Flying overseas these days requires a great deal of patience. COVID-19 restrictions, procedures, and regulations change constantly, and various countries implement them differently. What was true yesterday isn’t necessarily true today. Furthermore, not even the airlines know all the details. Case in point, a Delta flight en route from the United States to Beijing was turned back over the Pacific Ocean when it discovered while flying that it no longer met new regulations regarding screening and disinfecting aircraft. How would you have liked to have been a passenger on that plane?

I intentionally avoided transiting in Europe because the EU has been rather schizophrenic over its regulations, even among its own members. While Denmark is dropping all its COVID-19 restrictions (including masking), Austria on the other hand is doubling-down on vaccine mandates, going as far as refusing services to the unvaccinated. This is why when Ethiopian Airlines canceled my first itinerary to Addis Ababa, I switched to Qatar Airways to connect in Doha rather than take the more obvious route through Amsterdam.

I’ve just landed in Doha having experienced a one hour flight to Seattle and then a nearly 15 hour flight skirting the north pole. I was restless and the Internet wasn’t working on the plane. But I managed to watch two forgettable movies before succumbing to sleep. At the tail end I awoke and noticed that we had entered Iraqi airspace. The inflight map displayed so many city names that in my purview have only appeared as conflicts in news reports: Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad. I also saw Kuwait and the delta of the Tigris-Euphrates river system. Knowing that this fertile region was also called Mesopotamia and was dominated by both the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, it’s hard not to think of the Biblical role that this land played.

Ancient Mesopotamia with modern political boundaries

I also lost a complete day by being in the air. I departed Seattle at 4:45p and arrived in Doha at 6:45p the next day. Landing at Hamad International Airport I quickly made a beeline to a quiet place where I could celebrate Mass. Having lost most of the day, I only had a couple of hours left in Sunday—the most important Mass of the week.

I placed my three relics on the Gospel side of the altar. Note the altar card of the Last Gospel

Since switching from Ethiopian Airlines to Qatar Airways I noticed that it was a service upgrade. Traveling through the Middle East meant that my fellow passengers were of all races and languages. The couple next to me were Sikh and the people in front of me were speaking Arabic. It’s comforting that we can all travel without incident in a aluminum tube that in recent times has been a serious source source of aggravation.


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