Even when you think you are ready for a 24-hour jaunt halfway round the world, it stretches on forever. It's weird to think that I'm closer to China now than Carolina. The airline tried to get our internal clocks on the new time. They started serving breakfast 1:00 a.m. eastern because it was 9:00 a.m. Frankfurt. I still wasn't ready for it however so I skipped it. By the time I actually landed in Germany I was a zombie because, true to form, I couldn't sleep on the plane and it was 3:00 a.m. eastern.
When you fly business class, you have access to the business lounge so that's where we went to relax for the hour and a half wait we had between boardings. In the business lounge everything is free too apparently. There was, quite literally, an open bar where you could walk up and mix your own drinks. There were two soldiers there who were living it up with the Frankfurt beer at 11:00 a.m. in the morning while everyone else was having at the coffee machine and breakfast bar. I finally just started drinking coffee and sugarless hot chocolate (blasphemy!) figuring if I was going to be up, I might as well commit. There was also a bin full of gummy bears that people were obsessing over. "Oh, my God. These are the best gummy bears ever. Look, there's even gummy larva." says my co-worker. But, despite the fact that indeed they looked a little better than the average gummy bear, I've never been a big fan.
Finally we board and get to do another 7 hour plane ride all over again to Bangalore. By the end of this one, I was really ready to be off the plane. As nice as business class is...the free drinks they serve before you even take off, the hot towels you feel compelled to use even if you don't feel dirty because, well, they are there...and they are hot...the good food...the movies of your choice...the chairs that lay almost all the way down...the fact of the matter is...you are still on a plane..for 24 hours. So by the time we actually arrived in Bangalore, I was really ready to be here. Until we get through customs and are waiting for our bags.
Now this is no modern airport. No big shiny baggage carousels here. Its loud, packed, and hot. Lot's of shouting going on. I look around and see a currency exchange booth and decide that while I'm waiting I'll go exchange a hundred dollars. I get 3800 rupees for my $100. I'm not sure yet how far that will take me. When I get back to the baggage carousel, I notice all the bags are nearly gone and my bag is not there. My co-workers are there and they still do not have their bags either. Worse, they look worried. "All business class bags are out." they tell me. "Ours are missing." I do a quick mental check. Yeah, I'd like to have my bags but my absolute essentials, money, passport, and medications are on me.
We are led over to fill out some paperwork for out missing bags (we all used the same check in person in Washington too - this is a USA mishap I bet!) and are given "essentials" for the night. Hairbrush, t-shirt, toothbrush, shampoo. I have to laugh. They can't lose my bag when I travel to NYC for the night. They have to lose it when I'm halfway round the world for a week.
Finally, we get in a cab and are taken to our hotel, which as far as I can tell sits in the middle of one of the worst slums I've ever seen in my life. A pack of mongrel dogs literally was fighting on the street and then a guarded gate led into a somewhat westernized looking hotel. They man at the desk asked me for my business card. "No card." I say. "My bag was lost."
"Ah." He says. "Would you like coffee in the morning?" I think about this. I've been warned not to drink the water but I wonder if that includes hot water. Surely the heat would burn off any bacteria? I have no idea. I play it safe. No thanks I say regretfully. I make may way up to my room where, thankfully, there is a mini bar. It is 2:00 a.m. in India and around 4:00 in the afternoon in the states. I open the mini bar and take inventory. I have my laptop and the clothes on my back. I have my passport and my American Express. I have this Kingfisher beer. The lights blink off. Then back on. Welcome to the third world.