The Bow

March 13, 2015

I travelled with my mother to Cambodia and Vietnam this past October. Our flights were on KAL~Korean Air. The Koreans, Cambodians and Vietnamese greet guests and one another in such a lovely ceremonial way. The put their hands together in a prayer type fashion and bow; a display of both gratitude and respect.  We were received with this gesture as we boarded our flights, every time we entered a hotel doorway or passed a hotel employee on paths and hallways, then throughout our Mekong River cruise from the staff and crew. It felt so nice, so calming.

Our return flight was scheduled from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) at 11:55 p.m. so our last day was a very long one. We had to check out of our hotel room in the early afternoon, then spent the remainder of the day and evening sitting in the hotel lobby. We had plenty of books to read and we took walks around the building to pass time. Still, the anticipation of more than 24 hours of travel time ahead made the day feel even longer.

We arrived at the Saigon Airport more than 3 hours prior to our scheduled flight time. The departure board indicated our Korean Air flight would check in on aisle D. The check in stations in row D didn’t have an airline name or anything to confirm we were in the right area. The English speaking guide who accompanied us into the airport asked someone, who apparently worked there, about this. He explained we were in the right area and to please stay put. It was only 8:20 p.m. The check in would begin at approximately 8:40 p.m. according to the airline representative.

We were 3rd in line. As time passed more people gathered and got in the queue. Meanwhile, there were now two young people moving back and forth behind the row of podiums, scattering laminated pieces of information on the counters. Then they operated the computers at each station and very slowly, and I mean S L O W L Y, brought up displays for Korean Air Economy, Group, Morning Calm, Prestige and First Class check in positions.

One woman in our line, who spoke Vietnamese, approached one of these young people to inquire when check in would actually begin. She was told it would be at 9 p.m. and she shared that information with my mom.

I am usually very patient, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated. To be honest, I was thinking that the manual set up was archaic and the indifference by the airline representatives felt rude. My mind was having a hay day creating unpleasant thoughts. I was certain I could go behind the counter and organize things so much better. Yada, yada, yada!

A few more young employees filtered in one by one.

At about 8:55 p.m. there was a flurry of new people, donning the same uniform, that literally ran into the employee area. They were primarily young women wearing the traditional Vietnamese long blouse and silky pants. There were a few with different colored pants and gold trim on their blouses, who were obviously supervisors. Each new arrival consulted a supervisor, then took their seat at the station assigned to them.

Still, we waited. None of them looked up or motioned for passengers to approach their podium. Grrr!

Then something unexpected happened. At 9 p.m. on the dot the supervisors stepped in front of the check in counters. In unison, they all bowed with hands pressed together prayer style in front of their chest! No words were ever spoken, but the meaning was clear….”Ladies and gentlemen, you may kindly begin check-in now.”!

That was cool! So very gracious. My impatience, although kept to myself, was just wasted energy that could have been better spent in wonder and curiosity instead of annoyance and judgment. I heard a little voice from my heart say to my head, “….note to higher self!” The next time I feel that nudge of annoyance begin to brew I have a new question, “what would the wisest me do?” And I’ll answer, “prepare to be pleasantly surprised!”

Have you ever found yourself in the same position?….not understanding local customs? not having enough information? Reading a situation incorrectly and creating a story that just doesn’t serve the best you?

I love to travel! My world, my mind and my heart grows every time.

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With love,