Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Misfortune Seldom Comes Alone To The House...

4 November 2009, Wednesday (16 Zulkaedah)

When It Rains It Pours
Did you ever have a day when everything went wrong? I mean a day when everything you did just didn't work. This was my day. This was the day when not only it rained, it poured!! 

Myanmar Here I Come
30th October was the day I was supposed to go for a week's vacation to Myanmar. First thing after I got out of bed, I searched for my luggage locks and couldn't find them.. After frantically rummaging through all my luggage, I finally found them right at the bottom of one of the bags. Thank God, but I was kind of flustered by then. It was the start of bad things to come.

Row "G"
After my husband had dropped me off at the airport, I looked up the flight information board to see which row I needed to go to, to check in. And the flight to Myanmar read "Row G". 

Row "G to Row "F"
So, after Sharon, a Myanmarese (my ex student who was traveling with me) arrived, we both pushed our trolley and queued up at Row G. Once we reached the front of the queue, I asked the Customer Service (CS) staff manning the queue which counter to go to since most counters had indicated "Hongkong" as their flight destinations, only to be told by him that the row we should be queueing should be Row F. I muttered under my breath, "If it's Row F, why on earth did the board display Row G"????

In any case, I thought, "No big deal. We'll just have to queue again. I was still high-spirited. After all, I was going on a much needed holiday. 

Row "G" to Row "F" to Row "C"
So, once again, we both pushed our trolley, and this time we patiently waited for our turn to check in at Row F. Once we reached the CS staff, he asked for our destination. Would you believe what he told me, "Sorry, if you are going to Mynamar, you should go to Row C, that's the counters for all flights to Asia."

Boy!! This time, I was beginning to slowly simmer. I was cursing under my breath. Why couldn't they get this simple thing right? If it's Row C for all flights to Asia, why couldn't their board display the correct information in the first place???

Row "C"
And once again, we quickly pushed our trolley to Row C.  And this time, just to be sure, I had crossed to the front of the queue to ask the CS staff, and this time, he confirmed that we were at the right row. 

Ticket and Passport
Phew, we heaved a sigh of relief. Once our turn came, we happily walked up to the counter staff and was greeted warmly by a young male staff. And I thought, "Finally, things were looking positive, and I was well on my way to Mynamar." I placed my ticket and passport on the counter and started day dreaming.

Moh Moh Lwin, Tun Tun Oo, and Aung Kaung Myat
I've been planning this trip with Sharon the last couple of weeks. And I was so looking forward to meeting her mum, Moh Moh Lwin, her dad, Tun Tun Oo, and her little brother, Aung Kaung Myat. 

And my mind raced to the interesting places/spots that Sharon was going to take me to. And I was relishing the thought of all the shopping that I was going to do. 

Visa, What Visa?
As I continued day dreaming, suddenly I realised that the counter staff was talking to me and asking me a question, "Maam, where's your visa?" I was thinking, "Visa?" My brain couldn't compute the word. What was he talking about? "Yes, you would need a visa to go to Myanmar!," he continued.  

Exemplary MAS Counter Staff
My jaw dropped. I actually felt like crying at this point. There began an exchange of civilised (note, I didn't say "heated") conversations between the counter staff and me, and later, he even spoke to his superior to see if he could help sort out my problem. I actually admired his cool demeanour, given how frazzled I was, and the circumstance I was in. I was quite stressed out, to say the least, but keeping my cool as he was very patient and professional as he went about trying his best to help me. 

Why the Exception?
He had advised me to go to the Myanmar Embassy to apply for the visa and directed me to go to the 3rd floor to the MAS ticketing office to change my flight to another date. I had told him that I wasn't even aware that I'd need a visa to go to Myanmar.  I don't need visa to go to SEA countries. So why the exception?? 

Oh Boy, Myanmar: Only in My Dream
Finally, reality hit me that I was not flying to Myanmar today, as without a visa, I would be refused entry upon arrival. The counter staff tried to get the telephone number of Myanmar Embassy but for some strange reasons could not obtain it. He then directed me to the Customer Service counter.

Sharon Left Without Me
By then, I was resigned to the fact that Sharon had to travel back to her country without me. So, we quickly told the polite and exemplary staff that he should proceed with checking in Sharon, and I would have to deal with my situation later as time was running late for Sharon. We spent almost 45 minutes at that counter!!! In any case, I would like to offer my bouquet of appreciation to that staff (sorry I didn't manage to get his name, but hoping to meet him again next week, so I could find out his name).

After Sharon had headed towards the Departure exit, May (a fellow Myanmarese and Sharon's best friend, who accompanied her to the airport) and I proceeded to the Customer Service Counter. I had wanted to confirm with the Embassy first whether I could get an express visa before I changed my ticket to enable me to travel the next day. 

Frantic Calls To No Avail
After obtaining the Myanmar Embassy's telephone number, I dialled numerous times but there was no ringing tone and had requested for an alternative number. Again, I called many times, but to no avail.  No one was picking up the calls despite it being past 9.00 a.m. 

Snappy Decision
By then, I was frantic and had to make a quick decision. I made a call to my husband who was shocked to discover my predicament. As he was busy, he sought his secreatry's assistance to call the Embassy to make some enquiries.

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed
Meanwhile, May spoke to her Myanmar agent, Hayman to seek her advice. And she gave me her Myanmar Embassy contact who could help me to process an express visa, of course with an extra fee.... Given my situation, I was prepared for anything..

Later, my husband's secretary even gave me her contact, a Myanmarese professor who happened to be at the Emabssy at that time, if I needed his help. 

Lugging My Luggage Home
Since I couldn't get through the Embassy, I decided to go there myself, with May. So, we took a taxi back to my house to drop off all our luggage (mine plus Sharon's as her load was ovedrweight). And later we took a different cab to Myanmar Embassy. 

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover
When we arrived at the Embassy, the taxi dropped us off at the entarnce to what looked like a very sleazy and rundown place. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine an Embassy to be looking like that. It looked very lifeless and dreary, just like the predicament I was in. 

Oh My, A Hidden Connecting Door
I made a call to Hayman's contact, and shortly later, he emerged from a side door, and then only I realised that that was a connecting door to the actual Embassy.  Where we stood was just the section for visa applicants. 

You Wait At the Canteen!!
And once we introduced ourselves, he asked whether I had filled up my visa application form. After telling him that I had not, he said, "Okay, you wait at the canteen. I will come back with the form'" which I found very amusing and hilarious. 

For Once I Felt Good That Morning!!
The so-called canteen was across the same ground, so May and I proceeded there, and saw many Mynamarese sitting and hovering at the canteen. When I saw the contact approaching with the form, my heart was lifted up at this point, and I really felt good for once that morning. 

Light At The End of The Tunnel
I was told to come back to collect my express visa by 5:00 p.m. Finally, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. 

KL Sentral
Right after we left the Embassy, we hailed a cab to go back to my house before going to KL Sentral to the MAS ticketing office, but I changed my mind mid way, and decided to go straight there using the same cab. 

My Jaw Dropped A Second Time
Once my turn came at the ticketing office, I told the staff that I wanted to change my flight to the next morning, but was shocked to be told that all seats were fully booked and the only available seat was in business class. I needed to fork out RM1300, which was way too expensive. No way did I want to spend this kind of unnecessary expenditure!!! 

When It Rains It Pours Again and AgainI was utterly disappointed as I was very confident of getting a seat. And if I thought that the misfortune that had befallen me was about to end, I was wrong. To add salt to the wound, I was told that because I had missed my flight to Myanmar, they had to cancel my flight back to KL too. 

A Worthy Penalty
My mind quickly went back to why I was here in the first place. My heart sank once again. I wanted to curse the day, but for some reason, I held my tongue. I politely asked her to see if there were other available flights to and fro Myanmar at a more affordable fare as I had to pay penalty for changing the flight dates. Finally, she confirmed that I could fly on the 11 November and come back on 18 November with a RM350 penalty. 

Finally, I Could Smile Again
I smiled as I realized my day was getting better. This was a better deal than I had expected. I had anticipated to be penalised for both sectors.

And I got May's help to call my Mynamar Embassy contact to tell him that I did not need the express visa after all, as I was only travelling much later. So, I saved a bit on the processing fee plus I needn't go back in the evening to collect the visa. By then, I was already dead tired. The whole fiasco was draining my energy, both physically and mentally. 

Betweeen Us, We Could Eat a Horse
Neither May nor I had taken our breakfast.  For me, with all the morning's happening, I did not have any appetite to eat. But after leaving the ticketing office, suddenly we both were ravenous. We were so hungry we could eat a horse.  As May wasn't too keen on spicy food, we stopped at KFC for lunch, as by then, it was already almost 12:00 p.m. 

I Was Sure Enough Misfortune Had Befallen Me, So I Thought....
On the way back home via LRT, I finally started feeling like maybe the day wasn't so bad after all. Even though I still had to send May and Sharon's luggage back, things had started looking up. I had everything I needed, and was well on my my way to getting things taken care of. And so I thought. 

Lurching Escalators Anyone?
We had to take a train from KL Sentral to Masjid Jamek (MJ) and another train from (MJ) to Bandar Tun Razak. As we were taking the escalator at the Masjid Jamek station, suddenly, the escalator lurched violently and halted, with most commuters thrown and kissing into one another's back!!! On reflection, I realised I might have suffered my third whiplash, because since that day, I have had excruciating pain in both my cervical and mid spine. 

Bad Karma
Once we reached the top, both May and I burst out laughing when I commented to her that I had never experienced a lurching escalator ever in my life, despite taking many escalators before. And I jokingly told May that maybe her karma was not so positive...

After my son and I sent May home to Shah Alam, I went home, actually feeling quite relieved that my holiday was not meant to be, just yet. 

True Value of Friendship
My bad day turned out to be a day that I learnt the true value of friendship and what the maxim "A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed" actually means.

I learnt to keep my cool and fortitude when I was under duress. I also learnt to laugh at myself for my sloppiness (in not finding out beforehand about the requirement for visa). 

Blessing In Disguise
And I'm grateful too that I got to spend more time with my kittos and husband, especially in the absence of a maid in my house. At least, I didn't feel so guilty about leaving them in the lurch while I went vacationing. As a minimum, they still got to enjoy their favourite dishes (like daging goreng, daging masak hitam, kueteow special, mee bandung muar, nasi lemak, kari udang, asam pedas), to name a few, within these few days. In fact, it was a blessing in disguise.

Thank you Allah for this day that though it seemed very bad, became one of the greatest blessings I ever received.

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