On Sunday morning, the last day of my vacation, I set off early. I would basically be travelling all day in 1 form or another but I didn’t mind. Not only do I enjoy the process of travel, but on this particular part of my journey, I had a treat waiting for me.
A couple of days before, I had spoken to the Jamaican pilot and his lovely wife on the phone (Whatsapp calling is the bomb diggity) and we had arranged to meet at a cafe in the Singapore airport, since I had 5 and a half hours to kill there. Originally, I had thought about leaving the airport to go see something in the city but I concluded that I would be cutting it too close for my last flight of the day, and had decided to just hang out in the airport, reading, people watching and browsing the stores. But then I spoke to this lovely couple and we made our plans to meet and I was really excited about that.
When I got to Singapore, I caught the tram to the terminal where I would meet them, checked in for my next flight, and headed to the cafe. When we found each other, you would have thought we were long lost friends. We were hugging and squeezing each other like we hadn’t seen each other in years. It was beautiful. The 4 of us (their daughter was with them) sat at a table in that cafe and talked for 4 hours! What could virtual strangers find to talk about for 4 hours, for goodness sake? But somehow, we did it. To be honest, I think I did a little too much talking but they were gracious and let me yak away like I hadn’t used my mouth in months.
Thinking about it now, I believe that a part of my chattiness that day was because I was talking to people from my “group” and I was unexpectedly excited about that, because no matter how much of an individual I am, I’m still human and identifying with a group is part of my psyche. Also, you know how you just effortlessly connect with some people? These guys were like that for me; talking with them came so easy that our time was up before I knew it. When a 4-hour first meeting feels like 30 minutes, you can be sure that you’re hanging out with people with whom you connect on some level or other. In that entire time, I didn’t once look at the giant watch on my wrist because I was having so much fun just chatting and laughing with them in that cafe in Changi airport. It was the perfect bow to top off my 2-week present. And you know what made it that much more precious? I didn’t expect it to be so absolutely, delightfully wonderful. Aren’t surprises the best?
After our marathon getting-to-know-you session, my new peeps walked me to security and I had just enough time to get through immigration and hoof it to my gate, where I went through security again and walked right onto the plane. What an absolutely wonderful travel day I was having.
Back in Luang Prabang, I had decided that when I got back to Jakarta that Sunday, I wanted 1 more night of clean, critter-free living before I returned to reality. So when I landed in Jakarta that evening, I called the hotel I had booked to find out where to meet their shuttle bus. And I spent 1 more night in mental paradise. It was lovely, but I admit that I had a vague sense of dread when I thought about facing the next day.
On Monday morning, I could not longer delay the inevitable, so I ripped off the band-aid. I had breakfast at the hotel and caught a cab at 8 am. A drive that should have taken no more than an hour took 2 because of the usual heavy Jakarta traffic, then I was back at the centre. One of my colleagues was leaving that day for a new assignment, so I immediately moved my things to her newly vacated, single, non-sharing room. Then I settled down to work.
I was officially back to reality.