Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Thousand Mile Journey

Have you ever gone to a certain place for the first time by yourself?

Oh well, I had not actually gone all by myself but I had another person with me who felt the same as I did! Ellen (my officemate) and I had gone to a long journey to Bangalore, India for a two-month contractual work as a TIBCO Consultant.

It was our first time to travel abroad and visit three cities at once, namely Bangkok, Thailand, Mumbai, India, and finally, Bangalore, India. Around 5:00 in the afternoon of March 27, I came too early to Silay Airport for the domestic flight from Bacolod to Manila. I was kinda excited with the long journey and I was primarily thinking of beholding a lot of great sights, seeing and meeting lots of people of different nationalities, and reaching the place where I would expect to taste the dream career for me.

As I've said, we were too early for the flight. After we had checked in at the terminal, we just blew time off by talking about anything we can think of. At 8:45 in the evening, we had at last reached Manila and we were fetched by Tracy (my boss' girlfriend) from the airport to the place where we would be staying for a night. It took us about an hour cab ride before we reached Oyster Plaza in ParaƱaque due to some traffic on the way. We saw a huge number of El Shaddai devotees having a procession on the street (which of course caused the traffic) in preparation for the traditional Palm Sunday.

We had somehow managed to have a good sleep that night in spite of reaching the place so late and having to wake up the next day as early as 6:00 A.M. We had a brisk breakfast at McDonald's nearby and we readied to set off to the international airport. We told the cab driver to head onto Terminal 1 of the airport. We found that there were many people lining up, so we also did. When we finally came to the inspecting officer, we showed our respective passport and ticket but the officer said, "You got the wrong terminal. Go to Terminal 2." Oops! Wrong number. We scurried to Terminal 2 and thank goodness, we were able to reach the airport on time.

There were still a lot of things to do before we can enter the terminal. First, we had to go to the POEA and show the documents stating that we were travelling for a temporary work and that we were not directly hired by the foreign employer. Second, we had to pay the required travel taxes. And finally, we had to undergo a brief interview by the immigration officer. I felt like going through a long, dark tunnel considering we had a heavy luggage and we needed to deal with a few people who might not be too affable and congenial. But no matter what, we have to make it through. We have to survive! And we did!

We checked in our luggage and we waited patiently for the trip to Bangkok. Since we were on a connecting flight, we had a chance to land in Bangkok, but unfortunately, we didn't have a visa and we were just tagged as transit passengers, thus, we just stayed at the airport for an excruciating 6-7 hours waiting for our next flight to Mumbai. It was not good enough. Good enough if we had a lot of cash, we could have gone to a city tour that costs $50. So we just waited patiently, slept, chatted, roamed around, and sort of amused ourselves with the redundant audio speaker of the travelator sounding 'Si si kang yen' which means 'end of the walkway,' followed by our soft chuckles. It has a sensor that automatically detects whether someone is nearing the end of the walkway.

Two hours before the flight, we were able to claim a boarding pass and we decided to get into the terminal. The terminal was one floor up and admittedly, the security was stricter. They checked our hand-carried bags and we passed onto their scanners. After that, we were back again to the waiting part but this time, we were inside a more civilized world! The terminal was a more delightful place to see! There were lots of stores, money changers, and restaurants. Bangkok airport was a good-looking one. I was just shocked to know that its age is just 3 years old. It was a recently-built airport.

In the terminal, I decided to exchange my $100 to Thai Bahts so that we can buy something there. I got around 3,200 bahts. We found this one store where they sell souvenir items. I got to buy a key chain that has a shape like a teardrop and has an image of a Thai god. It costed 100 bahts. It was made of some metal and I found it very nice. Now, it is freely hanging in my bag and every time I see it, it reminds me that I've been to a place I never thought I could ever step my feet on. The same goes with the next destinations.

After long hours of waiting, we were ready to set off for Mumbai. We rode in Jet Airways, an Indian airlines, and I found the inside of the airplane fantastic. It was cool because each passenger has a touch-screen monitor in front of him, and this interactive entertainment gadget enables you to choose a movie you want to watch, music you want to hear, or games you want to play. It was already late in the evening. After I overindulged myself with the gadget, I decided to sleep. It was still 4 hours flight though. After an hour, dinner was served. In mind, I had already expected some Indian food to be served which is known for being spicy. The passenger attendant asked me, "Do you want Veg/Non-Veg?" Clueless, I said, "Non-Veg." But she came back again and said that they only have one Non-Veg left, so I decided to give that one to Ellen and I took the Veg instead. Later on, I found out that the difference is that Veg is a Vegetarian food while Non-Veg is of course not. As expected, the food was hot and spicy but I thought it was delicious.

We reached Mumbai after about four hours. I was dazed because I saw a tremendous change on how the people look. Most of them have a darker complexion, much bigger and taller, and they speak a different language or if not, a different tint of the English language. I still had a longer time understanding the accent but I think I can catch up now. I saw that people there looks sternly. They had a stricter security policy than that in Bangkok. The cops were scary and they looked like Hitler. We had a little problem. Our luggage was mishandled probably because it was automatically transferred from Manila to Mumbai. Some Indian attendants helped us with the problem. They were very nice and accomodating. According to them, the luggage might have been transferred in a flight to London then back again to Mumbai. Wow! Our luggage had a longer journey than us! After about an hour, we were able to claim our luggage and how pity to find out that there were some petty damages to our bags. Anyway it was forgivable, so we proceeded on our way to the domestic airport where we would be taking on our final destination to Bangalore!

But our final destination would still be too soon! We still had (again) to wait for another 5 hours. It was very early morning past 1:00 A.M. I was really very sleepy but I thought I could not afford to sleep because the airport might be a dangerous place. Someone might take away our luggage and most importantly, our laptops. We rode a bus to the domestic airport. The Mumbai airport was also incredibly huge but it was not yet fully furnished. There were still construction works going on and I found it a little bit unorganized. There were some men who carried our luggage and they kept on saying 'Can you give me a complementary?" First, I was intrigued and thought maybe I forgot to give thanks. So I responded, "Thank you!" When we reached the domestic airport, some men also got our luggage and they asked the same thing about giving a complementary. Later on, I realized that they might be asking for some tip. But even if I liked, I could not give them any since I didn't have rupees at that time!

At quarter to 7 in the morning, we were aboard the Jet Airways flying to Bangalore. I could not remember anything there except that I just slept during most of the duration of the flight. When we reached Bangalore airport, we looked for some phone to call Rajesh (the one who hired us). Instead, we were greeted by a guy who offered his service to take us to our place. We were not sure about him so we just said that someone was already sent to fetch us. Definitely, he was the wrong one. He offered his cellphone to us so I used it and I was able to call Rajesh. I thanked him for his goodness and we went out of the airport. We saw the right guy outside. I was relieved but I was just too tired to think of any other things. I was momentarily amazed by how different India looks like. Later on, I fell into unconsciousness and slept during most of the duration of the ride.

For me, this whole journey had taught me three things:

1. Being a decisive leader. You don't have anyone to rely on. In every situation, you have to decide on your own and you have to be firm on your actions, hence, you'll get lost.

2. Being courageous. Going somewhere in a foreign place for the first time is tough. You don't know the right directions. You don't know anybody there. If you were not determined enough, you will not get to your destination. I knew that I'm not good at directions but I was courageous and determined enough to reach places. I know I can do it!

3. Being communicative and asking when in doubt. People are strangers and I was hesitant at first to ask. But I learned to be open and ask people who knew the place much better than I am.

The same goes with every situation. All of these learning from the trip I was able to apply now at work or in dealing with people. Indeed, no one beats experience. It is the greatest teacher! In our lives, there will be a lot of first times. Let us not be daunted to try out new things. We could not stay in our comfort zones all the time. If we want to win, we need to sail outside and take on every challenge even though how hard it is for us! I believe I'm always a dreamer. But a visionary dreamer. I'm amazed by the following quote from Carl Jung:

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."

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