I had an interesting trip flying from Rochester, NY to Kilimanjaro International Airport and then on to Moshi by van. First off, after I said all my goodbyes and got ready to depart on my journey I found out that my plane out of Rochester for 6:30 AM was cancelled, because the plane never arrived the night before…that’s nice to hear. Good way to start a long term excursion to an unfamiliar place. I was given instructions to go to gate with the next available flight to Philadelphia where my connecting flight would depart. I was on stand-by with the hopes that someone wouldn’t show up and I would take their place, otherwise I would be leaving late the next day which would screw up all my plans. Luckily, fate was with me and I got on the plane.
When I connected to Qatar Airline to Doha, Qatar (pronounced: like “cutter”) I sat next to an older Middle Eastern man. As the flight began to taxi I struck up a conversation with him. His name was Tarfeeq and he worked for a very big computer and information technology company in Saudi Arabia. We began talking about the flight and our mutual destinations but then launched into a whirlwind of subject matters from religion to education to cultural differences to hookah smoking and more! He was appalled at ISIS and what they are doing in the name of Islam, he even quoted scripture to rebuke their stance. We spoke of his family of five children: four boys and one little girl who he adores. He was taking a video of the snow and the plane taking off to show her when he got home. We discussed our careers and things we do in our leisure time. Most importantly though, he opened up my mind to the Middle East. We talked about cultural differences and stereotypes on both sides; I was never offered the opportunity to ask so many questions to learn so much from a complete stranger.
As the flight was coming to an end after 11 and a half grueling hours in the air, Tarfeeq was beginning the first of his regiment of five daily prayers to Allah. Dawn was just beginning to break. We watched the magnificent sun rise over the Gulf of Arabia and spoke about nature’s majesty. As we disembarked from the plane and went our separate ways, we said our farewells and shook hands. Beautiful things happen when we step out of our comfort zone and go out on a limb to talk to someone different than us. You truly never know who is going to add something special to the present moment in life…so take a chance and talk to that person next to you in line or on the bus or wherever you may be, it just may enhance your life or change your perspective!