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Suprising Things Happen When you Travel Abroad

Mary Laney 31 August 2007 2 Comments

Surprising things happen when you travel abroad. You see how small the world truly is, you meet delightful people and interesting people; and, sometimes something you hear haunts you. Such was the case on an international flight I took.

On a plane, returning from London, I looked back from my seat and saw there were empty middle isles where I could push up the arm rests, grab some pillows and blankets and lie down for a nap. As I was readying the seats, a 30ish middle eastern man came up to me.

“Excuse me,” he said, “Are you a Muslim?”

“No, and no one has ever asked me that. Why are you asking?”

“Well, I noticed that you were offered champagne and wine and turned it all down and I wondered if you were Muslim.”

“No, and I’m Irish!” I added with a laugh.

He sat down in a seat across from my aisle of seats and introduced himself as Abdul, from Kuwait, and he was on his way to Colorado Lutheran College.

“Why are you going to a Lutheran College?” I asked.

“For my American education. The college took my money so that’s where I’m going. I already have my French education and my Swiss education.”

Abdul was clean shaven and wearing a sleeveless basketball shirt, zebra striped workout pants, and sneakers.

I asked him if that’s what they’re wearing in Kuwait.

“Oh, no. This is my American look.”

Then he pulled out his passport and showed me his picture where he’s wearing a flowing white qetra on his head and a black mustache over his mouth. As he put it away he stood and said, “Let me show you some things I’m bringing for my College friends.”

From an overhead bin he pulled out several bags and walked back to my row to open them.

I was astounded. He had bags from Cartier, Bulgari, Channel, Garrard, and opened the tiny boxes to show me emerald and diamond and pearl and ruby rings – one more beautiful than the other.

“You like?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, they’re beautiful.”

“Take. Take.” He offered.

“No, but thanks.”

Abdul then opened a large Channel bag, pulled out a big box, took off the ribbon and pulled out a huge, tote bag size dark green alligator purse. Conservatively, it was 7 to 10,000 dollars worth of purse.

“I got this for my girlfriend. Do you like it?”

“It’s awesome.”

“Then take it.”

I again declined. I asked him if he were going to marry this girlfriend.

“Oh, no. When I marry I marry a Muslim girl from home. But in

America I date American girls.”

We talked then about Kuwait and America and the differences and then he turned the discussion to religion.

“You know, there’s the Old Testament, then the bible, then the Koran. It’s all in the Koran, you know.”

“Really,” I said politely.

“Yes, and you know, the Anti-Christ is here. The beast with one eye.” He told me.

“In the middle east? You’ve seen him?”

“Yes. And you’ve seen him too.”

“No. I’d remember if I met a man with one eye.”

His answer is one I will never forget.

“In some writings he is called the beast with one eye, in others the anti-Christ is called the machine with one eye. The anti-Christ is television.”

We talked the rest of the way to Chicago. I didn’t accept any gifts from Abdul and wished him well as I left the plane. But his words about television stunned me.

They still haunt me as I watch televised coverage of bombs and beheadings captured on tape, put out on the internet and popping up on my computer screen.


Mary Laney is an award-winning print and electronics media reporter.


  • Dan Kelley (author) said:

    What a great addition to the Daily Observer to add Mary Laney to its line up. It makes you wonder about the leadership of “The Chicago Sun Times” that they chose to let this columnist go.

    What a thought provoking column if one can draw inferences from the behavior of the exchange student’s manner of thinking.

  • tulips (author) said:

    dan. are you serious? mary laney is awful.

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