Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Man From Kuwait

The day before yesterday I returned from my final trip to Bangkok in this triptych of family land transfer events—first the funeral, then the court appearance (where I made my request to become my grandmother's executor) and now the stepping into ownership.

I was personally moved forward so profoundly by the role I was able to play that it felt as if I was being propelled by a global energy shift. I am not given to sharing new age analysis, but a youtube astrologer’s forecast was sent my way by a pivotal friend I made on the trip. You can watch it yourself here if you are so inclined and would welcome a positive spin on things (plus tips on how to navigate the potential shadow side).

It so captured my take on how I was experiencing the shift from 2017 to 2018 on an emotional level that it inspired me to write the story below about talking to strangers as I moved through the world on my international travels. I posted it to FaceBook where it was warmly received so I thought I would share it here as a sample of my experience.


The Man From Kuwait

I have a story to share from my travels yesterday that expresses the serendipitous experiences I’m enjoying as a solo traveler. So am taking advantage of my awake jet lagged state to write it up.

I was standing in line at passport control in the departures terminal of Bangkok’s international airport. It was going to be a long wait and I was looking around for a possible conversation to pass the time before opening my book. The hall was filled with Asian people and a few sunburned Europeans. Next to me I spy a man in a t-shirt printed with rows of tiny flags of the world. At the top I can see half the wording —CAL Fullerton. I check out the wearer — a black man likely an American around my age staring into the middle distance. His energy is calm and neutral so I decide to risk speaking to him in English. 

“Did you go to CAL Fullerton?” I ask him pointing to his shirt. It takes him a second to tune me in.
“What’s that?” he asks and I repeat the question.

“Oh no my daughter went there,” he said smiling understanding now that I am making conversation (so rare these days). So we soon find out that we’re both going back home to California and he introduces me to his Thai wife who speaks little English so remains focused on the line ahead. He asks me enough questions to find out where I went to college, calculates how old I am (same age as his wife who is from Northern Thailand so I get that she’s from a poor farming family). They’ve had a long journey he says. He asks me if I have children and I tell him about the dogs I share with my ex. “A man I assume,” he says meaning he wouldn’t assume that at all, but he’s given me an opening. I take it. Then he is telling me that he sees a lot of lesbian couples traveling the world these days and was wondering what was up in my community. Not that I had a clue, but I am amused by his curiosity. So we speculate about the travel habits of “my community” before going onto what I do for a living and how he could definitely use a professional organizer. I laugh and give him my business card though he lives in LA.

By this time we have exchanged names. He is named after Ted Williams the baseball player he tells me. Then I notice that the man behind me is leaning forward as if he wants to join the conversation. So I give him my attention and ask if he wants something. He gestures to his ear and I think he might be deaf and half expect him to pull out one of those deaf alphabet cards. Black hair with a beard and light skin, Middle Eastern I’m thinking. He is also stooped over slightly and seems to have a bit of palsy. Ted picks up on his gestures.

“Oh you’re enjoying listening to our conversation,” he says. The Kuwaiti man nods vigorously and gestures for us to continue. At which point I realize that we have become live entertainment as I note the glances of a young blond woman who is not smiling.

“Where are you from?,” my new friend asks the Middle Eastern man.

He pulls out his passport and points to the gold print on the blue cover. 

“Oh Kuwait,” Ted reads and our new friend shakes hands with both of us. Then Ted tells me how he went to fight in Kuwait and noticed that the country was so rich he was asking himself why we were fighting for them when we could be helping some poor country. And the Kuwaiti man turns to him and says “thank-you I love you” and moves to give Ted a hug which he accepts with good humor and continues with his memories of how he really enjoyed being mistaken for a Saudi when he was in Saudi Arabia.

“You Korean?” the Kuwaiti man says to me suddenly.

“Me? No I’m Thai—half Thai and half…” at which point I pull my American passport up from the shirt pocket of my crisply laundered white travel shirt. At the words “I’m Thai,” I feel the attention of the Asian people now that I’m suddenly not a tourist. 

Then a voice calls to us from the next line. “That man is going to be late for his plane” he says and gestures at the clock and our line where Ted’s wife is up next.

“Oh you’re looking out for a fellow traveller,” says Ted, “that is good of you.” I notice that this speaker is also an African American man wearing a tourist t-shirt with a heart in the wording.

“Oh he can go ahead of us,” Ted realizes. Then he takes our Kuwaiti friend by the arm and speaks to his wife who lets the man by. By this time both lines of people are watching and there is a little murmur of appreciation of this act.

“You are an Angel that’s what you are,” says Ted to the black man as if the presence of divinity has just manifested into the room. “And you are an Angel too,” he says turning to me. I smile at his acknowledgement of my part in this story and for a moment I am proud to be an American for we have just displayed the positive side of American public friendliness and a sharing of our personal lives which often seems embarrassingly exposing of ourselves through the eyes of Europeans not to mention the Asian brand of privacy.

As I move through passport control into the terminal I note that the Kuwaiti man has joined a group holding a placard marked Dubai and I feel good about having entered a world full of Angels looking out for each other.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Earthworm. Get yours at