The Kindness of Strangers

Posted on November 29, 2017

It was 2 in the morning when I arrived at Bangkok's vast Suvarnabhumi airport for the flight to Paro, Bhutan. Sleep deprived but excited to be on my way back to Bhutan. The Drukair, Royal Bhutan Airlines flight meant to depart at 4:30 to arrive at 8, after a short refuel stop in Bagdogra, India. Instead we sat on the plane for 30 minutes, the pilot announcing that Bagdogra air traffic control asked for 30 minute delay in arriving. No explanation, though in my fatigued state I simply fell asleep. We took off, made the Bagdogra stop and yet arrived in Bhutan an hour early. I've no explanation as to how this is even possible, but typically Drukair arrives early. Just another indication that Bhutan, and even its airline is different.

Customs and immigration are always a breeze in Bhutan. No surly staff behind these counters. My many Bhutan visas evoke a friendly comment today as usual, then I'm told, "welcome to Bhutan." As I'm an hour early, I assume Sangay is not there to meet me, and my phone not activated for Bhutan, so I ask an airport official if he will make a call for me. His response, "I'm very busy, but here take my phone and make your call," he hands me a spanking new iphone and runs off. I phone Sangay, who does not pick up, phone him a few more times with no results, then go and look for the phones owner. He's disappeared behind some door, I'm not sure which one, but I eventually locate him. "Did you reach your friend?" "Uh uh" I answer. He wants to know my friends name, and my name, should Sangay see the missed call and phone him, he can correctly inform him of the situation.

OK, this never happens in the USA, strangers never hand over their iphones to unknown strangers. Outside, with still no Sangay but plenty of Bhutanese I ask another person if they will make a call for me. I'm handed another phone. And when I again fail to reach Sangay, am again asked my name and my friends name for the same purpose. They then depart. Another 5 minutes pass, I ask another Bhutanese man if he'll make a call, he simply hands over his phone. Again, no answer. He's actually a bit perturbed my friend is not there to meet me, and wants my name and my friends name again. He then makes his exit.

Not too many minutes later Sangay drives up. He tells me that 3 people have phoned him (not waited for him to phone unknown number on his caller id) to tell him that his friend is waiting. Ah, so while I wait for Sangay, I was treated to the kindness of strangers and was touched by their generosity.