Kevin, the graudate student from University of Wisconsin
June 01, 2008: One of the longest transatlantic flights I have taken in a long while, well not really because last year I did the same leg. I wonder why this time if felt extremely long. New York (JFK) to Dubai (Sheikh Rashid International). During the twelve hour layover in Dubai, Emirates Airlines booked my daughter and I, into the commercial wing (the recently upgraded wing of the Millennium hotel) where most of its overnight travellers are accommodated. I have slept at the Millennium hotel more than five times in the ten years I have traveled as a skyward member of Emirates Airlines. The difference this time was, it, was the first time my nearly eight years old daughter was accompanying me on this leg to Africa. It is not exactly five or four star hotel one finds in Dubai, but somewhere in between three and lower four star, and compared to the few others I have used before, it might as well have passed for a five star.
The shuttle from the airport dropped us off at the hotel at approximately 9:00 p.m. Dubai local time. We checked in at the reception and were allocated a room on the lower floor of the commercial wing of the hotel. We were also given dinner and snack coupons. On our way to the hotel however Desire and I began to talk to one of the passengers who happened to be going to the same hotel we were spending the night. We asked where he was going and he said Uganda. Desire was ecstatic as if it meant something good, lol! The talking went on all the way to the hotel; by this time of course I was intrigued by his resolve and focus.
The stranger had a name – Kevin: Kevin is a Masters of Science student in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Wisconsin.
He was headed to Uganda to spend the summer conducting social research in squatter fishing villages around Lake Victoria. What was interesting was that he did not know where he was going to stay, but had some information on back packing accommodation and phone contacts of the people with whom he was to conduct his research, sounded to me like an accident waiting to happen. He looked quite innocent (looks are deceiving by the way) and tired by the time we made it to the Dubai hotel where we were overnighting. My daughter had made more conversation with him than I, so I jumped in by asking where he would be staying and if he had been to Uganda before. ‘No, he said’
Millenium hotel lounge
I invited him to stay with my family on arrival until he could call his people and figure out some accommodation options.
Hall way to the rooms
We arrived at the hotel and I was ready for a hot shower. The fourteen hours flight had taken its toll on me, I felt tired and filthy from the air in the cabin and fourteen hours of using the same restroom as 300 or so other passengers, I will not even go there. If you have traveled such distances nonstop, then you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the room we stayed in was very spacious with two twin beds that were shy of an American queen-size bed. The air-conditioning was rather too cold considering I had just flown from New York where the weather was warm, and prior to that from Phoenix at 104 degrees. So cold was not exactly the comfort level I was looking for. I turned off the air conditioning and it took a good hour or so for the room to warm up enough for me to catch some sleep. My daughter on the other hand was behaving as if, nothing changed in her daily routine, she was jumping all over the room, wanting to watch TV, unpack her bags, play hide and seek etc. I could not believe it: