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I’m sitting in Singapore at my friend’s place and enjoy the soothing smell of Pandan leaf and chicken broth. Htun (pronounced Tun) from Burma is cooking me a soup, not without sharing his agony about his home country in dismay. While he is talking about the troubled Yangon homeland I feel strongly to voice my own disappointment about the state of mind in my State of Homeland.
This last week was a long journey to get my passport renewed, since I’m again outliving it from the last ten years. First I boarded a plane in Manado to Singapore where my connection flight on UA was scheduled for the next morning. While trying to check myself into the airport hotel I was made aware that this could only be done for five hours – ? Okay, I check in at 7PM but have to get up at midnight and still somehow sit around till 7am. The lady on the front desk merely doing her job must have had many perplex travelers in question. She even forewarned me that without proper boarding pass I was not allowed access to the airport area until 3:30am. What? I should sit affront the airport door for 3 hours and wait? I called Htun, God bless having friends one can impose on in a last minute desperation and spend a short night over at his place before boarding onto a 6 hour flight to Japan the next morning. There I changed planes and flew 12 hours to Washington. Arriving in my beloved US of A I was not ready for the culture shock that hit me: See, I remember when the word security somewhat rang sounds of trust and stability, but nowadays it is a rather frightening word inviting thoughts of terrorism and evil ponderings. The security people in Washington airport are more threatening to me than any foreign faces I have encountered in my many travels. That TSA batch really spooks me; realizing that any wrong gesture or word could instantly put me on a terrorist watch list for the rest of my life. Anyone of them “security enforcing” employees had it in their power to make my life a real hell, and boy they did to many and will do so to many.
This arriving in Washington was nothing I expected ten years ago to be, processed by fellow Americans like a piece of possible danger to the Nation. Once you exit the plane you are squeezed to walk through the back hallways originally designed for the employees, passing through more than twenty doors. A long smelly march, witness to the unclean backyards of the airport. At one point we arrived in a large room with large x-ray processing maschines where rough luggage handlers forced our belongings through a checking process. Well, this after we already checked this very luggage into the plane at a foreign land indeed, but what the heck are you looking for at this stage? Why do I have to strip again when arriving? Nobody said a word, tall, slim, elegant, trampy, professors and ladies all quietly shuffled together passing through the tiled factory, some old Jewish folks would be mortified to experience this ! Having a light green suitcase (it was a sale in Singapore) I watched how one elderly terminal security employee forced my unlocked suitcase open with a large screw driver. I pressed a friendly voice and grimace on while explained from the pushing line; “Sir, this is my suitcase, and it is unlocked…” provoking a response to share with all the other cattle in line: “ No, it is locked, otherwise I would not have to force it open…” Intimidated but still believing in some sort of rights on my own soil I waved down a heavily decorated TSA employee and expressed that my suitcase was broken open…there, – pointing. He waved for me to stay in line and explained: That that gentlemen was doing his job. I should not have locked my suitcase. “Keep moving. If you have a complained, there is a piece of paper inside the suitcase where you can write to the address on it, expressing your thoughts…” I was angered.
It helped little to endure more very loud security employees who agitated expressed to us cattle approaching the screening barrier: “…what is so difficoult, ya’ll? Take off shoes, belt, jackets and remove laptop and electronic items larger than cell phone and place them in the grey bins… start now!” Uuugh, I so felt humiliated and my tired mind started to ponder how the hell we got ourselves into this mess. Why are these rows silently enduring this abuse of basic US civil rights? Why do we let employees on a private area body search and accuse us of criminal acts before any reasonable doubt is established? When are we going to snap back into “normal mode” about this nonsense of plastic forks for chopping down a filet mignon while a soda can shred in pieces is much more of a weapon than metal fork? The high heeled ladies have a weapon right on their heels. CNN specials is explaining how modern terrorists would rather attack oil refineries and blow up specific targets, which they point out. I calculate I would rather take the risk of being a potentional terrorist target and have not to experience this traveling nightmare inflicted on innocent travelers.
While standing in this horrid line of “security check” I find myself glared onto the TV screen where Bush is telling us that we will not let the terrorist win… I have to stop ranting, the very next thing on my fingertips is utterly non-American, but boy I have heard it spoken in every corner of my travels. It’s quite shameful how we have managed to be so disliked around the globe in these last years. So, I too trot in the line, my mind filled with thoughts and not having the guts to speak out when needed.
From Washington I flew to Orlando, a very flat and far stretched city, not very exciting. The DEMA trade show I attended was the largest gathering of Industrial dive fans and businesses. It was an experience, representing Minahasa Lagoon. My boss the owner invited me to join, I appreciate the experience, but could get very little forthcoming on the Hotel side through; I had a whole list of exciting projects to discuss and somehow got stuck on bagatelle complaints about employees and details I’d rather not had to debate. Maybe I was too jetlagged or I hoped for more than what is expected from me. Either way, I left Orlando disappointed and exhausted. When arriving in Los Angeles after another series of flights I rented a car and headed over to Mathieu’s place; Friends for over twenty years with all the up’s and downs one could expect. But when he explained while standing in the drive way I could not stay at his place with a very vague excuse – I simply had it; Maybe the fact I’m away for so long gives me a clear perspective about people and situations which seem more acceptable while living in the midst of the action. I have easy cut my chains with a few souls from the past, possibly something I should have done a long time ago. It is sometimes worse to drag on in memory of the “good we remember” whilst the reality of “what is” is unbearable to a healthy friendship. I crashed with another friend. I even got to see Q for a short moment, what an odd friendship we live…
I solved all my business as quickly as I could. Got me a new passport at the Government building in Westwood. It would be quite funny to make a derogatory statement about the curious people having to swear affront a bullet proof window their pledge to God unable to read any signs in English on the glass facing them. The fact I speak with an accent is funny, considering I caught myself thinking I was in the majority of English speaking (and thinking) people requesting a document that legalizes my US status.
I packed my broken suitcase and glanced at the TSA paper explaining that there would be no reimbursement for opened suitcases, since this was the law of the United States and for my protection…bla bla bla. I’m going to end up on a terrorist watch list for even writing this blog! I can’t be the only traveler annoyed by the developing control of big brother chasing us like scared, shoeless chickens through the terminals? Having anyone searching through my suitcase without my presents is a disgusting abbreviation of my basic civil rights!
I made it back to Singapore but stuck now on a waiting list of Silk Air flights to Manado. In a wired sense I feel so relived going back to the borders of civilization, quite untouched by the political attitudes and the inflicted false pretense of worldwide terror against the US. I wrote in my early blogs about the Iraqi beehive we’ve poked into, complained about the lies we’ve endured and processed a many thoughts about the pain we create in the very hearts of parents, siblings and kids of the fallen soldiers. Immune I listen to the daily staggering numbers of dead announced to an eerily silent American public. Weapons of mass destruction? Are you tired of even thinking about it? Democracy? Have you forgotten we were told for the first two years this is NOT a WAR? Now we refinance a war every few month? I’m a proud American, based upon the rights I had before this secrecy and tapping into my private walls became an accepted form of democracy. When I could voice, write and think about pretty much anything trusted that I hold myself in moral content. But now I feel slightly spooked by placing a blog on my website that could be construed as anti-American just so because I speak out the way I was raised to when something bothered me. Even my “friends” seem to be inhaled by this new fashion of politics; having a stronger opinion on my political stands instead of simply knowing right from wrong.
Nevertheless, I want to end this one blog in a positive spirit too. I’ve always believed a healthy mind is the result of a healthy body and both requests nourishment of goods and words that keeps us afloat amongst the polluted levels of being. Four Seasons agreed to give it a try with me teaching a few of their chefs about cooking healthy food combinations with TCM. Maybe there is an Asian Four Seasons Spa Concept in development. I will even have a chance to host cooking schools for a few privileged guests, sharing my knowledge about the five elements of living healthy, similar to the Buddhist elements of the body. My website TCMchef will be up and running soon. I will be in Bali from December 10th– 20th and gladly spending a few relaxing days with Q as well.
Please share with me and my blog a few of your own travel experiences; I don’t want to think I’m crazy!