If you are a believer in signs, then this trip did not get off to the best start.

A 2.30am departure from Brisbane airport was never something to look forward to.  I arrived well ahead of the check in time and already there was a yellow ‘3.15am’ on the screen as the rescheduled departure time.  Grrr.

Things could have been worse though.

As a traveller and writer I am naturally an avid people watcher and eavesdropper.  A few fellow travellers had arrived early at the airport as well, so I set to work.  One girl quickly caught my eye, or ears, rather.  She was sitting alone on her phone, crying.  I immediately thought it was her boyfriend.  She was leaving for a long time and a teary farewell in person had extended to a teary phone call.  Soon though, I realised it was not the missing-your-love type crying.

I could not figure out exactly who she was talking to, though what I could make out through her sobbing was, ‘my friend has just died, my friend has just died.’  It was a terrible thing to hear, such a personal and intimate moment in her young life and she was going through it alone and publicly, with a group of strangers around her not knowing how to act or what to do.  A stewardess approached her and offered her a tissue, save for that, nobody did anything.  What to do?

When the check in desks opened I noticed, in between planning my Jordanian itinerary, she was ahead in the queue.  She was still on the phone, slightly more composed, having almost surely cried herself out in the bathrooms after the initial news.

With my boarding pass in hand (window seat 24A in the emergency aisle) I made my way into the familiar world of departure lounges, a world of high ceilings, oversize advertisements and moving walkways.  At gate 75 the departure lounge symphony of snoring transit passengers, 24 hour news channels and humming floor cleaners was in full swing.  I watched the latest Middle East political crisis, this time in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and a story on Kevin Sheedy searching or the next Indigenous football star in the Tiwi Islands, before adding my own contribution to the medley.

I slept most of the flight to Singapore, waking just in time for breakfast.  After a refuel at Changi it was on to Dubai, where the signs improved.  As lunch was being served, I noticed my food tray, which should have unfolded from the armrest, was broken – hardly a setback in my book, yet a big deal for the proud Emirates staff.  I was offered another seat, but a window seat in the emergency aisle is about as good as it gets in economy, so I declined.  The steward assured me I would be compensated for my ‘inconvenience’ and would I like a bottle of wine?  Sure.  Red or white?  Red thanks.  He returned later with a Chateau Marquis de Terme 2003 Margaux, which I have since googled and seen rated 87/100 on Vinopedia – thanks very much!

Who's thirsty?
Who’s thirsty?

In Dubai I was met by Abhi and Rashi, two friends from Tanzania 2009 who have been living in the UAE since 2007.  Ever gracious hosts, we took in the nightly fireworks, as part of Dubai’s month long shopping festival (what other city could host such an event?!), Abhi’s favourite tea shop as well as dinner and double apple sheesha on the creek.

Abhi's favourite tea shop, with 1D kadak chai
Abhi’s favourite tea shop, with 1D kadak chai

Refreshed after a sleep on the couch, my head resting on an old KNM elephant pillow, next stop is Jordan.