Sunday, May 2, 2010

Who Walk Among Us

This post was written last summer on my old blog. I like going back to those past entries from time to time so that I can remind myself of all the reasons I chose this path, and why I am here.

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I was tired this morning when my alarm went off at 0445h. I had to drive to the city to catch a 0750h flight and therefore didn't want to leave the house later than 0515h.

I hit the 'dismiss' option instead of 'snooze' on my phone and fell back asleep. I awoke just after five and raced around the house gathering up the last of my belongings, showering, and grabbing some toast for the road. Ugh! I realized I needed gas as well. Of course, when I am running late...

Zoomed into the quiet station and put 15$ in only to find I had locked my keys in my car.

Aghghg! Remembered my hatchback was unlocked. Sigh, ok, I can handle looking like an idiot to the gas station attendant for a few minutes vs missing my flight. Finally I got on the road, but I was pretty frazzled.

Going to a new contract always makes me a bit edgy...What will the staff be like? What is the housing going to be like? Is my roomie going to be a psycho-chain-smoking-television-blaring-messy-chews-with-mouth-open-racist? Will there be internet? Will there be soymilk in town? Will there be a gym in town?

So when I arrived at the airport I was not in the mood for the baggage lady to tell me my bag was 3 kilos overweight. I fought the urge to make a sarcastic remark about all of us probably being 3 kilos overweight. So there I was, the girl who has to open her suitcase for all to see, randomly pulling hefty objects out and stuffing them into a plastic bag (classy). Thankfully I didn't send a shower of tampons into the air or accidentally fling a pair of underwear at a baggage handler.

I was cursing Air Canada and the woman who kept calling me "ma'am".

Oh how I hate flying Air Canada.

And I hate all the little invasions of my personal space when I fly.

Take off my shoes? Undo my belt? Open my top button? Take out my toiletries bag? Really? Is this all really necessary? Sigh. Remember the good old days when you could fly with a leatherman on your belt and have toothpaste in your carry-on?

I was muttering to myself about my severe dislike for all-things-air-travel as the dude in front of me in the security line was completely faffing with this ridiculously large bouquet of flowers.

Finally got to the gate and sat down for a few minutes before having to board.

My flight arrived on the island and we then waited for about 45 minutes for a shuttle to take us across the inlet on a ferry to the town. Yawwnnnnnnnn. Sleepy. Hungry. Cranky.

A taxi stopped to give me a ride to the hospital. The driver was a middle aged Vietnamese man, very pleasant and upbeat, waving and smiling at people as we drove through town. He laughed when I asked him if he knew where I was staying,

"25 years in a 4 mile radius town you know where everything is!"

Right. Good point.

So I asked him how he had ended up here of all random places in the country to be, it didn't seem like a place that would jump out at someone immigrating to Canada.

He said, "have you heard of the boat people?"

I scanned my thoughts wondering if admitting that would seem racist, I had assumed that term was only used in a derogatory sense.

"Ummm yeah...you mean people that escaped Vietnam and came on boats to North America?"

"Yes, that was me and my sister. I was 16, she was 14. Our boat ran out of gas in international waters and it took 7 days for a US coast guard to find us, there were 49 of us on the boat. They brought us to their ship and people were given the choice of moving to Canada or US. I chose Canada and was sent here, neither my sister or I spoke a word of English. I started out washing dishes in a restaurant, getting the waitresses to teach me English. Now I have the good life."

I asked him if anyone died on his voyage. He told me that they had been 2 days without food and water when they were rescued, that two children had almost died but ended up surviving. I told him he should write a book about his life, his bravery, his story. He said, "no, that journey brings up too many sad memories". And that was that, he popped the trunk and was soon on his way.

I've thought about our conversation all afternoon. Here was this man who survived a very dangerous voyage to a completely unknown land. When he arrived he had no money, no education, and couldn't speak the language.

And here was I. Cranky at having to suffer the inconveniences of air travel. I wasn't leaving my family behind on a dangerous journey where I'd arrive and not know how I'd get food in my belly or a roof over my head.

I am glad this man held a mirror up to my irritations of the day. How truly fortunate I am in my comfortable life.

I am glad I got to see how my day of travel compares to some of the travels that have been endured by the people around me. People who will never whisper a word of it to me, stories I will never know.

I like being reminded that sometimes I should stop to consider what chain of events have brought me  to the place I'm at.

That perhaps I could never know in a thousand lifetimes the experiences of others.

And how thankful I should be that my 'humiliations' only include locking my keys in the car and having to take off my shoes to show a hole in my sock.

7 comments:

Grumpy, M.D. said...

That's a good post. Sometimes we all need to see things in perspective.

On the other hand, it could have been worse if the airport lady said YOU were 3 kilos overweight. Then you'd have a good reason to punch her.

RH said...

Thank you for sharing as always ABB. The story was something I needed to read right now - it is great when something comes along and puts those inconveniences into perspective.

Albinoblackbear said...

Grump--Oh believe me, I was pretty close at the time. :) That is why I was glad to see my misdirected rage so clearly pointed out to me!

I still hate Air Crapada.

RH--Glad the post came at a timely manner for you. I probably should read this post every two days with the degree of whining that I do. :)

medrninja said...

What an awesome post ABB. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. You never know what you will learn. I love how people's stories can make you think differently about your own life or life in general...

Thanks for the reminder of why I do love to hear those stories and why I should always take the time to listen. I needed that this weekend!

A NURSE said...

A friend of mine once said, “When something unusual or unexpected happens begin to look for the adventure.”
I like how you embrace what comes your way....and the appreciation for where you are.
Thanks for the post!

Albinoblackbear said...

Ninja--I am glad you enjoyed it! I think living in a small town gives you those opportunities more often than in the big city. Another check for rural medicine! :)

ANurse--That is very kind of you to say. And I like your friends take on things as well...it seems like a good attitude to have.

ForeverRhonda said...

This is a really good post. I often find myself aggravated and I try to remind myself that I really don't have it so bad.