Almaty International Airport

In honor of my first-born’s upcoming celebratory day, I post this short deleted scene, nine years later:

A little context is in order: I’ve gone to Almaty  on the train with Gulzhahan to attend an annual convention of local teachers. She returned home right after, while I stayed on a few more days. Then I flew home.

Note that this story is written in the present tense, which was how I wrote my first few drafts — until an early editor told me that present tense is fine for short features, but it can be tiring for the reader if it goes on too long.




April 27, David’s 32 birthday and I’m flying back to Zhezkazgan from Almaty International Airport, a grand name. It’s a grand shape too — something akin to the hats I’ve seen on some military here.


With thanks to
With thanks to



With thanks to
With thanks to


Flying was Woody’s idea, quicker than the train and, he thinks, safer, but it comes with its own set of frustrations — four to be exact. And with each one my first reaction is a verbal tongue lashing, each time forgetting this is not the best way to “win friends for America.”




First, heavy bags matter on a plane. I’m bringing back books by the bagful and my overweight charge is 4,800 tenge — only about $30 US, but more than I have in my wallet; I must find an ATM.

Second, you can’t check your baggage — and thereby learn of your overweight fee — until your plane is ready to board. That’s why I must run to the ATM (it’s in another area of the airport) with my giant-sized rolling suitcase and multiple bags of books, then back again with cash to pay the fee.

Third, in the ten minutes between finally checking my lifetime-guaranteed Travel Pro rolling suitcase and getting out to the airplane on the shuttle bus provided, it has lost a wheel.

Fourth, passengers must maneuver their own luggage up narrow steps at the rear of the plane and find a place to store it before walking forward to find a  seat.


The plane has a familiar name painted on its side — Kazakhmys. One of the pilots waiting to board with us carries my 14-kilograms-too-heavy suitcase up the narrow steps — missing wheel and all — and stores it for me. I follow behind, tuck my bags of books under a rear seat and find an empty seat further forward. What takes two and half days by train, will now take three very noisy hours. I’m not unhappy.


Back in Zhezkazgan, I follow the passengers out the back door, collecting my 34 kilograms of stuff as I pass them, and inch my way toward the steps, praying the other wheel doesn’t fall off too.

That Kazakh proverb, “Where there are men, the luggage is light,” has morphed in my mind to, “When the luggage is heavy, the men will appear.” And sure enough, someone appears, takes my injured overweight suitcase from me, and carries it down to the tarmac.

Woody is here to meet me with a cab and the driver lifts my ailing bag as though it weighs nothing and places it into his trunk.

I hate luggage.


What about you? Have you a travel travesty you want to share? Perhaps a time when your luggage was just too much? 



2 Responses

  1. KM Huber
    | Reply

    Luggage was always a travel issue for me. In my work with the state, I flew the skies of Florida and the southeast U.S. coast quite frequently, for months at times. I exchanged being the traveler with the most books for the traveler with the largest laptop, not that my carry on bag was small (and it always had at least one book). As often as possible, I convinced the number crunchers to allow me to drive the Florida highways, which are not without their own issues but I did not have luggage issues. As I look back, I don’t think anything tired me more than battling luggage. Your wonderful post reminded me of just how many “lifetime guarantee” rolling suitcases met their demise traveling with me. Thanks, Janet!

  2. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hi Karen, So glad you stopped by. Your comments made me smile. Also reminded me how often, in Kazakhstan, I’d have packed for some weekend adventure, then met up with my Kazakh colleagues to be reminded visually how much “stuff” we Americans like to cart around. Once is was my rolling suitcase that took up the entire trunk of the taxi, to my counterparts single over-the-shoulder tote bag. “You’re the nomad, alright,” I told her. I can only hope it’s genetic. Thanks for visiting.

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