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January 2, 2014

At rest in Abu Dhabi

NORMAN — Editor’s note: Transcript senior staff writer Joy Hampton is traveling with a U.S. State Department-sponsored group to Bangladesh. Journalists from Bangladesh visited Oklahoma in 2013.

ABU DHABI — Now I can say I was in Arabia … or some part of it at least. I am sitting in the Abu Dhabi airport, people-watching. It’s a very multicultural place, this airport. I can literally recognize people from just about every nationality. We have a two-hour layover. We expected four hours but our flight was delayed out of Chicago. They had to de-ice the plane — always a good thing to do before crossing an ocean.

Flying through the darkness over the Atlantic I was stunned by the mass of humanity in the jumbo jet that carried us. We had boarded a small jet operated by American Airlines in Oklahoma City, leaving Will Rogers World Airport sometime after 3 p.m. on Monday. It will take us two calendar days to arrive at our final destination in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There are 10 in our total group, I believe. Six of us are traveling together.

In Chicago at O’Hare airport, we boarded a Boeing 777 jet operated by Etihad Airways. The nearly 14-hour flight felt like a lifetime, but there were loads of great movies to watch and a very nice vegetarian meal.

So many people were crammed into that jet. It seemed that our lives were tenuously hanging there in the air as we flew 7,261 miles from Chicago to the capital of the Arab Emirates. Many of the people were from India and, like my group, Abu Dhabi is but a stop on their way to a final destination. Everyone on the plane was affable and mostly small compared to my 5-foot, 10-inch height — a towering Western giant.

I was stunned at the number of children on the flight.

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