On January 30, 2020, Emma and Elizabeth spent their last day in Nepal. They were both still a little under the weather, and that mysterious new coronavirus seemed to be turning into a Whole Thing, so they continued to wear their masks.
They began the day with some shopping, to pick up some requested items for Emma’s family.
They had lunch at their favorite Kathmandu restaurant.
And then, at 8:00 that night, they headed to the Kathmandu Airport.
The cheap seats were overbooked, so the girls got a free upgrade to a fancier section of the plane!
BUT NOT WINDOW SEATS. This was, of course a catastrophe.
One of Elizabeth’s pocket friends admiring the in-flight meal.
As with the flight from the US to Nepal, the return-flight layover was in Dubai rather than China, at the request of Emma, who had less-than-optimal past experience with Chinese airports. This was fortuitous, because just as the girls were flying out of Nepal, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a Global Public Health Emergency. A few hours later, the US also declared a Public Health Emergency and started screening passengers flying in from China for signs of illness. If the layover had been in China instead of Dubai, Emma and Elizabeth likely would have been subjected to a 14-day quarantine.
They landed safely in Dubai…
…settled in for a five-and-a-half hour layover…
…and then caught their 17-hour direct flight from Dubai to LAX.
They followed the sun west. Elizabeth said this was the closest they got to night the entire flight, up in the Arctic Circle:
Flying over the Grand Canyon…
…over the Western desert…
…and the California mountains.
There were no health screenings of any kind for passengers arriving from countries other than China. The girls breezed ashore with no problems. It was in fact an early example of the general poor response to the virus that would soon be named Covid-19. But at the time we were all as thankful as we were baffled by the lack of concern.
When Elizabeth had first booked the Nepal flights, she was a sweet summer child who knew nothing about the slow bureaucracy of international travel, so she assumed that a two-hour layover between landing at LAX and departing for Austin would be sufficient. Alas, the flight from Dubai arrived an hour late and she was still in line at LAX for Customs when her Austin flight was boarded. Under the stress of realizing that she was going to miss her flight, she mislaid her passport. Emma was already on the other side of the security gates, so Elizabeth had to navigate this new territory alone. Eventually the passport was found, and Elizabeth made her way outside to where Emma and her mom were waiting. They drove her to her next terminal, helped her rebook her Austin flight and after a four-hour layover she was on her way home.
The whole Nepal experience was so good for Elizabeth. At the time, we thought it was the first of many international expeditions for all of us. Now we’re a year and a half into this pandemic with no end in sight.
So many places we want to see, and there’s no knowing when or if we’ll ever get to them. But I’m so thankful that Elizabeth got to enjoy this one last big adventure before the world shut down.