Tuesday September 23rd, 2008: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. I dressed and said goodbye to my youngest brother because he was too sleepy to head to the airport with us. My father and my oldest brother took the very-heavy-bags to the garage and put them in the car. My Mum made two cheese sandwiches for me and put them in a bag with a cucumber because she was afraid I would arrive to my dorm room late in the evening and that the food shops would have closed (even though I already had some snacks to eat because she had made me buy some biscuits the day before).
We headed to the airport at 5:20 and got there at 5:35 and I tearfully said my goodbyes to my family and went inside. I was looking for a particular person because the day before an acquaintance of my father had given me two names of people who work at the airport who would assist me in case my luggage had a lot of extra weight (assist translates from Lebanese directly into: allow me to check them in without paying extra weight fees). My Mum and cousin had been telling me and assuring me that my bag would weigh at least 45 kg and maybe even 50 Kg; so I was pretty scared that I would have to paid a bunch of hundreds of dollars if that was true. I had to wait until 6:20 for the person (let us called him Y) to arrive. I kept asking the staff about person Y because I didn't even know how he looked like. Then when person Y finally came I went to him and told him that person X (my father's acquaintance) gave me his name and that he (Y) would assist me with my extra weight. To my surprise and terror he simply said: Who is this person X ,,,, I have no idea who he is! And he walked away! I followed him a bit then I approached him again and I told him that person X gave me his name and another person's name and that both of them were supposed to help me. To my disappointment again he told me he didn't know person X but I didn't move so he told me to go weigh my bags anyway. So I went to weigh my bags and I told the check-in person to call person Y. Fortunately for me my bags only weighed 35 Kgs. So, person Y told the check-in person to just let me in. And so I was let in without paying the extra weight fees.
After I finished checking in and got my boarding pass I turned around to go outside and signal to my parents that things worked out. Then a person approached me and told me that he knew my father and that he will help me access the Cedar lounge so I can rest there before my flight. He also escorted me outside to tell my parents what happened. Again I tearfully said another goodbye and headed inside to the Cedar lounge. It was 7:00 a.m. already. I had some coffee and my last two bites of mankoucheh zaatar. I surfed the net a bit and then it was 7:30 a.m. and time for me to board the plane. I packed my laptop and headed down and started walking very quickly because they started urging people to head to the plane. I didn't buy anything from the duty-free. But then just before the gate I passed by a Virgin store and I remembered that the flight was a 5-hour-flight and that I should get a book to pass the time. So, I went back to Virgin and bought a book and sprinted off to the plane. Just as I came face-to-face with the plane and the pilot and the hostess I realized that I was ACTUALLY, REALLY, and TRUELY leaving Lebanon for a WHOLE year and tears started pouring out of my eyes. The pilot tried to cheer me up by telling the hostess: "ma eltellek ino manzarna bebakki :)" but it was too late and it was like a door was opened and all the silent tears came rolling down my cheek. Then I found my seat - which I had read somewhere on the boarding was 32F. But there was no space in the compartment to put my hand bag and so the host helped me by sorting the other bags and squeezing mine in. I had just settled in when, two minutes later, a host said: 32F please show me your boarding pass. So, I showed it to him and he told me I was in the wrong seat, my seat was actually 24F. I had no idea why I saw the 24 as 32! So, I gave my seat up and moved to the front where to my bad luck my seat was a WING seat. "Great", I thought, "now I can't see anything outside the window :( "
The trip took 5 hours, I spent it watching TV, reading a bit in the book I bought, but mostly wiping silent tears off my face! I had no idea I would be this emotional about leaving Lebanon especially since I was doing something I had planned for and was very happy making the decision about.
Thomas Friedman at the Saudi regime lobby
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