"Stepping back in time"

A little over 24 hours ago I was sitting passenger, en-route to Kingsford Smith International in Sydney. I was relaxed and thinking about the plans I made for when I return in a little over 2 weeks. The routine by now was certainly very routine. I had done this so many times and I was about to do it again; another intercontinental flight. 8 hours to Hong Kong, a 90 minute layover  and 14 more hours to London. That’s OK though, for me that means  4 movies, a break to stretch the legs, another 1 or maybe 2 movies followed by a 7 or 8 hour snooze (helped along with some powerful sleeping tablets) and a 2 hour slot to read, play games or do whatever I felt would entertain me for the rest of the flight..

15:45: I hate it when they make you wait until after take off to give you the head sets!

22:00: Some beef & cous cous and 4 new movie releases later we arrived at Hong Kong. Efficient, organised and a red sticker on my top to say I’m allowed back on board when they finished refuelling.

23:30: Take off and headed for London with just enough time to check in on Facebook.

4:50am: Touchdown.

By now I was tired. Exhausted from doing absolutely nothing. I had no idea where I was going or who I’d be meeting. I got off the plane and almost arrogantly showed my EU passport to the police officer sitting behind the glass. It felt good knowing I didn’t have to wait an extra 30 minutes in line to be ‘processed’. “Welcome home” – the policewoman said. “Thanks!” Although home for me was still an hours flight across the water to Ireland, but still.. I’m in Europe again.

Walking through arrivals was when it began to dawn on me. It was like I had stepped back in time arriving at Seoul International in 2010 as a contestant in Mr World. Now almost 3 years later, a much wiser, more experienced Kamal was being welcomed as Mr World in London. I met with Con, my Afghan driver who was quick to tell me, “it’s pronounced Gg-haun, but the English say Con”. So I said it was nice to meet you Gg-haun and fell asleep in the back of his immaculate Ford as he drove me to The Marriott Hotel in Kent.

I woke up just as we arrived. I grabbed by bags, checked in and went to my room. “Good-bye my friend” – shouts Gg-haun.

6:30am: Breakfast seemed like a great idea.

6:50am: I had just flown 24 hours around the world but I thought 30 minutes in the gym would be more valuable than doing more of nothing!

By now the excitement was setting in. I began to remember how I felt when I arrived in Korea almost 3 years ago. I remember the feeling  of being somewhere new about to set off on an unknown adventure with new friends. My competitive nature was already beginning to come out. Even though I’m not competing I know they will be watching my every move.

I looked around the gym and saw a few young guys. Fit and with a look of determination on their faces...clearly contestants.. I wonder do I look as obvious?

From the corner of my eye I could see 2 or 3 looking over at me who seemed to recognise me. One chap, from New Zealand introduced himself. I hadn’t met the organisers yet and didn’t know if I’m even allowed to mingle with the contestants so I left after saying hello.

7:30am: Showered and sitting at my desk in my room.... waiting for Chapter 2 to begin!