(written on the plane, typed up some 10 days later…)
The long flight home is always full of reflections. A few months back I wrote that I tend to become intolerant to spoilt people on the plane. This time around I was quite good-humoured and tolerant, although something else struck me.
Upon arriving in the park every morning, we’d usually enquire with Sujeylin whether she had eaten something that day. Mostly she hadn’t. And if we didn’t ask, she’d take the initiative herself: “Tengo hambre, Koen.”
What surprised me every single time is that she wouldn’t start eating immediately when food arrived. Usually it would sit there for quite a while. She’d just keep on talking to whoever it was she was talking to. As if having the white plastic bag with her breakfast within arm’s reach was enough for her, enjoying the knowledge that she could start eating at will. A feeling of luxury difficult to grasp.
Today I am sitting next to this woman on the Miami-Madrid leg of the flight. My impression of her was formed early on, when I arrived at my seat and she immediately took it upon herself to explain to me where to put my carry-on bags given we were at the emergency exit. As if I hadn’t been in this very same plane a few times before… Then, we talk a little and when she finds out I had been in Nicaragua she mentions she had been invited to talk at some conference there but gave it a big “no thanks!” Something about having to bring her own toilet paper to the hotel? One can’t be too judgemental about strangers, but let’s just say I am happy to have recharged the batteries of my ipod.
Where’s this story going? Well, after 7+ hours en route, breakfast arrives. My frequent-flyer-neighbor is on the aisle and gets served first. To my big surprise, she’s capable of devouring the yogurt in a matter of 3-4 quick spoons even before my tray has been served some 15 seconds later!!
Silly maybe, but to me this is such an exemplary anecdote about 3rd world vs. 1st world. I much prefer to be living in the developed world, obviously, but am more and more struck by our priorities. And by our incredible ability to fail to enjoy the things we are so lucky to have. I admire Sujeylin for unknowingly pointing that out to me.
Just a thought. I don’t sit there either looking at my food for 20 minutes before starting to eat. But there is something to say for giving it a shot.