Levels of poverty

Among even the most avid and adventurous travelers, India initially appears to be a daunting place. People oftentimes talk about the high levels of poverty, dirt, sexism, classism, disparities between the rich and the poor, and of course, the rape of women, both locals and tourists. They talk about the language barriers. They are frightened by the animals co-mingling with the pedestrians and the tuk tuks and the cars. They’re not sure if they can “handle” it.

Over an Indian meal I prepared for my visiting friend and former teacher visiting from San Francisco tonight, I spent a good amount of time telling her about my experiences in India, how a lot about why I loved it and appreciated it so much was because I mentally prepared myself for the poverty and the begging and the filth, which in the end, really wasn’t as bad as others hyped it up to be from my own perspective. When you are prepared, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Thus, you’re then able to appreciate the beauty a lot more. Frankly, other than the extremely humid weather of Delhi and Agra, I didn’t really want to leave India. I was constantly astounded by the kindness of strangers, the politeness of people everywhere. I was excited by all the different sights and sounds and smells I normally do not get back in New York or in the U.S. in general. My teacher has only been to one country in Asia, Korea, and although she is well traveled in the U.S., South America, and Europe, for whatever reason, Asia has seemed distant to her. Maybe it’s because she’s a white woman who doesn’t want to feel completely out of place in a place as “exotic” as Asia. Maybe she just hasn’t had enough friends who have wanted to accompany her to Asian countries; who knows. When the idea of going to India comes up, most of her friends, she told me, said that they are most daunted by the level of poverty they have heard about. They are scared to see it. (Why do I feel like these people are most likely white?).

Well, at that point, it’s really about going outside of our comfort zones. We live in a rich country here in the U.S., even though there is clearly a massive disparity between the rich and the poor. The poverty we see here is not even a fraction of what you see in a country like India. So I understand why it would be considered daunting. But to me, travel is about not being comfortable and doing things and eating things and seeing things that are not your “version of normal,” because that’s what is intriguing and what will make you think and feel more deeply. Maybe if you were exposed to the poverty in India, you’d have a bit more empathy and understanding of the East. Maybe you should challenge yourself when you say you are scared of seeing that level of poverty and ask, why are you scared? What do you think it will do to you? Will it change something about you, and then if so, why and how? Or, is it just that you do not want to see what is ugly and scary and foreign in life? Do you want to live in a bubble away from all that ugliness that exists and is so widespread across the world that you do not know? That’s for you to question and ask yourself if you dare to go there, isn’t it?

Sleep debt fulfilled

I legitimately slept 11 hours straight. Now, we know for sure my entire mind and body were exhausted, mentally and physically.

Then, I took a nap on the couch after eating breakfast. Still exhausted.

Chris is accusing me of having my favorite activity be sleep now. That is not always 100 percent correct, but for this weekend, it certainly is, though I am planning on fulfilling what feels like my “cooking debt” tomorrow by preparing fish curry and dal. Eating in Vegas was anything but healthful.

 

Losing time flying west to east

Flying during the day going west to east in the U.S. always feels like the biggest waste of time. You spend somewhere between four to five hours in the air, and then when you land, not only were you nowhere as productive as you would have been if you were on the ground, but you’ve also just lost three hours of time due to the time difference. That’s why ages ago, when I was more nimble (at least, physically seeming), I used to take red-eye flights cross country all the time because it seemingly “saved” time, or I would take flights later in the day when I didn’t need to be as productive with work (or simply chose not to be).

Today, the flight from Vegas back to JFK was only about four hours, yet I was so exhausted I slept about half that time, with the other half reserved for eating breakfast and catching up on a few work emails. I guess it just goes to show that staying out late for consecutive nights is really not something I can sustain for more than two days. Even that was trying on me. I anticipate much sleep debt being fulfilled this weekend.

Rough nights

Despite not getting to bed until 4am this morning, I still managed to make it to my Help Desk shift by 8:45am to ensure that everyone knew where to go, where to store their luggage, and where breakfast was. It’s amazing what a little makeup and a shower can do to someone who barely got four hours of sleep and is hung over.

However, from the looks of it, it didn’t look like our customers were as bright-eyed and cheery as I was. A great number of them never even made it to the 9am breakfast. Some exec meetings were cancelled or postponed, or declared useless (by using more friendly terms) because people were too hungover. And then there were the guilty people who rolled in at around 11 or 11:30 after the sessions had begun to ask where to store their luggage. We smiled. They smiled. We all knew what the other was smiling about.

Conference life in Las Vegas. This is what it looks like.

 

 

“Micromanager”

I knew tonight was going to be a big night given that it was the night of our big conference party at the major night club at the Cosmopolitan here in Las Vegas. Prospects, customers, partners, and all my fellow colleagues from around the world have gathered for these three days of learning, sharing knowledge, and of course, partying. I knew I’d be out later than a typical work night for obvious reasons, but what I didn’t realize was that I’d be egged on to party later and later by my very own manager, who had transitioned into this role at the beginning of this summer.

Before, I actually did have a real micromanager. She barely listened to anything I said — everything was in one ear and out the other. Recording what was discussed in email or various forms of written and electronic communication never worked because she never retained the information we shared with her. Now, I actually have a manager who listens and retains information, and gives me sound advice. It’s actually kind of refreshing and reassuring.

The one part I was not prepared for, though, is that he “micromanages” us when it comes to going out and having fun. Before tonight, I’d never seen such an onslaught of text messages encouraging my work counterparts and me to go out and join him at some other night club outside of the hotel property. It was relentless until we agreed to join.

It certainly served some amusement. I suppose I can handle this type of “micromanaging.” It’s definitely more fun.

Or painful, considering I didn’t get back to my room until 3:30am. I’m really not feeling that young anymore.

 

Flying on 9/11

I don’t really have any superstitions. I kind of think that when you have them, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So while I took two flights today, one from SFO to LAX, then the second from LAX to Las Vegas since American Airlines doesn’t have a direct SFO > LAS flight, I didn’t even really think about the fact that September 11, 2018, was the 17-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. I also didn’t really think about the fact that I was flying on the airline that got taken down by terrorists on that dark day. But apparently, some customers who were traveling to our company’s conference in Las Vegas were fully thinking about it, and even opted to not travel on September 11, and instead to arrive on September 12…. when our conference events begin at 7:45am that day. What this ultimately meant was travel delays, many of them missing the entire first official day of our company’s user conference. So, in other words, it meant a complete waste of time and money.

I always feel conflicted when I hear stories like this because on the one hand, everyone is scared of something — heights, spiders, the dark, swimming, you name it. I’m sympathetic to that since I clearly have my own fears. But to allow a fear to prevent you from living your everyday life? It’s hard for me to be sympathetic to this type of thing. Life disruption is not worth it. Live your everyday life to the fullest. Some fears are meant to be faced, especially when they are as delusional as this one. Do they really think that security would not be ultra heightened on days of anniversaries of major terrorist attacks?

Trump supporters everywhere

Today really was not my day. After my meetings ended and I had my customary visit to Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, in Millennium Park, an Uber picked me up to take me to O’Hare Airport. And while on that ride, the driver decided to turn on some AM radio, which is playing some conservative radio show that is praising Trump, criticizing the Democrats grilling Brett Kavanagh while being evaluated as the next Supreme Court justice, and saying that Kavanagh is a fine, fine candidate for this position.

I wanted to throw up. But I was too passive and nice, and instead of asking the driver to switch the channel, I just consumed more and more news on my New York Times app, aka what Trump calls “The failing New York Times.” Instead, I gave him a crappy rating, no tip, and got out of the car when we finally arrived at the airport. He wasn’t particularly friendly or nice to me, anyway.

Then, as if it didn’t get any better, when I got on the plane and sat in my window seat, a white man from Montana sat down next to me in the middle seat between me and an Asian man, presumably Korean (I’m just guessing based on his appearance). He teased the Asian man, asking if he wanted to sit with the “pretty girl in the window seat,” and declared, “All Chinese people like to stick with their own kind. Chinese people will only marry Chinese people.” That absolutely is not true as we all know, but what does this guy know, anyway, to make such a sweeping and ignorant statement like this? Not to mention that I’m not married to a Chinese man, nor is this guy even Chinese! He then whipped out The Russian Hoax book, which apparently is ranked #11 on the Amazon books bestsellers list (this is the liberal bubble I live in, to not be aware that this book was recently released), and started reading it, completely engrossed. This book, as I briefly looked up, basically says that the concept of Russian collusion is completely fabricated by the left, and that Hillary Clinton got away with endless law breaking and should be locked up. It got glowing praise from Rush Limbaugh. That’s how we know we cannot take this book seriously.

On my ride to the airport in Chicago, I was driven by a Trump supporter. Then, on my flight back from Chicago to New York, I was sitting next to a Trump supporter. WHY??????

 

Chi-town visit

After getting back late from Charlotte last night, I had to haul myself out of bed at 4:30 this morning to catch an early morning flight to Chicago for two long days of customer onsite visits. These are the moments when I dislike travel, when I know I have to wake up extremely early after a limited amount of sleep, and I have to spend the full day completely engaged and with my business brain on.

Chicago is just as beautiful as I remember it to be four years ago when I came for a work trip. But it’s definitely a lot more expensive than what I remember: while looking up menus of things I thought about eating, all the prices for the most part seem to be on par with New York’s. And based on the Yelp reviews, people seem to be noticing that prices are rising and are endlessly complaining about them.

At least Chicago is still a universally known and loved place. What I really didn’t understand was on Sunday when we were in Asheville, all these restaurants that were supposed to be popular and tasty had multiple-hour waits, and even asked if I wanted a 9:30 or 10pm reservation, as they tend to book out months in advance. Sorry, but Asheville, North Carolina, is not New York, San Francisco, LA, or Chicago. You cannot get away with that with someone who has lived in San Francisco and lives in New York. Asheville is just another small town city that seems to be be trying to be something from a culinary perspective that it will never be. I guess they can keep trying, and the locals will deal with it.

“Miracle on the Hudson”

Today, we visited the Carolinas Aviation Museum just outside the Charlotte airport to see the exhibit for the US Airways Flight 1549, also known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” This recounted the story, the plane, and the aftermath of the U.S. Airways flight that had a flock of random Canadian geese fly into its engine and as a result, had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River where every single person survived and barely got injured back in January 2009. It actually had a happy ending, which is not usual when emergencies like this happen with airplanes.

It’s strange to think that what these passengers and flight crew experienced could easily be any of us on any given day. Chris and I fly so much between business and pleasure travel that our probability of having something like this happen is just so much higher than for the average person. But I guess it just goes to show that it really does matter to understand the flight safety card, where all the exits are, and what to do in an emergency. For the most part, I don’t really listen anymore to the flight attendants as they are explaining this now, but occasionally, I do stop and listen… just in case.

Every now and then, I am still haunted by the Malaysian Airline plane that went missing, and is still missing to this day. My heart aches when I think of the people onboard, as well as their loved ones. You can’t always be prepared.

 

Discrimination at the bar in Asheville, North Carolina

It’s always comforting to visit the South and not receive any service at all, whatsoever, as a person of color.

We tried to eat at this popular spot called Tupelo Honey en route back from Great Smokey Mountain National Park yesterday in Asheville, North Carolina. Since there were no free tables in the evening for dinner, I decided to sit at the bar and wait for Chris to park the car and figured we could eat and drink at the bar. Well, I never had the opportunity to eat or drink anything, not even water, because the bartender completely ignored me for the entire 20 minutes I sat at the bar until I decided to walk out. There was no way I was going to give hard-earned money to an establishment that chooses to completely ignore me and treat me like I don’t matter or don’t exist.

Not only did the bartender ignore me several times when I tried to say hello, but when I finally raised my voice and asked to see a menu, she didn’t even make eye contact with me and said, “sure, I can get that to you” as she looked away from me. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt given it was peak dinner time and so she was probably busy, but she proceeded to have small chitchat with all the other couples sitting around me, giving them drinks and more water, getting their bills processed, so why would it have been so difficult just to say hi to me and hand me a simple menu?

We’ve traveled to the South so many times and have received amazing service from every state and restaurant down here, so it’s sad to see that the bartender during dinner time on Sundays at Tupelo Honey wants to perpetuate the same treatment that the Greensboro Four, four activist African American men, received when they tried to sit down at a “Whites-Only” counter at the Woolworth’s back in February 1960 and were refused service. It’s like a teeny tiny fraction of the hate and bigotry that people of color had to face in our country back then, just right in face today in 2018. If this wasn’t based on race, I have no idea what else it could have been based on — the fact that she maybe didn’t like the way I looked or was dressed? Regardless, it was wrong and terrible.

Sometimes, people forget that segregation as this country knew it was not just dividing whites from blacks; it was physically dividing all white people from anyone else of color, even Jewish people. Yes, that includes Asians. So yes, that’s people who look like us. To the white people then, and some white people now given the white supremacists who still rein in this country, people who look like Chris and me will never be good enough. We are a threat to white America. So they can go fuck themselves and stop leading their delusional lives.