America Gets a Star for Christmas!

Ernest at McDonalds

Flying to the US through a long route was an experience of its own kind. My first-time air travel and I had to change four planes on three international airports. Now that was just a little more than I would accommodate in for a happy travel. Yet, it was exciting – except for Emirates’ Dubai to London (UK) flight as I caught a glimpse of a worker at the Dubai airport – of dark complexion probably like an Arab-African guy – making a gesture of contempt (was it my Pakistani passport?) and pointing to his co-worker. As I caught him in the act, he quickly resumed his professional “okay” look. But the first impression of Dubai airport staff was tainted to this first-time traveler who believes in respect for people detached from their racial or ethnic background.

The flight from Dubai to London was disappointing in other respects as well – not a good seat and lots of noise (two infants on the plane were equally determined to win the race for crabbiness) as well as the surprising lack of any vegetarian dish for lunch; I got myself contented with the rice and appetizers while returning the meaty core. And then a long security checking episode at London Heathrow Airport drove the final nail in the coffin of excitement. Undoubtedly, I would think twice before taking any flight between London and Dubai. It was a relief to be on the American Airline to Dallas at last with better seating, better food, and less artificial staff.

Received warmly on that cold night in Portland, I took my time getting over the jetlag during the next two days. Then, with a first-time downtown experience in Portland, I found myself in a kind of wonderland with a colder weather than I was used to in my native land. It’s around Christmas time, so the excitement among people was pretty visible and audible. Lights and sounds reflected the excited spirit emanating from the folks who walked and drove about the place, smiling and chatting. Of course, that “zombie chatting” on cell phones and tablets was all over the scene. Here and there, I did catch a glimpse of people reading, and envied their ability to concentrate on a book in public places.

The Starbuck coffee experience was… well, just okay… let’s say, tolerable. I mean being in a noisy place to have coffee, to somebody like me, would qualify for a contradiction. But then, it was Starbuck; big deal! So I sipped from the coffee with a strong burnt flavor, yet smiling as my adorable American family played their wit cards at our small coffee table. Then it was a visit to Pendleton. Nothing about it, except the very well-mannered and friendly staff.  But already I needed to get back now, with the disappointment of not seeing the Central Library faintly sitting on the back of my consciousness. So back in train at the rush hour and I had the first familiar scene of my native land here: a crowded vehicle. But something worse was coming soon after I got on the train. Standing there, I saw a young woman sitting in the row of two seats, busy texting on her cell phone, while a young guy sat at the other corner in the similar seat. A senior citizen stood up and I was one of the people who noticed how both the girl and the guy ignored the instruction placed above their seats – to let a senior passenger get the seat first. Having been raised in a culture where seniors and the female gender (all ages) deserve equal respect, it was kind of confusing in judging what the appropriate course of action would be for the girl and the senior fellow. But that guy! If he had a disability, it was okay, and if he was as strong and healthy as he looked, then…

More adventures followed as I traveled to Washington, had my first participation in a birthday party (it was just a small one of real nice people and that’s how I was able to attend it), my first muffin eating experience, mac and cheese (with Ketchup – giggles), and all that. As school starts, more fantastic moments wait to meet me. It’s all part of a memorable adventure with my loving American family and friends and the clean, though cold, place.

What I particularly want to mention is the young lady in charge of baggage at the Portland International Airport who moved me deeply with her courteous speech and service when I walked up to her desk to collect my bag; when I pointed to my bag showing my luggage stickers and saying, “that one’s mine”. She didn’t just ask me to come and get it. Instead, she picked it up for me and walked up to me saying, “Let me give the bag to its very rightful owner”; this with a gentle and welcoming smile. This stark contrast with the ill-mannered worker at Dubai airport spoke volumes about the gap between the professional conduct at the two places. As I come from a culture where guys are supposed to bear the physical burden, a girl carrying my bag to me was not just another good experience; it was a memorable moment. I will like to dedicate my happy adventure to that girl at the airport and thank the Portland International Airport for excelling in their services.

Thus begins my new journey to stardom!