The Pakistanis did not leave their habits at home as they took off from the Islamabad airport. I noticed this when upon landing in Dubai, the insides of the air-plane at seemed as if someone had run by with a torn garbage bag. Despite the effortless attempts of the stewards and stewardesses to collect everyone’s empty bottles, plastics and other junk, the passengers had hoarded it, to at final minutes litter the entire place. Baffled by the disrespect and lacking of courtesy, I stepped over the left-behind mess and made my way to the exit. Initially, I was supposed to have a few hours on hand, however a sudden change with my airline had left me with half a day in this capital of emirates. Unlike in Oman, I had no intention of heading for the city and attempted to make the airport my temporary home the way Tom Hanks did in the Terminal. For that reason, I took my time and calmly sauntered through the gateway leading me away from the plane.
The last bit of traveller’s spirit had dripped out during my stay in Pakistan and I had been yearning for my home. To make these long-some hours pass by more rapidly, I had entered the well-known Hard-Rock cafe to only be reminded by my second home. A young Filipina welcomed me into a stool and with a broad smile stood before me awaiting the order. As I asked for a beer from the tap, she raised her eyebrow and with an apologetic tone she asked for my passport. A melancholic-doused smile appeared on my face as I slid a hand into my backpack searching for the passport. The hint of her accent had made me beam, however it reminded me I was far from seeing my love again. As she confirmed my age, explaining that here the age is 21 and above, my eyes wandered around and I noticed many a Filipina and Filipino galloping around the bar either scribbling down orders on their notepads of people coming for a meal accompanied with music or carrying trays bearing tiny glasses with inside a translucent liquid most likely to numb the senses and crush the filter of words.
Lily poured me one of the finest crafts, as she answered the question on my mind; “The Filipinos basically run this airport.” I could find a trace of pride when she talked about all her fellow compatriots that went through the same effort to work alongside her on this side of the security. She sighed with a smile as she placed the beer on the coaster. As soon as she did, the tiny droplets on the outside of the tower of a glass descended down and wetted the coaster. With Pakistan’s beer coming in a can and tap beer being scarce in the Philippines, it had been some months since I had a beer so mouthwatering. Taking in my first delicious sip of the golden drink that came in perfect to speed up time, my thumb and index finger folded open the receipt which I studied intensely. Unexpectedly, I had a hefty amount of rupees left from my trip and that what I could, I had exchanged moments before entering the bar. With my wallet full of dirham, I was unaware of its worth. Possibly the distraction of the Filipina and her reminding accent or the bewitching keg of draught beer had me forget the number one rule of travelling; to always check the currency.
As I choked on my lavish beverage upon seeing its costs in my own currency, the bartender had returned and asked me if I had ever been to the Philippines, now that I knew her nationality. This question had been a gateway of topics that had us conversing for the majority of my beer. A beer I nurtured due to its price. Apparently, she and I had a lot in common as we both lived in the torment of a long-distance relationship and the same issues as well as thoughts on how to cope with those. As we talked the time away, a black man had watched us with his perfect, white as snow teeth shining from the dimmed booth he shared with Lily. He wore the same uniform and stood alongside her, though rising far above her, thus I assumed he worked there as well. However he was obviously not one of her compatriots, which rose my curiosity. Seeming eager to jump into the conversation, he grabbed his opportunity when she had to trot off to continue work. During this, I had shamelessly ordered a second posh beer, waving away my guilt by stating it is my last travel money anyhow. Picking up where she had left, the man engaged me with tons of questions before proudly, and warranted to do so, explaining how he, a man from Nigeria wound up serving drinks and meals at an airport in Dubai.
But nearing the end of his tale, he got interrupted by a cheerful blast resonating from a speaker somewhere near. He sighed and chuckled as his eyes averted to the ground. “It’s time”, he said in a voice of subtlety leaving me with a mind of questions. With long strides he marched towards the entrance where there stood a small podium. Taller than all his coworkers, he joined them by stepping onto the stage when a familiar sung began to play. Seconds later, I emitted a quiet cackle as I watched them all dance the YMCA. Where the Pakistanis took their habit of littering into the airplane, the Filipinos carried there culture of singing into this filipino-controlled hard-rock cafe and it was an astonishing phenomenon to witness. Upon the finishing of the song, I had a laugh with the two before parting to lounge on one of the comfy laid-back chairs I had spotted some hours before.
I began to feel light-headed, in the dreamy way, as the two tall beers had sufficed to take me on my empty stomach to a state of tipsiness and dreaminess which had made drowsing off relatively easy. Despite a half-day being immensely long and usually seeming to drag on when that time is spent waiting, my Pakistan-Netherlands journey had been one of ease and comfort if you take into mind that I had been gone for 18 months. 18 months and no member of the family, no animal nor human had fallen ill or gotten injured, no grave events had occurred and I was a day away from seeing them and holding the two Belgian Shepherds I cherish so deeply. Going on trips to see my close relatives before heading to the shop for my oh-so longed for unhealthy cravings. To actually ride my rinky-dink bike again that by now, as I write this belated post has been replaced for a superior one. Perhaps most importantly, to be sleeping in my own bed again. With that thought, I fell asleep with a smile on my face.