Airport Adventures

This is probably definitely gonna be the longest entry I ever type up on here, but I like reading stories, so I’m gonna tell it like one. Also, I’ll add more pictures as I find them.

Guwahati is a far away place for most people. So far, in fact, that we are literally on the opposite side of the planet from where we call home. And as such, it takes quite a long journey to get here.

For our group the journey started at the D-Lab building on the MIT campus where we had been attending class all semester. We met on Monday morning in the lab to go over our luggage. We worked to finish up the last-minute details on our projects and pack them into some extra suitcases, protecting them with scraps of cardboard and half a roll of duct tape. Along with our suspension fork prototype and the homemade tension sensor, we packed up a straw chopping mechanism (designed by another D-Lab group) and a wide assortment of tools we’ll need this month.

By then it was early afternoon, and we were starting to rush. Sydney and Jess were helping Micaela get ready to leave and I hurried back to my room to grab some lunch and lock everything up. I got back to the lab with my Korean BBQ just as the others were finishing up. Gwyn had driven his car to Harvard Square to park it for the month and was on his way back in a taxi. The plan was for everyone else to get in the taxi with Gwyn and take it to the airport while Sydney and I followed in another car with the luggage.

By this point, I was feeling quite antsy. Airports excite me. I associate them with adventure, with traveling to new and exciting places. It’s exhilarating, and any traces of my sleepiness from my late night packing had evaporated.

Despite the big rush, we all arrived at Logan International with plenty of time to spare. Passports in hand, we printed our boarding passes. It took a few tries (thanks to a Delta concierge who was less than helpful), but before long we were waiting in line to check our luggage. Next thing we knew, we were taking off our shoes, emptying our pockets, and enjoying some x-rays courtesy of the TSA.

In the terminal our group chose to pick up some dinner. We eventually settled on a combination of Panda Express and Wendy’s. Those in the group with phones made some last minute phone calls and tested the free wi-fi. We soon made our way to our gate.

By now, my body had remembered the lack of sleep from the night before and I was feeling exhausted. Despite how often the MIT lifestyle has tried to convince me otherwise, one hour of sleep is not a lot to go on. Sitting in the terminal, I was fighting to stay awake. Better to sleep on the plane, given the long schedule ahead of us.

I got up and walked around a bit, going to the bathroom, filling my water bottle, reorganizing my pack. Suddenly, I heard our flight called over the speakers and it was time to board. The first leg of our trip was a 6 hour flight to Amsterdam. I can’t speak too much about the flight itself; I was asleep before the attendant had finished the safety briefing. I did, however, wake up just as the food cart got to my aisle, and ordered the chicken dinner. It was good, all things considered, but i would have liked to be able to identify the other parts of the meal. I think there was squash in there somewhere.

After eating I was quickly asleep again, my iPod set to something obscure (you’ve probably never heard of it). I slept a good two hours more before I woke up and decided to watch a movie on the small screen in front of me. I think it was called Columbiana, and was decent. By the end of the credits, I noticed the information scrolling on the main cabin monitor a few rows ahead of me. Evidently, the outside temperature at this altitude was -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Whoa. The next line on the screen read only about 30 minutes to landing, however. Much more exciting.

By the time we landed, I was once again wide awake. Not much more sleep to my name than when this trip started, but I felt good. I’d never been to Amsterdam before, and the excitement was overpowering any hopes my brain had of more rest. The airport itself was great. It had a bright, friendly feel to it. I was amazed, however, at the wide range of amenities the designers had crammed into the place, though.

The number of chocolate shops in this airport makes me happy.

The main terminal in the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

A quick glance at the signs overhead revealed a casino, a museum, and even a library. I like Amsterdam. Naturally, we decided to visit all of these places as we toured the terminal. We had a 3 hour layover to fill.

The first stop was the museum, which had a small collection of paintings and a model of some old buildings. We took some pictures and signed the guest book, then went next door to the library. It was also tiny, but looked pretty cool. Even if they don’t have a wide range of titles in stock (or in English), I like the idea. We didn’t stop to check anything out, however, and continued on our way.

A wall of paintings in the museum

I won't remember to write '2012' until it's '2013'

Our page in the guest book

Micaela likes libraries.

The casino was interesting. I never would have expected that my first legitimate gambling experience would be in Europe. The Holland Casino was a one-room establishment that housed a few dozen slot machines, a handful of poker tables, and a craps table. After having our passports scanned as we walked in, we all decided to exchange a few dollars for Euros. None of us expected to win anything, but it was fun nonetheless. I think my biggest winfall during the 15 minutes we spent there was about 2 coins.

Not that I'm much of a photographer to begin with.

Airport casinos are small and evidently impossible for me to photograph.

After we were all satisfied with giving our money away, we left and looked around the airport some more. In Boston time, it was about 3 AM, but Amsterdam was just waking up. We were all tired and ended up sitting at a table next to a small market as we waited.

Soon enough, we were making our way to the gate to board our second plane, which would take us to Delhi. As it turns out, Amsterdam has a separate security screening at every gate, so we got in line. Waiting on the other side of glass wall was the 747 that would carry us into India.

Like the first flight, I was asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately, how ever, that didn’t last long. Two rows up two babies were crying, and their mother was having a hard time keeping them happy. Suffice it to say that it was a noisy flight. I still got a few hours of sleep, however.

Shortly before landing, the flight attendants passed out some cards with immigration information. We had to fill in our passport and visa info before we could exit the plane. As we walked into the terminal, the first thing I noticed was the smokeyness. The air had a faint campfire tinge to it, and the ends of the terminal were hazy with smoke. Turns out that everyone and their mothers burns incense here.

We made it through the immigration checkpoint without any hassle, citing our reason for the visit to be tourism. True, in part. We spent some time waiting at the luggage carousel, but were continuing out of the arrival bay in short order. We visited the currency exchange and then a local Indian chain restaurant in the terminal. I got a small sandwich on Indian chatpata bread that was surprisingly delicious. We set up camp in front of that small restaurant as we waited out the layover. I started reading my book and it passed quickly.

Not sure what I was expecting, to be honest.

'Cafe Coffee Day' is not the name I would have expected for an Indian fast food joint.

The departure terminal we needed was upstairs, so we pushed our luggage carts to the elevator and went up. Two armed guards checked our passports and our itinerary before letting us through. We again checked our luggage and received our boarding passes, then headed to the gate. The thing that surprised me the most was the military presence in the airport; every few minutes a pair of men in camo walked by cradling submachine guns.

After about an hour and a few fun poses in front of some sculptures, we were boarding our last flight. This would take us into Guwahati.

We're really just living up to our Visa.

"Stupid American tourists." - Every Indian in the building

The flight itself was nothing new. Aside from being almost empty and full of a language I couldn’t understand, the plane was normal. We saw some cool things on the flight though. First, we watched our third sunrise in 36 hours. Then, not long after, we flew past Mt. Everest and the surrounding Himalayas. It was surreal, because as our plane neared Assam, you could look out your window at the peaks of mountains that were almost as high up as you were.

We started our descent with the mountains still in view, and soon we had landed. The airport was tiny, with only one or two runways that I could see and a single terminal. I tried to get a few more pictures, but guards with AK’s signaled me to stop and I was not about to argue.

Not shown: a guard pointing at my camera and shaking his head.

Welcome to Guwahati!

Our group sat down as we waited for the taxis that would take us into the city. At long last, we had made it.

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2 Responses to Airport Adventures

  1. kincaiddewey says:

    Hi Jeff! Mrs. Gerling shared this link with me. Sounds like you are about to have a grand adventure! My best to you and your team! God bless! (BTW, I’ve been wanting to enter the world of blogging and I had to sign up in order to like or leave a comment. Thank you!)

  2. Jessica says:

    The sculpture in your photo shows the various poses in the Sun Salutation, a…yoga thingy.

    ~ Jessica, ’11, in Bangalore for a year

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