My traveling partners to Dubai were a West Virginian by birth Virginian by choice, John, and a Jordanian by birth, American by choice retired Corps employee, Jamal. The youngest Jamal could possibly be is 73, and with an accent like his he tended to be the soft-spoken one of the group when we were still in Virgina. Of course, before he retired, he worked in the office we were in for our deployment work, so he knew everyone and everyone knew him. John and I were boisterous and gave the instructors a hard time. Everyone does things differently, and most of the time the things that are done are against the "rules" but we aren't supposed to point that out. Well, John and I did. Anyone who has ever been in a class with me knows that ever since first grade the teachers have been sending home notes that say I talk too much. When I travel I talk to everyone, checkout clerks, ticket takers, flight attendants, people sitting next to me, no one can escape my inquisitive conversations. Well, travelling to Dubai was different. Not the plane ride over mind you. I talked to the driller next to me headed to Addis Ababa (I may not be able to spell it, but I can pronounce it now), and the merchant marine trainer next to him. But once we touched down and were no longer on American soil, I got kind of quiet.
Jamal on the other hand, turned into me. He talked to everyone, usually starting with where they were from. Half the time he asked them not where they were from but if they were from a certain place. He was only wrong once. That one time I thought I knew, too. We were both wrong and we both learned about a place called Nagaland.
It wasn't all bad talk, he actually told the passport agent that I had never used my passport so he stood by when I got my first visa. It really meant that I didn't have to talk to the agent. Just before we got to the passport agent he offered to watch our bags while we went to the bathroom. He said, "Don't worry, I can speak three languages and one of them is not English." Ever so much funnier than just telling us he could also speak Turkish and Arabian.
In the gift shop I picked up a souvenir for 35 dirhams and one for 45 dirhams. All of our training tells us that people, particularly in Afghanistan, expect you to haggle with them over the prices. Jamal tried to haggle with the clerk and get her to sell them to me for 40 a piece.
Being in Dubai was strange. I got to the hotel room, couldn't plug anything in, couldn't flush the toilet, and couldn't use the phone. I never felt more like an American.
The cab ride back to the airport was a blast, I actually took a video on the ride partly to see the sights of Dubai, partly to capture the bantering with Jamal. Eventually though, we did board a Fly Dubai airplane, a 737-800, for Bagram.
On landing in Bagram John turned to me and said, "Welcome to 1813." My travel to Afghanistan had ended, but the travels in Afghanistan had only just begun.