10:30PM Oct 3rd - Soumya gives me a final hug and wave as I head into the long snaking security line at LAX international airport. I get a bit of a lump in my throat and feel teary eyed- it almost feels like I'm off to college for the first time as mom watches and waves.
11:15PM Oct 3rd - Starbucks line in the international terminal - Almost as long as the security line. Order a GIANT COFFEE, a fat free hazelnut latte. I am determined to get myself on Hyderabad time at the suggestion of seasoned India traveler Chris Paine - This means staying up all night which is going to be a real struggle as the last couple of days I've gotten barely any sleep…,,
11:45PM Oct 3rd - You guessed it…WIRED!!!….. I arrange and re-arrange the contents of my very cool new travel purse, an anti-theft shoulder bag that has airplane wire inside the strap so that thieves, as in hoodlums, as in Ali Baba and his forty…. can't cut the strap. Again I triple check my passport and boarding pass, then I dab a bit of neo-sporin in each nostril (Travel Tip - Allison Mackie, She swears she hasn't gotten sick from a plane ride for years since she started doing it.) then I dab a bit of perfume in each nostril (travel tip- Janney - whose mom, Macy, has been to India twice and says this will help when coming in contact with the "interesting" odors of India….)
12:20:AM Oct 4th - Settle into the my seat - WOW- Singpore air! Soumya says it's the only way to fly to Asia - It's a REALLY nice, beautiful plane - the seats are wide and plush in a lovely palette of fall colors, gold and rust....Imagine if I designed the interior of plane, to complemente my hair color…Its so pretty that my immediate thought is "Oh I won't mind sitting in this cabin for 14 hours(VERY clever on Singpore Air's part!) As I buckle in I watch a lovely collection of Asian stewardesses float around the cabin like angels handing out hot towels - Even their uniforms are elegant and stylish....
2:00AM Oct 4th -Soumya has warned me that they "feed you, feed you and feed you again" during the flight. Dinner was lovely: salmon with a basil cream sauce, new potatoes, steamed broccoli (most likely my last fresh veggie for a while), a garden salad, hot bread (Yes!) HOT bread and butter and an absolutely brilliant idea for dessert… A sharp Singapore Airline chef has clearly thought about what will comfort the US traveler. No, it's not some weird looking mystery mousse or strange sweet rice cake. I look down at my tray and there it is, the last chocolate hurrah…an all American Hershey Bar!
2:30AM - Of course the chocolate has made me sleepy….I fight it by flipping on the tv - there is a huge individual monitor for each seat, almost 8x10 inches - and tons of channels. I flip through a few…I settle on the end of (get ready) - Kate and Leopold - (I kid you not Steve Rogers!) They are showing "Kate and Leopold" and I take this as an excellent karmic sign-they are showing a movie that I worked on…Because, believe me, I've had a few moments sitting here wondering what the hell I've done…Flying to India to work on a Tollywood film with people I've never met???.....hmm…..
4:00AM Oct. 4th - FIGHTING SLEEP - the only thing that keeps me awake is the amazing selection of movies and not just current releases like "Knocked Up" and "Transformers." They are showing some amazing classics - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, M.A.S.H. - Shampoo…I settle on Warren and Julie Christy and burn up a good 45 minutes trying to figure out how they got her hair to do that! I move on to the international films - a huge selection of Asian dramas and musicals, then a whole selection of Bollywood films, which are sappy, sweet and funny. They are sort of like American Musicals from the 30's and 40's - Boy meets, Girl etc…and very passionate - yet they cannot even kiss on screen - so the love scenes are pretty comical. Take a look at this hilarious clip of a Bollywood love scene from the movie I watched - "Pachai Kili Muthucharan" (I have NO idea what this title means…"I love you even though I can't kiss you? )
5:00AM October 4th - I walk the aisle - trying to stay awake and meet this very kind stewardess who wishes me "happiness" when she hears of my journey.
I make it until 6:00AM Hydrabad time and finally pop a ½ of an Ambien….it's not really working..and I try to find a comfortable position. The lovely Singapore Air seats ain't so lovely anymore!
6:05AM October 5th (some where in there I have now lost 12 ½ hours of my life….as the time change happens). Taipei, Taiwan. A one hour lay-over for refueling in Taipei …we are all exhausted and I am groggy from the ambient. The MEAN, UGLY, stewardesses make us get off the plane for the refueling…..then… GO THROUGH SECURITY! Now, I ask you, just where do they think we are going to be getting that shoe bomb from?? …Cranky cranky cranky….
7:10AM October 5th lift off for Singapore. Now it's another 4 ½ hours. I pop the other half of the ambient and then try HARD for some shut eye…it's not working….
11:30 AM Oct. 5th - I arrive in Singapore to begin my eight-hour lay over. This airport is really a large mall…immediately I feel like I'm in this strange other-worldly bubble of a place…It feels like I'm dreaming as I wander around looking at stores mixed with eastern and western fashion…. They even have a short stay hotel (6 hours $40 bucks), a day spa and a fancy "Lounge" where you can eat and take a shower and have internet access. It's only $20 bucks so I settle on that…I see a large buffet - but I am already leery of the food and getting sick. They have a strange looking soup, which looks like coconut but since hot food is okay they say..and everyone else is eating it...I go for it …It may have been the best tasting soup I've ever had…A thick chicken flavored egg-drop…I eat two bowls and do feel a little comfort…but fatigue has set in and I spend the day fighting to keep awake…
8:35PM Oct 5th - Take off from Singapore for the final leg to Hyderabad. I am the only Caucasian on the flight. Almost all the women are in Saree's. I flip on the TV - and go back and forth between Hairspray(Hi Allison!) and Project Runway…I fall asleep immediately…and the 4 hours seems to go by in 10 minutes….
10:30PM Oct. 5th - OKAY!!!...here I go….I have been sent very specific instructions on how to get through Indian customs…I must be low key…Yeah, that's gonna happen…I am the pasty white Amazon lady and people just blatantly stare at me. (I've been warned about this….) Great. Just what you want...the entire room staring at you after 36 hours of travel...It makes me nervous and as I stand in a LONG line, I'm have terrible second thoughts about this whole damn thing….
I get up to the only female customs agent - She eyes me briefly and flags me right through. A Breeze!!! On to baggage claim to find those 3 GIANT bags that I am now completely regretting. I grab a cart and a bunch of Indian men try to help me (I have been warned about this too…) Do it yourself - Don't engage them,but it's tough. These little men are VERY persistent….My bags are the last ones off, of course. I pile them high and then comes the HARD part. I've got to convince the customs gate-keeper that it's no big deal, these GIANT bags...or they'll stop me and go through everything and it could take hours. I push ahead and they wave me right through!!!
I go down a long corridor and through a door and my heart LEAPS into my throat. Outside there are 700-800 Indian people PUSHED up against a barricade waiting for loved ones. It's the scariest freakin' thing I've ever seen.
How will I ever find my party? I'm not even sure if it will be a driver who barely speaks English or Uma the writer/director. I just want to sit down and cry, or pass-out, or both. Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see a white flash at the back of crowd. Someone is jumping up over a sea of brown heads with a big white sign...In GIANT LETTERS, the word "SHANNON"! Okay..It's all gonna be OKAY. The sweetest two men on the face of the planet, Uma and the production co-ordinator, Sashi, whisk me through the crowd. I have made the right decision...India here I come!!!