Tag Archives: Empathy

It’s been some time…

I booked an onward out of Thailand, to Vietnam, as of course Ethiopian Airlines was gonna check. I knew it. After asking my Chiang Mai friends, “do you ever book on onward flight when you fly into TH?” and receiving a unanimous chorus of, “No!” I knew that, since I was flying from Africa, it would likely be different. And it was.

Ethiopian Airlines employee, Ugandan, female: “Where is your return ticket from Vietnam to Canada?”

Me: “I don’t have one. I don’t need one. I am required to have an onward/return out of Thailand. Once I’m in another country, my whereabouts is no longer the responsibility of your airline.”

“That’s not true.”

“I’m fairly confident that it is.”

“Let me check the rule book.”

Knowing full well I don’t have the money to afford a return flight from VN to CA, I somehow keep completely calm. It’s probably just that I lack the energy to feel stressed at this point. 4.5 months in Uganda has been enough, even though I’ll miss it fucking fiercely. Damn.

Airline Employee: “See! Look, it says right here. You need a return ticket from VN to your home country.”

I read the fine-print of her rule book that has every visa regulation for every country regarding entering/exiting procedures. The book clearly states exactly what I told her: that anyone flying into Thailand technically can be prevented from boarding a flight if they don’t show proof of an onward/return air ticket.

I realize that I’m dealing with what I suspect is a white person rule. Maybe I’m wrong. But judging by her incredibly rude and aggressive tone toward me, it seemed like she was exercising her all-mighty airline employee power wherever she could.

Thankful I’d randomly given away an expensive extension cord to another male (Ugandan) Ethiopian Airlines employee about 30 minutes prior (based on solely the whim of a voice inside me saying, “you don’t need this, give it away”), I now sought him out as a potential much-needed ally to get me aboard the plane.

Still carrying the extension cord, he said, “ahhhh” when I explained the situation. Apparently this is just how things go. I’m escorted to speak with the head of EA, where I’m grilled for 15 minutes about my plans. I pass all the tests, and he nods. My extension corded escort gives me the signal to stand.

“So….?”

“You’re fine, it’s not a problem.” Huh. I wander back downstairs, where I find out that of course news of this newly granted permission  has not been given to anyone who actually has the power to let me through to check-in.

Another hour goes by. I’m grateful that I always make a point of being at the airport early. Eventually the information is transmitted and the lady who was adamant that I produce a return ticket begrudgingly lets me through, with a glare. I smile politely, even with my eyes, trying to connect with her, trying to have empathy for the fact that I’m sure it’s a tough job, and I have no idea what her personal situation is. And maybe she really did think that the rule was what she said, and maybe she doesn’t read English very well, and maybe she had a bad day. And maybe.

The flight turns out to have open seating. This is a first for me: of all the times I’ve flown, never before have I witnessed a free-for-all in seating inside the airplane. The cause, as far as I can gather is that a group of smartly dressed men from Kigali made an unannounced late arrival at the airport, and no one was organized enough to properly process them all. I could be wrong.

This leads, unsurprisingly, to a miscount of persons on the plane — we supposedly have one extra body. Triggering concerns of security issues, the flight is delayed for over an hour while the airline stewardesses make numerous failed attempts to determine who the extra person is. We try helping them, making suggestions including actually checking everyone’s seat number, instead of asking people to raise their hands when we can’t even hear what the question is.

Many people seated (by choice!) near me grumble as they realize they’ll be missing their connecting flights due to this delay. I shake my head and make enjoyable conversation with my seatmate. I feel absolutely fantastic about the fact that I’m even on the plane. Whatever happens from here on out, no problem.

Eventually, it’s discovered that the miscount is because one lady took it upon herself to use the ‘free seating’ policy as her big chance to seat herself in first class. Somehow this led them to miscalculate, likely because they didn’t actually count those of us in economy.

And that was the end to my Ugandan adventure. Entirely appropriate. Grateful for the experience, the incredible friends I met, and utterly relieved to be back in Chiang Mai, where I can ride my bicycle everywhere, eat fruit smoothies from street stalls, and drink yummy hot lattes at any corner. Oh, and run into awesome people every few minutes when out and about. And…

So much to LOVE!

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Voici mon secret

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” 

Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince [The Little Prince]

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on… to yourself, love, hopes, dreams, compassion, empathy, boundaries, truth, your heart

Let go… of fears, attachment, stories, negativity, unnecessary dust bunnies that linger in the mind

Relish… clouds floating by, with their perfect ephemeral state, perpetual change, and light beauty

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye. – Helen Keller

Introverts

Dahab

A few days ago, I read this lovely article on introverts and their ‘woes’. Needless to say, I related to it: Introverts Explained: Why we love you but need to get away from you.

The author writes:

Introverts are not all recluses hanging out in dusty homes with cats and classic books (not that there’s anything wrong with cats and classic books;). We get out and rock it, but then we need to withdraw from that buzz because if we don’t we will feel like an overdone steak, no life, no juice.”

Yes! I am not a recluse (though sometimes I think I could be quite happy living as one); I just need to be by myself sometimes. Or, often. Totally alone, no one else in the vicinity. Even sitting in the same room as another person quietly can be much too energy-draining.

“The other day I heard a fun-loving morning show radio host say she needs to be in the house alone often in order to be civil.  Having someone in another room of the same house isn’t good enough.  She can feel them there.”

I have a beautiful friend who is very sensitive like me. She makes sure to nurture and care for her introversion with love and kindness rather than force herself into situations in which she feels uncomfortable. She inspires me to make ‘the world work for me’, rather ‘me work for the world’. Sensitive people need to create our own safe space away from the world in order to flourish when we enter back into it.

“It’s especially difficult for children.  I’ve seen my daughter’s friends question her relentlessly when she says she is going to play with her dolls after school instead of playing at the friend’s house. You mean you’d rather play alone than play with me?” 

Yes! As a kid, I remember frequently feeling guilty and abnormal for not wanting to be social more often. Instead, I preferred to read by myself, draw, or sit quietly. I even thought that there was something wrong with this. (Not so, dear friend!)

Our brains process everything so deeply it’s tiring. We need time to live in our inner world. We need to recoup bubbly energy by visiting our thoughts, creativity and feelings. We need to go internal in order to express ourselves generously externally.  Solitude expands us (and everyone really). It makes space within us so that we can take in more from the outside.

If you happen to first meet me on a random night out when I’m in social butterfly mode, you might quickly conclude that I’m an extrovert with energy for days. Au contraire: after a bubbly night out, recuperation time begins. Lots of time alone, to be. Peace.

I highly recommend reading the article – linked above – in its entirety if you or someone you know has introvert qualities. We are all special, in our own ways. 🙂

Self-portrait, Dahab

Self-portrait, Dahab