The plan was to fly from Biarritz back to Paris. Spend one night there and then make my way to Mumbai in India. The home of the world's largest slum. Things went well and then the journey began in the Charles De Gaulle Airport.
I had caught the train into the airport. I made my way through to find my terminal and check in to my flight. As I wandered the airport somewhat lost I followed the signs. I found myself slipping from the crowd. All the sudden I emerged into a large terminal and there was not a soul in sight. No workers, no people, nobody! As I came out of the hall and into the terminal. I suddenly heard a hectic scolding coming in another language. As I turned to greet this chaos it was too late. I was hit by a 6 foot 5 inch french military police officer at full speed. We hit the ground hard and to my surprise I began to laugh...why was I laughing? These men had guns. WTF just happen!! Within 5 seconds I had three automatic M16 rifles to my head and was being detained and yelled at in french. Two minutes later I was being questioned in english. "WHERE ARE YOU GOING" was the first question. In my confusion I answered "Saudi Arabia" knowing that was a horrible answer but the truth. "WHY?" they yelled in a defining schreck. "To get to Mumbai" I answered. After 10 more minutes of questions and handing over my passport they realized I was only a lost american and had nothing to do with the possible bomb sitting 60 feet away..... WAIT...WHAT? "A BOMB?" I asked. "Yes someone left a bag and we think it's a bomb" they answered. "Well can I leave....I mean away from this possible bomb?" I pleaded. "No, Nobody moves"......Great I thought if this thing goes off i'm literally the closest one to it. I sat for an hour wondering if this was the end. As the bomb squad entered and the package was dealt with I felt time slow down. They moved slower than I have ever seen, looking like astronauts. Two minutes later the police opened the glass doors and in came 500 frantic humans all late for their flights. The bomb didn't take me but the stampede nearly did!!
I boarded my flight to Saudi Arabia and took a deep breath. At least that was over I thought. Little did I know it had only just begun.
I landed in Saudi Arabia and had a eight hour layover. Going through immigration and then entering a small terminal I decided to eat some food and find a good place to rest. With about five hours left I found a corner on the hard tile floor and laid down. Setting my alarm on my phone for an hour before boarding time I dosed off with headphones on listening to the wise words of Alan Watts. I woke to my alarm and walked to my gate. Where was everyone I thought to myself? I approached the desk confused and handed over my ticket. The man looked at me and said "your flight left an hour ago" . I looked at my phone and said "what do you mean?" He pointed at the clock on the wall and said " you're flights gone" "you're a no show" I looked at the clock then again at my phone. My phone was two hours behind. How could this happen!! " ok so what do I do now" I asked. He continued to tell me I needed to buy another ticket and that the next available flight did not leave for another 32 hours. Also I could not leave the tiny terminal because I didn't have a Visa to enter the country. I took a deep breath and walked over to buy a orange juice and contemplate what to do. As I go to pay. The cashier says "your cards declined". I hand him my other card. "This one too" he reply's impatiently as he puts up his closed sign. I sit down and think to myself.....Alright so both my cards are declined, I'm stuck in Saudi Arabia, It's 2:00am and there's literally no one in this tiny airport. I need some help. I go to connect to Wifi and it says it will send me a SMS for the code. But I don't have any cell service or an international plan. So no Wifi or anyway to contact anyone outside of this prison of mine. I begin to laugh. It starts as a chuckle and turns to a full blown laugh attack. THIS IS INSANE!
Life can throw you curve balls and if you take it too serious you will never make it out alive.
Then an angel came into my life. A 6 foot muslim angel by the name of Fahad Alphtani. He walked up and started to laugh with me. It was the most surreal experience I had encountered up to that point in my life. I knew somehow he was the one that would help me escape this prison. We spent the next 10 hours planning this escape. It was like solving a math equation. But after a few illegal maneuvers (his idea), a few bribes (also his idea), and $1000 dollars I was sitting in first class on my way out of my former prison. When I tried to pay Fahad he denied, I insisted and he won the battle. I will never forget this man and the love and kindness he gave to me. He changed me as a person. He showed me something I needed to see.
As I flew over Mumbai I looked down onto the sea of endless slums. Mountains of garbage and rubble. I knew this was going to be the most intense part of my journey. Was I ready for this? I had not gotten any proper sleep in days and was in a hazy reality.
I landed in Mumbai with only the address to my hotel. I knew I needed to get a taxi in the airport because dealing with taxi's in third world countries can be a nightmare. Yet a nightmare was what I was destined for whether I knew it or not.
I paid for a pre-paid taxi and exited the airport. The heat hit me like a straight right hand and I began to sweat instantly. It was pouring rain and I was sweating like a fat man on a sprint. How was this possible? I found the prepaid taxi station and knew I was in for another adventure. The taxi drivers were all sprawled out on the filthy street and not a single one spoke any english. I gave them my receipt which I realized didn't have the address on it and also that they charged me extra and kept the money. Whatever I thought just get me to my hotel. I NEED sleep. So after twenty five minutes of negotiating with body language I end up with the oldest and grumpiest driver. As we leave the airport he burns through my soul with his stare in the rearview mirror. Swearing at me in his language the entire time. Five minutes into Mumbai traffic (I could write a book on what I saw in this cluster fuck of madness) my driver pulls over and kicks me out of his cab. He transfers me into another cab and this happens two more times in the next 45 minutes. As I am trying not to die from the heat and dark black fumes in my fourth cab a moped pulls up to my window and knocks on the glass. He points at the back left tire. I signal to the driver and the driver yells at him and brushes it off. Then he makes a sharp turn and we are heading down a beaten path through the slums. Just then I hear a loud POP!! The car drops to one side and I realize the tire just blew out. Great....here we go again.
He tells me not to get out of the car and within 5 minutes there are hundreds of people surrounding us. Woman with babies and small children are knocking on the window begging for food or money. Then he says to get out so he can jack the car up. I am bombarded with poverty stricken souls and they are stroking me as if I am their savior. All I can think about is all the immunizations I refused prior to coming and how If I was going to catch a disease it was going to be right now.
Then things got real. I noticed outside of the crowd there were 6 men dressed differently. They stood out and I started to observe their movements and conversations. They were planning something. Then the energy changed and I realized my life was in possible danger. This is what I had heard about over and over before arriving. How they took you and sold you to the highest bidder until they eventually got a ransom or had the nerve to kill you. The fear did not hit me completely until the men started to yell. As if to insight a riot. To get the crowd to react so they could move within the chaos undetected. But it was when the taxi driver started to scream at me to run is when I realized that my life was teetering on the edge. I entered a state of mind I have never experienced. My hearing went and my vision enhanced. Time seemed to slow as I began to plot my options of escape. I had two options. The alley to my left that emptied into a busier street or the never ending slums behind me. I reached into my bag and took the only defense I had. A five inch double sided blade. I attached it to my hip. As the men created a half circle and started to move in slowly. It hit me again...laughter. No, really? I am about to be kidnapped and possibly killed and... yep, It starts slow and again turns to a full blown attack. I see confusion sweep over the crowd and then the men. How and why the fuck was this happening. I couldn't stop. My mind flooded with the LOVE in my life, the blessings, the angels, it was then that I truly understood how blessed my life was and how thankful I was for it all. It seemed like forever that I stood there laughing beyond all control and when it came to an end I realized the driver was screaming into his phone and a minute later there was a taxi sitting at the end of the alley to my left. Again I was thrown into this state that I could only relate to being in a cage for my MMA matches. I knew what needed to happen and I knew if it didn't my life was going to be no longer in my own hands. I grabbed my bags and began moving as fast as I possibly could down the alley. Not once looking back. Knowing they were right behind me. As I came out of the alley and hurled my bags into the taxi which was open and running. I turned. There they were within 10 feet from me. As I made eye contact with one of the men. We connected. I understood. His eyes spoke to me and again time slowed. I saw his life, his struggles, there was no anger or hate. There was only what needed to be done. The doors locked and we drove away as if we had just robbed a bank. Tears filled my eyes. I wanted to go back and give them what I had. I wanted to give everything. Every possession, every dollar I had. To the woman, to the children, and even to the men to had just attempted to take my life. As the tears fell. I felt a shift in my life. I was different. I had felt things I never knew existed I had entered states of mind I had only read about.
It took 5 hours to find my hotel which was very far away. It was in a place that I questioned my safety and wondered how a place like this (which looked nothing like the online pictures when I booked it) had a "hotel". I didn't care I needed to sleep. Or was this all a dream. Was I going to wake as a fell asleep into another reality.
The next day I changed my flight. I couldn't spend a week in this place. The odds were being constantly stacked against me and I questioned if I would even make it out of this underworld. I decided to spend a day touring the city and trying to connect with the program I was supposed to meet with. I would fly out the day after and give myself more time in Indonesia which I was excited about.
The morning I was supposed to leave I woke to a loud explosion. Alright I thought. What now? I packed my bags and walked down to the lobby to catch my ride. The lobby was filled with military police and I knew I was in for yet another surprise. I asked what was happening and the hotel manager said the neighborhood and hotel was on lockdown until further notice. I asked to use the phone or Wifi to change my ticket. Guessing I was going to miss my flight. The manager informed me that the power was out and that I would have to wait. 4 hours later I was informed I could leave and I made my way to the airport. We hit traffic and I knew there was no way I was making my flight. I tried using the taxi drivers cell to call the airport and had no luck. As I arrive they inform me I was a "no show" and that I would have to purchase another ticket. The next flight was in 17 hours but the connection from Singapore to Bali wasn't available and that I needed to walk 20 min down to the other terminal to deal with the travel agent there.
As I exited the terminal I was approached by a handsome looking Indian with pristine english. I knew right away he had intentions to help and that he would somehow benefit from it. At first I told myself not to listen or trust this man. The longer we spoke the more I liked him and knew he was just a man seeing an opportunity. Creating a job for himself and a legitimate hustle. He informed me he had worked at the airport for 14 years and laid down what they were going to do for me and what he could do for me. After 20 minutes I decided I had little to lose by going with this man and seeing what he could do for me. We got in his taxi and headed for his travel agent.
Right away we hit traffic. Bad traffic. I was back in a fight for my life not to die from the black smoke billowing in my window. Sweat poured down my body as I listened to this man tell me about every woman he's ever been with and how he did it. It was 2 hours before we made it to the travel agent. As we walked inside instantly they recognized him and started yelling at him to get out. After 5 minutes he convinces them to let him stay. We sit down and I receive my options. An hour later I purchase a completely new ticket for another $1000.00 dollars. We exit the building and surrender back to the horrific traffic jams from hell. I had asked how this new friend of mine made money off helping me? He told me that he brings me to change my ticket then when I need a hotel to stay at. As I wait for my new flight and he makes a commission off the hotels. I asked how clean or descent the hotels he offered were and from his response I realized these were low end places which basically meant they were on the verge of collapse. I informed him I needed a little bit nicer of a place and that I would pay him for his help. He agreed. After 4 more hours and 5 hotel stops. I realized he was going into each hotel alone and just telling me they were full. Attempting to break me with the heat and traffic so I would stay at one of his hotel options. After seeing I wasn't going to break we go back to the first hotel stop and I get a room. I have 10 hours before I leave. Alright I think to myself. Lets try this again.
I get a shuttle from my hotel back to the airport and show up three hours early. Just to be sure I am prepared. I walk in and up to the first agent I see and ask her where Singapore Airlines is. She takes my paper itinerary and looks at it for a minute. She hands it back and in broken english says "no singapore airlines". My heart drops. This isn't happening. I did not just get conned for $1000.00 dollars. I walk away sit down and take a few long breaths. I go within and listen. You're alive, you're well, things could be worse I tell myself. I weigh my options and something tells me to try again. I walk over to another agent and he continues to tell me Singapore Airlines doesn't have a station until an hour before the flight and I will have to wait. I'm flooded with joy. "With pleasure" I respond and go sit on the hard tile floor for another 2 hours with a big smile on my face. I'm going to make it out of here I say to myself. Here I come Bali. What is next? Will this madness continue.
I knew no matter what I was ready for whatever. I knew in life everything and everyone you've ever known can be taken from you. The one thing that is yours and that can never be taken is the way you respond to situations. The way you chose to react when life takes you for a bumpy ride. With the right attitude and a smile on your face. Life is what you make it to be.
I spent 10 hours in Singapore Airport which was an amazing place!! As I board my flight for Bali I am overwhelmed with a warm feeling within. I felt something big coming. I had a feeling all this was leading somewhere. It was guiding me to where I needed to be. Bali was it and something good was there waiting for me. I could feel it.