February 24, 2011
"I am on an airplane from Dubai to Kolkata watching the sun come up. Today or I guess I should say yesterday was an amazing day...not because of anything in particular but because I have traveled half way around the world.
I left LAX at 4 p.m. on Emirates Airlines whose hub is Dubai. It was a 13 hour flight and fortunately it wasn't full. I stayed up until around 8:30 p.m. and then took a Lunesta. Next thing I knew, it was 5 a.m. I sat by the window with a seat between me and a young woman who was traveling home to Tehran for a visit with her parents for the first time in 4 years. She is an engineer living in West LA and most interestingly a Jew. I asked her if there were many Jews in Iran. She said there weren't but they were free to worship without any issue. I was interested to hear her perspective on the recent developments in the Middle East. She said that what happened in Egypt could not happen in Iran because anyone who questions political policies in public would be incarcerated or murdered. She wasn't alive when the Shah was overthrown so she had only lived in a repressive fundamentalist regime until coming to the U.S. She said she would never live in Iran again which meant being separated from her parents. She had brought a scarf to put on her head when she gets to Tehran and made sure she wore pants that covered her ankles.
While I was waiting to get off the plane in Dubai, I chatted with a young Indian man also living in LA and traveling to Kolkata for a visit home. His name is Mojihit, and he is a development and marketing guy for Bollywood movies. He's a darling kid, and we ended up spending our 6 hour layover together. We got something to eat, and I gave him motherly advice about his love life and career. H e has typical 24 year old angst. I teased him that I would be available to be cast as an American tycoon in his next movie. Somehow I don't think that offer will be forthcoming! However, because he didn't sleep on the flight from LA and because his mother and grandmother will be picking him up at the airport (he said they will embarrass him - which I told him was a mother's prerogative) I shared my Lunesta with him. I think he will be more gracious with his mother if he is rested. I am an International Mom!
With both of these kids, I spoke about Rotary and our humanitarian outreach. They were impressed and who knows? Maybe one day they will talk about their conversation with a middle-aged white woman when they are being inducted into their Rotary club.
On this flight I have been sitting next to an Indian woman who has lived in San Jose for the past 20 years. She is going home to visit her elderly mother. I spoke with her about Piyali, and she may join us on one of our visits to the village. She said she knew about Piyali and it's role in human trafficking and would be very interested in seeing the work we are doing to stop the cycle. What a world!
My Rotary hosts, Jayanta and Arundhati, will be picking me up when I land in 30 minutes. I don't know what my day holds. It will be 7:40 a.m. But to my body it will be 8:10 p.m. So the great challenge will be to stay awake this first day at least until early evening. We'll see how far I get. If I can stay awake, I will be ready to go tomorrow. If I go to sleep too early, I will be toast!
I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this trip and bring you all along with me." More...