in and get some needed sleep.
Saturday, June 8, Jackson, MS
We woke up and ran 3 miles, then went to work 9-2. Naps in the afternoon as it will take us a while to adjust to this side of the planet. Lots to catch up on. We do realize a few things. One is that we were so careful not to drink the tap water where we were and here we realize that we never drink the tap water here in Jackson! So, big deal. Another is the simplicity and order of driving here. Traffic lights (there are none in Sikkim or Bhutan), people driving in lanes, hardly any horn honks. Everyone speaking English and not even thinking about how easy it is to assume everyone knows the language.
Wednesday, June 12, Jackson, MS
We’re just now starting to get in sync with the day and night here. Enjoying the morning runs. Reading Buddha dharma after the run. Looking forward to living a life with awareness of the life on the other side of the planet.