But first, a Superbowl watching party with some other expats in Medan. I’m up at 5am to bake the wings and make the buffalo sauce for them. We walk to their house and arrive just as kickoff happens. It’s an enjoyable time for the next few hours even though I know it’s going to be an extra long day. So be it. I’m packed and ready to go, and it’s great to celebrate an American tradition with my family, even a tradition we’ve never celebrated before!
At 1:20pm I’m in the car for the ride from our house to the train station in the center of Medan that takes me to the airport. Only this time the driver takes an unusual route, and there’s a lot of traffic. The train leaves at 2pm and I’m starting to get a little nervous when we pull up to the train station at 1:50pm. I buy the ticket from the automated kiosk inside, noting they’ve increased the fair pretty substantially. It used to be 50,000 IDR but this time it’s 70,000 IDR ($3.33 increased to $4.66). By US standards it’s still a screaming deal but that’s a huge jump for the people who live here.
Check-in at the airport goes smoothly. I’m flying with Malaysian Airline for the first time. They fly to many places I’ll be going in the coming years. They cost a little more up front but have so many advantages. One checked bag is free (and it can be a big one – 35 kilos or about 80 lbs!). They serve meals on flights longer than an hour and a half. They can check luggage through to the final destination rather than me having to pick it up in Kuala Lumpur (the mandatory stop coming and going from Medan), go through immigration and customs and then check in again and go right back through immigration & customs (discount airlines here often require this). When you add on luggage fees as well as the ability to change the tickets if something changes, plus the inconvenience of having to self-transit in the connecting location, the discount airlines aren’t nearly as discount as you think.
Malaysia Airlines is smooth going though. The flight departs on time (another nice thing here where discount airlines in particular have a terrible reputation for late arrivals and departures). My layover in Kuala Lumpur is about three hours so even if we’re a little late I’m not worried. I’m making my plan on grabbing a quick bite before the longer flight to Sri Lanka because airplane food is, well, airplane food.
I’m a little surprised to not recognize the terminal though. I realize Malaysia Airlines, as the national airline of Malaysia, flies in and out of Terminal 1 in Kuala Lumpur, the nicer and I presume newer of the two terminals. I don’t find much in terms of food options, but then I don’t explore as much as I could. I’m always worried I’ll accidentally exit the secure area and have to go through security again! I’m not that hungry anyways though.
The flight to Sri Lanka also leaves on time and they do serve a meal. I’m asked if I’d prefer a fish curry dish or a chicken dish. I opt for the chicken as the less risky of the two, only to find I’ve been served a beef dish. Curious, but not exactly surprising! As expected it’s not very good. But on the plus side there are video monitors on the seat backs and I’m able to watch a couple of movies I know my family won’t be interested in. It helps pass the time and it seems we’re landing in no time.
Getting through customs and immigration is simpler and faster in Colombo, Sri Lanka than any other country I’ve flown into thus far in Southeast Asia! Maybe it’s because it’s late at night (the plane lands just before midnight) and the immigration officials want to go home. It helps that I had already applied for an eVisa online and filled out the mandatory arrival card and declarations form on a terminal there at Bandaranaiki International Airport. The international roaming package I’d purchased from our telecommunications provider in Medan fires up and connects flawlessly – woohoo!- no need to purchase a SIM card here.
I order an Uber and wait a few minutes outside. The weather here may be slightly cooler in Medan, benefitting from closer proximity to the coast perhaps, or at least a nice breeze. It’s not cool, but it’s not unpleasant either. The ride is uneventful. I had gotten cash at an ATM in the airport before leaving, so when the driver tells me it would be faster to take the expressway if I’m willing to pay the toll I agree quickly. But it was funny when we get to the toll booth. The toll is 250 Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) – just under $1 US. All I have is a 5000 LKR note because that’s all the ATM dispensed. The toll operator is clearly unhappy about this but grudgingly makes change. I don’t like to cause problems, but sometimes you can’t avoid them!
I get to the hotel a little after 1am. Tired, but also excited. Because most flights in and out of Sri Lanka are red-eye (overnight) flights, I arrived Monday night/Tuesday morning rather than flying in Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and having to start teaching just a few hours later! It will give me a day to adjust and get my bearings, as well as meet with Rev. Stephen Mahlburg, who has been stationed as a theological educator in Sri Lanka with his family since 2018. It’s exciting to be in a new place and I’m anxious to both experience it as well as start teaching on Wednesday!
2 thoughts on “Off to Sri Lanka!”
Hello, I’m praising the Lord for your safe travel to Sri Lanka. I pray this is a fruitful experience for you and many are blessed by your teaching. Also continued prayers for your family. God is faithful. Love & blessings, Bea
Thank you Bea – it was a fruitful time and I’m looking forward to returning in March!