The Wonder of Flight

Filed under: Abroad,

Those who are afraid of flying can empathize with the gripping horror that rushes through the body at a single bump of turbulence. The stomach wrenches into a knot, hands become clammy and white, and the mind races with terrifying scenarios of what one’s last moments crashing down to earth might entail.

And that is just with regular turbulence.

I was now flying through a snowstorm in the middle of the night over a tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, in what was quickly becoming my most terrifying travel experience ever.

Believe it or not I’d actually looked forward to this flight. Three weeks ago I’d carefully crafted what I thought would be the easiest way to get to Grenada from New York: after working an exhausting deadline at the newspaper, I would be tired enough to fall asleep on an overnight flight that would arrive just as the beautiful tropical dawn would arise.

But everything looks good on paper.

I did not anticipate the Nor’easter snowstorm that would hit, an almost-bankrupt Caribbean airline that probably cared little about the comfort of its passengers, and six hours of such exhausting panic that I actually passed out from fear during two of them.

When I awoke it was 5:45 a.m. — Grenada time, because the only encouragement I’d had was setting my watch ahead an hour while praying for 7 o’clock. I had the row to myself and had buried myself under a pile of blankets, sweaters and a coat in an attempt to mentally escape my environment.

Finally emerging, I squinted out my window to see a bright orange glow over a sparklingly blue sea, and nearly cried from the realization that I’d survived. I filled out the customs forms with a slow shaking hand, and we at last landed on solid ground.

As the stairway was wheeled over to our plane in no great hurry, I blinked against the bright sun to observe the familiar surroundings. We sat on a small speck of concrete next to the little structure that was the airport. Palm trees waved gently in the breeze, and tall, slim Grenadians stood around talking and laughing, oblivious to the terror we’d just endured to get here. When the doors were opened I felt the humid, salty air flood into every inch of the plane, and my near-death experience was quickly forgotten.

That's the thing about flying — the magic of arriving in a completely new world instantly makes up for the misery endured. I was here to join my boyfriend “Ahn-tony,” as the Grenadians affectionately pronounce his name, during his once-a-year stint as a visiting cardiologist. He had gone to medical school at St. George’s, and because the country’s healthcare resources are limited, we are given a plane ticket and place to stay in exchange for Anthony's two weeks of work. While he toils in the trenches for his beloved adopted country, I live in the confines of the resort with other visiting families, far away from the stress of a cold New York winter.

Once my passport was stamped I collected my belongings and went out on the sidewalk to wait for him. Taxi drivers lounged on the benches, calling their soft “Psst” to catch my attention for a fare. A few med students had braved the Reggae buses to meet family members at the flight, one of only two per day. I could hear some of the buses’ music in the distance, a gentle Caribbean serenade that blended with the palm trees rustling and the ocean waves crashing. There were these sounds, and yet it felt silent, under the soft, warm sun of a faraway island.

Anthony was there in a moment, and even he looked different after just one week. His skin had begun to darken and his brow glistened in the humidity. His hair didn’t have any gel on it, and the top buttons of his polo shirt were undone. I got into the opposite-side car with my belongings, and we just smiled at each other without saying a word. There was nothing to say. The flight was over, and we were in Grenada.

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