The sky framed by the oval plane window on the last of 4 legs, is ablaze. The charcoal horizon elevates a deep orange bank of clouds which are churned into a paler, lighter orange, and the hills of Afghanistan rise from behind this striking colored curtain with dark contours, sharply outlined with ochre highlights.
I’d been less optimistic when the flight was delayed without warning; when the call to board finally came an hour late, a tsunami of passengers raced towards the security check—all seeking to be first, only to be queued again for a transport bus to the actual plane. An older Afghan woman with a shimmering white hijab sitting like a cloud around her head and shoulders, held a small wiggly toddler as our bus circled the field for such a long time that we all thought we might be driving all the way to Kabul.
Once the doors opened in front of our aircraft the sea of humanity pushed and shoved towards two stairways in the front and rear, and slowly ascended dragging mounts of heavy “carry on” bags and small screaming babies. The top of the stairs did not line up with the opening in the plane, and we had to hoist ourselves up another 3 feet into the entry. I was surprised that no one helped one another — merely considering someone who was struggling an inconvenience…. They pushed right by—often causing the struggling passenger to fall…but they kept going. Elbows and oversized bags seemed to be the preferred tools for tackling those in the path as they moved toward their assigned seats. My place, of course, was at the other end of the plane from where I’d entered, so poked and bruised I inched my way up the aisle and plopped into my seat with relief.
Now, however, all my attention is focused on the changing skyline which is like the glow of burning charcoal, with the blue orange flames that always appear as coals get steadily hotter. We chase these burning clouds as they constantly recede, still hiding those Afghan hills off in the distance.
Breakfast arrives. I have been traveling 37 hours, subsisting on rice cakes, apples and carrots from San Francisco. The smells that exude from the cart introduce a welcomed feast of eggs, muesili with yogurt and berries, fresh fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese, and OJ—indeed a banquet for a hungry traveler. The towelettes are labeled, “miles of smiles,” reminding me of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) I’ll be with soon; their project is “our journey to smile.’
The sea of orange outside my window is replaced now by a piercing bright sunrise, with fractured beams playing on the foggy glass window. Its brightness is penetrating. The clouds are now almost a restless sea, and one, shaped like a dolphin, breaks through the surface, causing what looks like a wake behind.
We will ride this wave all the way to Kabul, following the dolphin across the sky.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014