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Location: Kansas, United States

Friday, October 07, 2005

Arriving at Yemen

Today is my twenty first day in Yemen. At the teachers' meeting recently, one of the American teachers reported that at 5 a.m. when he awoke, it was 87 degrees with 98 percent humidity. This is a hot place. 100 plus degrees is standard today was 104. What makes the weather barely bearable is the breeze from the Gulf of Aden, just off the Indian Ocean. I am looking forward to the other season, winter, when the average temperature 'drops' to 95. But 95 isn't105 and that is good. As one person described the climate, We have eight months of summer and four months of not summer. I left Lawrence on August 24 so I feel I have been gone a long time. I was in Azerbaijan for a few days staying with K’s family, then I flew to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the huge regional hub. The evening air in Baku was pleasant and when I stepped off the plane in Dubai getting onto a bus on the runway it was a different world.

The heat and humidity was overpowering and slightly scary. The Dubai airport is fantastically large with reportedly the best duty free shops in the world. Every time I asked an airport employee for help they said, "Oh, do some shopping then think about..." Because my baggage had been checked only to Dubai, I had to collect it before the next flight. That meant going outside the airport then coming back inside to check in for the flight to Sana'a, Yemen. As I was wheeling my overloaded cart out one door, I came upon an unexpected decline. Three men were standing a couple feet outside the doorway. I was squawking, Oi! Oi! (I’d been reading P.G. Wodehouse) when I lost control of the cart. I ran into a stainless steel post and two of my suitcases flew off the cart. One man helped me pick up the bags. That was funny, but when it happened a second time, it was not quite so funny.

Outside the arrival zone, I passed along a row of 'greeters' waiting to pick up guests. There were twenty or thirty men lined up, and on the wall across from the men, about a dozen fans were blowing misted air across the greeters. At midnight it was too hot for men to just hang out for thirty minutes waiting for their passengers. The airport is very interesting. For people with long layovers, there is a room where they can stretch out in lounge chairs. I couldn’t use this room because of my baggage situation (I won’t do that again), but I heard about it. Others didn’t use the room either. There were people sleeping everywhere in the walkways, under ranks of seats, on the seats, against the walls. Even I stretched out in a quiet zone and slept until I almost missed my flight. And there were people in every kind of dress that you can imagine. Dubai is a crossroads for people coming from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, America, Asia everywhere and the mix of people is reflected in the clothing.

I met the other English Language Fellow, L., at the airport. She and I flew to Sana’a together. Arriving at the Sana’a airport from Dubai was a bit like the Jetsons arriving at Bedrock City. Yemen is poor though I think the government is really trying to improve the infrastructure. We stayed for two days at the Sheraton Hotel and enjoyed the pool and gym.


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