Fully expected to have a rough night sleeping with my leg braced and wrapped and aching. Took two Ibuprophen, 2 naproxen sodium, ample amounts of Jim Beam and it seemed to work. Then the wake-up call came at 7 a.m. to break the needed slumber. Amazingly, we managed to be ready 15 minutes early, had the bags picked up and I shuffled slowly down the long hall to the elevators. The pain in my leg had subsided and I was able to put a little weight on it, which made the crutches much easier to use.
We reserved and paid for a taxi the night before so were quickly on our way. I was anxious about how difficult it would be navigating through three airports, and on and off two planes with my new disability. Sure to be an interesting experience.
At Penang airport, we encountered our first difficulty. I had reserved Putrie’s flights using her shortened name, not the name on her passport. This was not a problem going to Penang but it became one when we wanted to leave. We ended up having to buy another ticket to Medan ($70), which also meant we had to collect her bag in Medan and check her in again for her ticket to Batam. I was booked through to Batam. I’m operating on a cup of coffee so far and she had some orange juice.
I was given a wheelchair and we waited at the gate. Then they wheeled me down three ramps to the tarmac; they then wheeled five more people in behind me. Within a few minutes, we were all wheeled to the waiting turboprop, where I waited for the other five people to manage to climb the steps. My ascent was easy enough and our seats were in the back, where I left my left leg straight out into the aisle, a tempting target for feet and bags to take their shots. A few did.
The flight was 55 minutes, and one of the stewardesses was the first attractive woman I had seen in Penang (besides Putrie).
Getting off the plane was easy enough and they had a bus waiting for us to go to the terminal. The bus had mostly sick and disabled people like myself, and it was almost full. Malaysia, like Costa Rica, has a thriving medical tourism business going on. Apparently, the treatment and experience I received after the injury is indicative of the quality of healthcare in the country.
At the terminal, things got chaotic. I was put in another wheelchair and brought to an area at immigration for the disabled to have their passports checked – didn’t have to go through the usual line. I should mention at this point that being pushed around in a wheelchair was not easy, as I had to support my extended left leg with my right foot while we were moving, a bit strenuous for my right hamstring. So I was glad when the chair stopped and I could put my legs down. I should note that the Visa on Arrival desk was in this location, in a corner of the large immigration area.
Our passports duly checked, I was then wheeled out of the terminal, first passing through security. We were then outside and it was warm, with lots of people milling around. We had to get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, about 200 yards away. We also had to find Putrie’s daughter Jenny, Putrie’s brother and other family members in the crowd, which we did. Putrie would have preferred that we had scheduled an overnight stop in Medan so she could visit her daughter but I failed to do that. Her alternative was to have her daughter brought to the airport for the hour or so we would have free. Turned out that I spent more time with her family then she did because of the need to check in again and check her bag. Her time with her daughter was very little. I felt sorry for Jenny.
Ditching the wheelchair, I managed to hobble to the security and the gate with Putrie, only to find that the flight had been delayed two hours. The Medan airport is the pits. Besides being completely disorganized, the signage is inadequate and getting from one part of the terminal to another required leaving the building and re-entering. In the waiting area for domestic flights, they have five “gates,” which are actually just five doors in a long glass wall looking at the tarmac. The room is full of seating, with large beams throughout supporting the roof. On each side of each beam, and also placed on each wall, are loudspeakers announcing flight information. When I say loudspeakers, I mean LOUD. For some reason, they find it necessary to make the announcements blaringly loud – in two languages. It was barely survivable and impossible to think to write about the trip (I needed to catch up with my reporting).
Finally, after a 2 1/2-hour delay, we boarded the 737 Lion Air flight, again almost full. Again, I had to put my left leg in the aisle, except this time I had to stand at my seat as everyone poured onboard, all fully loaded with multiple carry-ons. Fortunately, there was a row of seats empty on the left, which I quickly took charge of so that I could extend the damaged leg. Another 55-minute ride and we were back at Hang Nadim airport in Batam, where Putrie’s brother, Barry, picked us up for the ride to Smiling Hill. Back home, I managed to climb the stairway to my apartment, one slow step at a time, while Barry helped bring the now-heavy luggage upstairs.
It was Friday, the trip back had taken 10 hours, and I was to go back to work the next morning.