Journal 60: The 30-Hour Antizonal Flight Part Four: Jeddah to Riyadh


I met Sam, the guitar-picking Peace Corps alumni, on his way to Malaysia for similar reasons as me.  In fact, I saw him at the D.C. airport terminal lounge, bushy beard and all, pacing around the entrance and generally keeping to himself.

He’s a pretty cool guy: English grad, just spent the last few years in Morocco as an educator and multi-party assistant to other Peace Corps efforts in the region.  He knew a lot about the country and it was nice to talk to him about a nation that is such a coveted destination for me.  But I will get there someday.  Perhaps before then he will use the email address I gave him and I will be able to pick his brain a little bit about where to go and what to see.

He was taking the exact same flights as me.  And once we were in Saudi Arabia, I thought to sit down and introduce myself.  He was pretty quiet up until he got a guitar in his hands.  But after that, it was Tom Petty, Ray LaMontagne and everyone in between.  He pelted it, too.  Unashamed, he was singing at a level that I would probably be questioning in a country that enjoys American rock-and-roll about as much as they do the feminist movement.  But off he went nevertheless.

While sitting and listening to him, I also spoke to an Indian fellow named Johnson, who was on his way to India to spend time tracking down the patent to this new chemical that he and a friend had invented which helps clean out pollutants from bodies of water around large plants and laboratories.  That seems like it will take off like disco if he ever gets the patent and some good marketing.

He was also into making films and had recently finished the Computer Graphics portion of a $15 million film set to release sometime soon.  He was pretty interested in talking to me about what to do to get the film released and marketed.  But I wasn’t sure what advice I could give to someone dealing with that kind of capital.  I would assume that kind of cheddar could buy a lot of airspace in Hollywood if that was his ultimate goal.  But I still told him what I knew of the indie film circuit throughout the states.

His other upcoming movie, Heart of a Soldier, which was filmed in India and which stars a famous Indian actor who charges a handsome $3 million per film, was supposed to be a hit and I was invited to check out his Vimeo presentation of that title.  So hopefully being on this blog, it will get a few more views.  [put link here]

One interesting thing that he did say once he found out that I was into making documentary films was that there is a group (or more likely a tribe) of people living in the Himalayas that would be a great subject for a doc.  And after listening to him talk, I agreed.  He indicated that the people there lived to be 300-years-old and that they wear no clothing even in the sub-freezing temperatures.  So if this place and those people exist, I am sure they would make me my millions as a documentary filmmaker.  Let’s just hope this is a well-kept secret rather than one of he may Indian myths that circulate in an effort to give sway to mysticism and lore.

Prayer time on the PA system throughout the airport interrupt my thoughts as all the men line up and face Mecca to commence their groveling to a tribal god.  Allah uh Ahkbad, Allah uh Ahkbad.  The chant continued.  I leaned over to ask the young boys sitting in their seats just down the aisle from me what the man was saying.  And they said, after the whole “God is great” thing, that he was praying for a safe journey for all of Allah’s followers.

It is really weird to have someone so religiously extreme as would pray over the intercom.  But as religious people go, this still struck me less weird than the irony behind not praying for everyone aboard.

‘What about the Jews, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists that are apparently on this flight with me,’ I thought.  Wouldn’t everyone die if Allah was not looking over them with the same contingent of care as his faithful followers?  If it was their day to die because Mohammed would not approve of the beliefs inside their heads, wouldn’t then everyone else have a visit with the same fate?  And wouldn’t this idea have come across someone’s mind at the pulpit of this many-times-a-day prayer?  At some point, wouldn’t it become a bit suspicious as to why so many flights made it safely and the greater population of the passengers be Hindu?  Or a regimen of Daoist Chinese on their way to Dubai?  Could it be possible that the Buddha was visiting more protection on the Buddhists onboard than Allah to his Muslims?

And what of the people of these other religions that must listen to this ballast of Arabic praises?  Are they not worried that this might offend these people?  What about the embracement of diversity?  What about using that intercom to do a recite a passage from the Hindu Mahabarata?  Maybe a chant for the Buddhist monks in the crowd?  Or perhaps holding Mass for the Catholics?

The religious questions never seem to stop.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed looking around and seeing all the different styles of dress, meeting new people and talking about the random airport lounge topics.  And thankfully the obviously religious people that I did get to talk to, were very nice, welcoming and engaging.

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