FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, MAY 23 AND 24TH – NASHVILLE TO DOHA, QATAR:
Darryl Worley and his band are going to Doha, Qatar to entertain the troops at the Air Force and Army bases over the Memorial Day weekend.
We met at Customs and registered the equipment at 11 am and then went to the airport for check in. I received a message from a United contact in Dulles that our flight was going to be late landing due to Air Traffic Control. However, we departed on time and landed on time.
Missy – the sweet lady with United at Dulles – had arranged a VIP Room for everyone because we had a 5 hour layover. There were 10 of us, so we couldn’t take that many people into the Lounge. She came by and said hello and said we were supposed to have snacks as well as the drinks they provided.
I posted on Facebook that I was in the United Lounge at Dulles and Wally – my friend who now lives in Kuwait and took such good care of us – was also in the Lounge. He came up to our little room and I got to spend several hours with him. He was flying back to Kuwait and boarding at close to the same time we did.
We boarded on time but did not left late. We only have 1 hour and 20 minutes to make our connection in Frankfurt. Hoping we can make it because there isn’t another flight into Doha until this time tomorrow night from Frankfurt.
Wally and I had grabbed something to eat so I only had a “snack” on the plane. Watched a movie about stolen artwork in WWII with George Clooney and it was “okay”. It was an 8 hour flight, so I only slept for about 4 hours. We definitely landed late but Lufthansa had an agent there to take us straight to the gate – which was still about a 45 minute process. We boarded and sat on the plane for at least another 45 minutes so I was hopeful that our luggage and equipment would make it.
I was hungry by that time since I didn’t eat the meal they served right before landing in Frankfurt. It took 3 hours for them to serve the meal! I was so tired and slept for another 2 hours.
We landed and didn’t have any problem with having our Visas issued upon arrival. This airport just opened a few days ago and Lufthansa is the only airline flying in there – until the day we leave when others will begin service and it will be COMPLETE CHAOS! I can’t believe our luck.
NONE of our luggage or equipment made it. So, we spent 2 hours filling out paperwork. Also, one of the guys left his cell phone in the seat back on the flight from DC to Frankfurt. Then he left his boarding pass with his claim check on the back of it in the seat pocked on the flight to Doha! Fortunately we were able to figure out his claim check number and file his claim. The airline found his phone but I don’t know yet if they will send it to Doha before he leaves here.
Our host – Mimi – was waiting for us and the 30 minute drive we were told from the airport to the Army Base was over an hour. And there was NO traffic. No one was in a very good mood by the time we arrived at the gate only to find that NONE of our paperwork had been processed. Two hours later, we were allowed to enter the base after a thorough search of our vehicle. They had lodged Darryl at the complete opposite side of the base but we were able to get him moved up to where we are lodged.
More good news….the Qatari Air Force General is refusing to let the Production Company load in any of the equipment for our show and will not allow our guys to use their instruments. They say we have to use whatever they have available on the base! That’s going to be a MAJOR battle tomorrow.
And, my cell phone doesn’t work here. It worked fine in Germany. I’ve been on Live Chat with T-Mobile and Apple for 4 hours. Finally found out that this replacement phone I received from the insurance company is not unlocked! T-Mobile can unlock it but it takes 24 hours or longer. I’ll be gone from Qatar by then.
So, I am going to lodging –- which is really nice except the toilet is half a mile away but in the same building. No clothes, no shampoo, no hair dryer – so guess I will just lie down and go to sleep as is. And we won’t have any of those things before the show tomorrow. We are going to the base exchange at 10 am to buy what we can!
Things can only get better, right? At least I’m traveling with a great group of guys who will make sure the bases get spectacular entertainment for Memorial Day.
SUNDAY, MAY 25TH – PERFORMANCE AT AL UEDEID AIR BASE:
Three hours of sleep and getting dressed didn’t take long since I have no clean clothes! I had this brilliant idea last night when I found a long line of washers and dryers in the hallway by the bathrooms. I’d wash and dry all my clothes! One problem. What do I wear while those are washing? So, put back on the dress I have worn for the past two days, found a minimal amount of makeup and walked over to “Top Off” for breakfast.
After breakfast we went to the Base Exchange to purchase necessities. Mimi told us that Lufthansa had called and said they have Darryl’s guitar! They told her it went to the old airport last night. That would be physically impossible. I have no idea “where” it went or “how” it got here, but she’s sending someone to pick it up.
Base exchange had virtually nothing for me. Their sizes were either a “0” or XL. I did get a cheap hair dryer and some travel size shampoo and soap. Mimi took me to a mall that is close by where they had an H&M and drug store. I was able to buy a dress and some other necessities to get us by until tonight when our luggage is “supposed” to arrive. I talked to Lufthansa about reimbursement. The man told me they would cover toiletries and “necessary” clothing at 100% and other clothing at 50%. He defined necessary clothing as “underwear” only. My question to him was, “Okay. You are suggesting that we perform he show in our underwear since we are not allowed to purchase clean clothes to wear on stage?” He went dead silent and then started laughing. He said to “fight” with Lufthansa and we would probably get reimbursed 100%.
We sent our production guys over early to try and determine if we’re going to be able to use the equipment they have on base for the show. Not sure what we will do if we can’t! They left at 1 pm and we were supposed to leave at 2:30 pm. At 2:30 pm our escorts advised that our guys who went early were STILL not on base because they were having a problem clearing security! Unbelievable.
I was able to shower and put on clean clothes which made all the difference in the world in my “attitude”. J
We arrived at the base after 4 pm and heard an entirely different story. Joe said they were “driving” for an hour and a half because no one knew the way to the base! Then, there is this whole “process” of having to get out of one vehicle because it can’t drive onto the base and hike to other vehicles to drive to the stage! We were also told that the reason the production equipment and our equipment could not be “cleared” to take on base was because the base was not provided the information until last Monday. I know I turned in the information about 2 months ago….maybe longer ago than that.
The stage is the same one we have always performed at in Qatar. The troops started out calling it the “Dolly Shell” because the covering is two huge inverted “cones”. Now the younger troops call it the Madonna Bra.
Darryl’s sound guys had quite a challenge getting the “base equipment” up and running. But they are professionals and it sounded great when sound check began.
We had dinner in the backstage area and then a meet and greet with lots of the “leadership” including the men and women on the General’s staff who stepped in today and got our equipment cleared. I told them they “saved our show”.
I was worried that the people in the back would be able to hear because we only had a minimal number of speakers and it was a huge crowd. But I walked to the back and the sound was great. Darryl performed for 90 minutes and then signed autographs and took photos for another 90 minutes. Which brings me to another complaint…..I always print photos and bring for him to sign. This time we were told that the bases were providing the photos, so I didn’t bring anything. And, of course, the base was never advised that they needed to provide photos!
They only had one 14 passenger van for 12 BIG people and 4 guitars when we were ready to leave the base. We were packed in and driven to the first gate where we got out for a customs search. Then we were advised that they had driven the wrong van as it could not go off base. We got out and almost an hour later, they came back with another van. Again we packed in like sardines and drove to the Army base. Once at the gate, we had to get out of that van and into another one. It’s been like that all day long. Lots of lessons learned if we ever come back here. Thankfully tomorrow, the stage is next door to our lodging!
Best news of the day….our bags arrived. But not without a hassle. Someone was sent to pick them up and then the airport took over 2 hours to release them. But, we have everything, Thank God!
It’s 2:15 am and I’m going to bed after I look at my clothes for a while. J
MONDAY, MAY 26TH – HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!
….and SHAME on me for whining about lost luggage, wait times, etc. These men and women are deployed here for anywhere from 6 months to a year. Yesterday and today, the thermometer on the front of our building read 140 degrees. And, it’s not a dry desert heat like we grew accustomed to in Kuwait. It is HUMID! The troops have to wear their long sleeve uniforms with t-shirts underneath and long pants when they are on duty. Last night, it was strange to look out into the audience and see everyone in shorts and casual clothes. We were told that the population on the Air Base is about 10,000 but only 4-5,000 “permanent” residents. Everyone else is only there for 3-4 days and they are encouraged to dress casually before they are moved forward to their assignment. I remember when we were going into Iraq, Al Udeid was a base where guys and girls were sent for 3 day R&R because they have alcohol and a pool! There is a 3 drink limit within any 18 hours and I wondered how it was monitored. Everyone is issued a ration card with a bar code. The card is scanned when you purchase a drink and it monitors how many drinks you purchase. I gave my card to the boys last night. The Air Force Base has hard liquor but the Army base only has beer.
So, I need to shut up and be thankful that we have a nice room with a toilet that is just down the hall instead of having to hike a half mile in the dark when nature calls! And, it is air conditioned. J
Was wonderful to have all my clean clothes and cosmetics this morning. But, I learned a valuable lesson on how “little” I can get by with when need be. Wouldn’t want to do it for an extended period but this “training” came in handy for when I have to take a “day bag” for our visit to the Philippines in a couple of weeks.
We just read where President Obama flew in for a surprise visit with the troops in Afghanistan. They mentioned that Brad Paisley performed while the troops were waiting for the President’s speech. Apparently they only visited Bagram and were on the ground 4 hours. Good on Brad for taking time to visit the military in Afghanistan. Only wish he could have spent some real time there and in the remote FOB’s to see what our military and their families are sacrificing on behalf of him and all Americans.
Anyway, through being guilty and ready for a great show tonight for the Army. I showered and met the boys at noon for lunch at the DFAC. Food here is great compared to Afghanistan and Kuwait. I had stir fry with just chicken and veggies and a salad and a lot of coffee. Yesterday, I had really severe hand cramps – a sure sign of dehydration – so I am slamming water today. I was only outside for a matter of minutes in the direct sunlight but my shoulders are red today.
It’s an “easy” day and I sure hope to get a nap. I have to get up at 3 am tomorrow to leave for the airport at 4 am. Then a 6 ½ hour flight on Qatar Airways to Berlin. If all goes as planned, I’ll land 15 minutes after the Bellamys land. I’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin and it’s a fascinating city. I’ll have tomorrow night and all day Wednesday there. Then we bus from city to city until I fly home on the 2nd of June.
The Production Company did not show up this morning to finish loading so that we could begin our sound check at noon. The “excuse” was they had a late night at our concert. But, they left at least an hour before we did because of all the “switching” of vehicles. We were supposed to go to a “Command Call” at 3 pm but found out it had been moved to 4 pm which would be right in the middle of the guys’ sound check. Joe and I decided to only take Darryl since it’s important the guys get a good sound check. We met with the Colonel and his staff and he was great. He talked to Darryl for over an hour and Darryl really enjoyed it. He also promised to come to the concert tonight and bring his wife. He presented us with plaques and would also give each of Darryl’s guys a plaque prior to the performance tonight.
Darryl was able to get in a quick sound check and then it was 6 pm and time for dinner. I managed to sneak in about 45 minutes of work between dinner and show time. Thankfully the show tonight is indoors. We had a great attendance and once the Colonel left, they began standing up and dancing. Another great performance and a special way to spend Memorial Day.
The Colonel this morning made the comment that it bothered him that people say “Happy Memorial Day” because really there shouldn’t be anything “Happy” about it. That is true. Just not sure what should be said.
Autograph line was long and Darryl signed for almost 2 hours. I have to get up at 3 am tomorrow and it’s midnight now, so guess I’d better get packed. It was a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend with the troops in this remote location.
TUESDAY, MAY 27TH – QATAR TO GERMANY:
So, as I mentioned the “new airport” is slowly opening for flights in Doha and the “old airport” is being phased out. I had Mimi check on my flight yesterday to make SURE I was taken to the correct airport. She confirmed that all flights would be going out of the new airport as of today. Then, when I went on line to check out the terminals, etc., there was a large “posting” about flights departing after 8:59 am would depart out of the “new” airport and others before 8:59 am would depart out of the old airport. Of course, my flight was scheduled for 8:35 am departure. So, she called again and confirmed that I will fly out of the old airport. I was still concerned, so I left lodging at 4 am just to be sure I had time to travel between the two airports if necessary.
Our two sweet MWR reps who also stayed up all night, picked me up at lodging a few minutes before 4 am. They could only drive me to the gate where Mimi had arranged a driver to take me to the airport. It was a young man who works for her Fayed. Turns out he was from Sri Lanka so we had a lovely conversation en route to the airport. I learned more about Sri Lanka from him than I did when we were there in February. He is going back home during Ramadan (end of June through end of July) and will be getting married. It is an arranged marriage! He said his parents select his wife for him and he will meet her when he goes home. I asked him if he was happy with that arrangement and he said his parents knew everything about him and would select the perfect wife for him. Wow! I can’t imagine picking a spouse for my son or daughter! He is 32 years old and said that is very “old” to not be married yet. But, he has several sisters and it was his responsibility to provide the “dowry” for them so they could marry. Evidently, the “bride’s” family has to provide the house and other items for the couple. So he had to take care of all that for his oldest sister and then his two brothers had to help him provide the same thing for the other sisters. There is still one more sister who has to marry. He also said he worked in Saudi for a while and hated it. Suggested I never visit there. We talked about the way foreigners are treated in some of the “oil rich” countries by their employees and it’s pretty disgraceful.
So, we arrived at the “old” airport and I was greeted by several Qatar Airlines employees upon arrival. All so nice and friendly! Qatar is a fantastic airline and our U.S. airlines could take lessons from them! Evidently there is a separate terminal just for Business and First class passengers. However, they suggested I go ahead and check my bags and then take the short walk next door to the other terminal. I immediately remembered the terminal from a connection through Qatar with Mark Chesnutt several years ago en route to Kuwait from Central Europe. The lounge is amazing. Full breakfast buffet and they prepare fresh omelets, etc.! Free wireless so I’ve been able to work. It was only 4:30 am by the time I got checked in and settled in the lounge, so I have some “time” to kill. All the employees are so nice and a little “sad” that a few minutes before 9 am, they will leave this terminal forever. I have the distinct honor of taking the last “bus” in service from the terminal to the aircraft and the very last Qatar Airlines Flight out of the old terminal. Pretty cool!
Have checked the Bellamys flights on Delta and all looks good so far. Looks like they left Nashville over an hour later than scheduled. But we always try to book flights with long connecting times just in case! Good thing we did this time.
Something tells me things may not run as smoothly this afternoon when my “boys” depart on United from the “new airport”. Sure wish I could be there to assist them but all I can do is “worry” until they get home!
The perfect end to my evening…not that I went to bed..was talking to Zac and Zoe on Facetime. They had a big day with a trip to “Pump it Up” and Lindsey got them a “pool” for the back yard. Also, the biggest news is Zoe got her ears pierced. Just hope she doesn’t take after her Mom and have to fight infections. She has really “sensitive” skin. Lindsey got her navel pierced years ago and eventually had to let it grow up because it wouldn’t heal. Praying Zoe has no problems at all with hers! She is very proud of herself and said it didn’t hurt at all. I asked Zac if he got his pierced, too, but he was not at all interested. LOL.
So, after leaving the Private Terminal for Business and First Class Passengers, we rode a bus with seats that looked like lounge chairs to the aircraft. The flight attendants were super nice (what a wonderful change). No one sat beside me and there were very few people on the plane. Across the aisle from me were an “older” Asian couple (definitely not Japanese). The flight attendant asked if they wanted something to drink before take off and the man answered “whiskey”. She explained that she could not serve him alcohol until after take off. She came back a few minutes later and asked if they wanted a U.S. newspaper or German newspaper. He said “whiskey” and she said “Japanese”. She came back several more times asking if what they wanted for dinner –“whiskey”, did they want a hot or cold towel – “whiskey”….and on and on. Honestly, I couldn’t stay awake long enough to find out if he got his “whiskey”.
I slept 4 of the 6 hours of the flight and felt like I could have slept 4 more when we landed. It was raining and had turned cooler…nice change from the 140 degrees in Doha. Oh…forgot to mention the showers on the Army base. We aren’t accustomed to having any water pressure in base latrines and these shower heads almost blew you down they were so strong. And, when turned to the coldest setting, the water was still hot…not warm….hot!
The promoter had said that the Frankfurt airport was small and I would land at the same terminal as the Bellamys. Both my bags arrived but Bellamys were nowhere to be found. I called the promoter but the wrong phone number for him was in my itinerary. Thankfully when I exited Customs, he was waiting for me. The Bellamys were only a short drive away. They had all their bags, too.
It was about a 30 minute drive to the Park Inn in downtown Berlin. Howard, David and I recognized it immediately. We stayed in Berlin for a week when they were recording with DJ Otzi and then another week for press visits. Our hotel for the press visits is only about a block from the Park Inn. It’s a nice “budget” hotel in a great location…right off Alexandraplatz. Really happy that I know all the streets and shops well around here.
Got everyone checked in and discovered that the internet works. Always a good thing. I worked non-stop until 7 pm when I walked over to the “Gourmet” shop at the Galleria. They have amazing food and restaurants. I ordered a grilled veal, side salad and grilled veggies to go. Guess they are not accustomed to “take away” because they gave me a spoon to eat everything with. That was interesting. David sent me a text right before I picked up my meal asking if I wanted to go to Hof Brau (our favorite restaurant here in Berlin). I really did but had a meeting scheduled with Rudi our promoter for 8 pm so couldn’t join him and Wally. Then Rudi was late and didn’t arrive until almost 9 pm.
Just confirmed a celebrity rock group to entertain the troops in Afghanistan over the week of 4th of July. I’ve been looking for 2 weeks – ever since I found out the troops did not have anyone for that holiday. Everyone was already booked, but thankfully, I got a great name and the troops will be “rocked” on the 4th!
Going to bed now and try to get 5 hours sleep tonight. It is still raining and will rain all day tomorrow. Hate that because I love jogging in this city! Maybe it will be a light, warm rain and I’ll go anyway. I still have Planter Fasciitis in my right foot but I can wrap it and still jog. It’s never going to get better unless I can stay home long enough to wear my walking boot!