When we first arrive at a new destination, we often look for something familiar. Something that reminds us of where we’re from. Something relatable.
As my plane landed at the Hazrat Shajalal International Airport in Dhaka, I started involuntarily looking around for a sign of familiarity. Then I heard it, amid the excited hubbarb of conversation by my co-passengers onboard. I heard the familiar sound of a Christmas carol playing ever so softly on the airplane speakers. Amazing! Miles and miles away from home, I had found my familiar. A simple gesture I suppose by the airline, as the festive season drew closer, but a welcome gesture nonetheless.
I switched on my phone when the cabin crew said it was okay to turn on electronic devices and checked the time. It was 2.20pm Dhaka time. I had finally arrived, after over 18 hours of jetting across the sky. Running through multiple airport terminals and going through all the dreadful queues of airport security. I had finally made it across the world to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The first ever great Asian adventure I had ever voyeured on.
I quickly scrambled up for my back pack, got my travel documents in hand and headed out into the bright and hazy Dhaka afternoon. Soon it was time to queue up again, this time through immigration. My friend and her family had graciously provided me with all that I needed to have a smooth visa-on-arrival processing. I beamed with smiles when a couple paid me a quick compliment in the thicket of arriving passengers. They asked me, where are you from? I said, Ghana. They said in unison, Aaaah very nice. We’ve been to Accra before, they said. Ghanaians are very nice people, they added. That warmed my heart and I was already in high spirits.
Pumped up to join my friend in celebrating the joyous occasion of her wedding. It was a promise I had made to her years prior. Whilst we were just girls in university. She had said amidst one of our giggly chats about everything and nothing. You have to come for my wedding. Promise me you will be there when I get married. I said “I promise”. I had no idea how soon that promise would be due for pay-up.
As I picked up my bag from the luggage carousel, I began to scan around for the exit. Connected to the free airport wi-fi, I had been texting with my friend whilst in the airport. She was waiting to pick me up at the arrival hall. I walked briskly out and did a quick scan and there she was; my friend, now the bride-to-be looking giddy with excitement. She waved enthusiastically at me and I waved back, rolling my suitcase with me into a warm bear hug.
It had been a couple of years now after school and I could see how she had grown into a beautiful young lady. We hugged and laughed and hugged again. It was surreal, I was here, in Bangladesh! Miles away from home, miles away in a whole new continent. Rather than feel anxious, I was pumped up with excitement. I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in this new place, in this new culture, in this new experience…