Those where the words that started my latest adventure in international travel…because going to Iraq again just wasn’t enough…so we had to make going home more interesting.
We left our guesthouse, Pasha, Christine, and I at 0500 this morning in two vehicles. One car with us and our driver and the second one a large, police/military truck with a machine gun on top that contained our security detail and all of our luggage. We got stopped at the first checkpoint for the airport and there was clearly a problem. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of yelling, and then an American contractor type guy came out to straighten everything out for us and I distinctly heard him say “You can’t bring the machine gun in there.”
The police truck that carried our security detail had been without any large, automatic weapons for our entire trip, but for some reason guys decided to outfit it with a large machine gun the day before we left. And apparently they just didn’t anticipate that it would be an issue at the airport.
So we go on ahead and are assured that our luggage will follow. We have to go through multiple checkpoints before arriving at the terminal and eventually make it to the check-in counter. But, alas, can’t check our bags yet so we can’t really check in for our flights yet. We wait. And wait. And wait. Oh, and by the way, our driver here in Iraq…a lovely man really…speaks as much English as I speak Arabic. This has been a challenge to say the least. Now, we don’t know what the story is with our bags or even what is going on.
Eventually, bags arrive. Not sure if they just drove home and dropped off the problematic machine gun and came back or if they went and found a cab to carry our bags into the airport compound. But at this point we have less than an hour to get checked in and get on our plane. And we are at the end of a sea of people.
We make it on the plane. I am told that my bags are checked all the way through to San Francisco via New York…which is hard to believe since what they have handed me is a hand written ticket that says IST, JFK, SFO and little else.
Plane takes off late. Plane lands late. Delay in deboarding. And then when I go to the information counter to get my new boarding pass, I’m S.O.L. because Najaf couldn’t check me in for my flight and the check in was closed by that point.
But not to worry, Christine is a veteran airline traveler, even more so than myself and has way more experience haggling with airlines. So, with her help and some extra frustration, I was able to book a new flight to San Fran via Paris for the following morning, which means, I get another day in Istanbul for site seeing and I get to do it with my friend Christine and her friend in Istanbul! However, it has been a very long day and I am beyond tired. Two hours of sleep before we left for the Najaf airport and maybe two hours on the plane, followed by two hours in the hotel after our day of seeing the beautiful historic sites in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I am, like I said, beyond tired.
But now, I’m checked in and on my way to Paris, then one more plane to catch and