Thursday, March 20, 2014

amidst the phobia

With the missing plane making headlines all over the world this past few weeks, I'm a bit hesitant to travel again.

Then I realised, maybe I should share something positive in my last flight to Amsterdam. This was early December 2013, and was my last business trip for the year.

For some reason, my flight back to Japan was delayed, and while figuring out what to do in the meantime, I made friends with a Filipino whose own separate flight was also delayed. She had come from Norway and through a series of transit was making her way home to the Philippines to visit her family.

She was just sitting a few seats from me, and overheard me calling my colleague about my plane delay. Usually when a person asks me where I'm from, I reply the country where I'm going back to; so in this case I answered Japan. If I was in the mood to have a relaxed conversation, I'd say something like, I'm Malaysian but living in Japan. That would usually spark some questions, but that unfortunate news made me feel tired already.

Somehow she started thanking me for helping her country during the then recent Typhoon Haiyan that lashed out the tropical island country. As she continued on her expression of gratitude, and me not wanting to spoil that moment, on behalf of the generous Japanese, I just nodded and smiled back at her. Somehow I started to tear up too, as I thought of the Japanese themselves who were struggling with the economy and nuclear breakdown; but still magnanimous enough to also extend assistance to other countries.

I invited her to have lunch together, since we had some time to kill. Since the delay was only going to be about 2 hours, it made sense to have some food together. She had a compensation voucher from KLM, so she treated herself to some nice lunch.

We started chatting, and even took pictures. I did try to clarify that I was not Japanese, but I think she did not hear me!

Anyways, she sent me off to my departure gate as my flight was earlier. Unfortunately, I found out that the plane was being further delayed. This time I got my own compensation voucher from KLM as well. By then I was really feeling grumpy having to wake up early, and then learning that the train to the airport was not working.

So I went back to the airport cafe, and got myself more food. I could have gone on to look for my new Filipino friend, but I figured maybe some little quiet time by myself would be nice. I sat there munching on Dutch croquette as I thanked God for that encounter earlier. 

Using the Euro5 phone voucher, I made a call home, surprising my dad. Then I realised it was quite late in Malaysia! I had a few minutes to relay my tale before the phone minutes ran out. 

I headed back to my departure gate, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then I saw a few colleagues from the European office and realised they were on the same flight too; and was glad for some company. I guess it was God's way of assuring me that no matter what, I'm not alone. 

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