I'm happy to report that we made it home for the holidays! After our last trip to the US, I decided that if we could successfully leave Kazakhstan, I would try not to complain about anything else that happened. Amazingly, the trip went pretty well.
We flew through Abu Dhabi this time, and one thing that did happen is that our flight from Abu Dhabi to New York was delayed several hours. This was somewhat of a problem since we had a connecting flight to catch in JFK. By the time we discovered this, it was the middle of the night in Abu Dhabi and we had already make the rather long hike to our gate's general area. So, we had to hike back where we came from and talk to the transfer desk. To my pleasant surprise, someone had already booked us on a new flight out of New York. An even greater surprise was that the person who was helping us actually felt sorry for us and wanted to make our stay in the Abu Dhabi airport more comfortable. First, he called the airport hotel to see if we could crash there. For some reason we couldn't--I think there was a minimum number of hours you needed to be stuck in the airport before getting a free hotel stay. So, he called one of the lounges next. They were willing to take us, but we had to wait until 1:30 AM. We were very tired at this point, but also very curious about the lounge.
We did go at 1:30, and amazingly, they let us in. I wanted to take pictures, in order to document this momentous occasion, but decided that obvious wealthy people tourism was the sort of thing that might get me thrown out, and once I went into the lounge, I didn't want to leave. The lounge probably wouldn't have seemed that great anywhere except an airport, but most areas of airports are so uncomfortable. There were couches in the lounge, which, sadly, other travelers had already claimed. There was a free buffet, as well. I usually try to avoid eating in the middle of the night, but I was hungry, and in no mood to turn down free food. After sampling a wide range of offerings (some sort of sesame noodle dish, chicken and rice, fruit salad, stuffed grape leaves), Scott and I napped a little in some padded chairs. I got the sense that some of the other people in the lounge were probably first-class and business-class travelers, but I got the sense that some others were probably people like us whose flights had been delayed.
It was hard to leave, especially since the security procedures for flights to the US turned out to be pretty involved. Our gate was blocked off, and it took a while before anyone was willing to tell us that we had to go to the end of the corridor for additional screening. We had to stand in a long line and do the whole shoes off/liquid toiletries out of the bag routine. They also made me get rid of my bottle of water. Ordinarily, I just buy another one, but after going through security, we were routed through an area of the airport where there were no shops. Sigh. The food was pretty decent on the flight (both full meals had a vegetarian Indian food option!), but I felt like we were not offered nearly enough to drink, considering that the flight was about 14 hours long and that I didn't have my own bottle of water. We made it, though, which is the important thing, and I had the fun of getting a glimpse of how people with an abundance of money travel internationally.