Invest Kindness: Lessons learnt from a Passport Tragedy!


I was shocked in a hotel room in Jakarta when I realised that I left my passport in Jogja. I was scheduled to visit Tainan, Taiwan for a workshop on 3 September 2018 and was supposed to fly from Jakarta via Hong Kong the day before at dawn. Obviously I flew from Jogja to Jakarta first and spend a night in a hotel close to the airport. Since Jogja-Jakarta is a domestic flight, I did not need my passport for my KTP just did. That is partly the reason why I forgot my passport.

I panicked! When I realized the situation, it was already 11.20pm. It was too late for anything. I stopped for a few minutes before starting to think and act again. I needed my passport before 3.30am the next morning because my flight was suppsed to be at 5.30am. It was certainly impossible since the passport was in Jogja. The first thing that came in to my mind was that I would ask someone from any airline to bring my passport to Jakarta but there was no Jogja-Jakarta flight left that late. I felt hopeless.

Did I quit? No I did not. It was a point of no return. I promised National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan that I would come to present my ideas in their workshop. Everything had been arranged and I could not just quit. Too long a story to tell if I quit. I had to think out of the box. Or I must think as if there is no box.

First thing first! I had to bring my passport to Jakarta and the best possible way to do it is through the next-day-very-first flight from Jogja to Jakarta. I contacted Asti, who was undoubtedly shocked, and told her my insane plan. One thing I told her was to get ready to bring my passport to the airport early in the morning, even though I did not know yet my detailed plan. I had something in mind.

I remember a name, Mulyadi. Mas Mulyadi works in an airline company and he happens to stay at my mother in law’s house. Yes, she has a kind of boarding house. I did not know him in person but I helped him once or twice. He has a very good habit to transfer money to her mother. Having difficulties in transferring the money through ATM or a nearest bank branch, he, through my mother in law, usually asks me to help. Certainly I was always happy to lend a hand and had his problem solved easily. Now is probably the time, I thought, for a little payback. Honestly I never imagined myself expecting a payback from Mas Mulyadi but we never know how life treats us.

I contacted him and he responded positively. Quickly he introduced me to a lady friend of his, named Sarah. Sarah, according to Mas Mulyadi, would be the one solving my problem. I was glad even though I became worried because Sarah was not contactable. However, I trusted what Mas Mulyadi said to me and I would follow that up.

Second thing was to buy a new one-way ticket from Jakarta to Taiwan (Tainan or Taipei). Traveloka helped me for that matter. In a few minutes I found Thai Airways offering a one-way ticket in a relatively good price. Well, honestly, I din’t even know whether or not it was as a good deal. Price is a matter of agreement. I paid it using my credit card. All done!

Sarah, still, was not contactable. However, I believe Mas Mulyadi and asked Asti to be at the airport at 4am. I know, it was very early but it’s the only way. I could not thank Asti enough for this matter. Time flew, it was around 2am in the morning I was still awake. I went to sleep with a number of questions: what airline will bring my passport from Jogja? Is there anyone to contact? How will I get the passport? What time? Which airport (HLP or CGK)? And many more.

At around 4am I received a text message from Asti that Sarah was not there at the airport yet. Asti then managed to contact her, only to discover that Sarah was a bit confused. It turned out that Mas Mulyadi had yet to contact and brief her about the plan. Too bad but none was to be blamed when we desperately need people’s help. Sabar!

Asti did an amazing job to explain the situation and started the story from zero so Sarah finally understood the situation. My passport finally reached her hand and then it was her turn to make sure the passport flew to Jakarta from Jogja. I then was able to be in touch with Sarah and discussed the best plan. I though everything would be easy but not really. Sarah’s idea was to ask for help from a business passenger to bring my passport but none was willing to help. Certainly not because they are not nice but most likely because they did not want to take any risk bringing something for a stranger. Beside, it was too risky if the passenger could not deliver the passport to me. It must be very complicated for any passenger so I understood.

After a long discussion, the decision was that the passport was given to a crewmember of Batik Air and the crew will give it to a ground handling staff in Jakarta, named Awaludin. The only issue is that the airline flew to Halim Perdana Kusuma (HLP), not to Soekarno Hatta (CGK) while I would have to fly from CGK. It meant that I had to go to HLP first to get my passport and then go to CGK. The two airports were not near one another and it could be risky considering the traffic. Unfortunately, there is no better option so I said “yes” to the plan. Now, fingers crossed!

I departed from the hotel at 8am and expected to be at HLP around 8.40. Along the way I contacted a number of people. One of them is Iwan, my old-time friend from high school. He is a military officer, air force officer to be price. I know that Iwan has special access to a lot of things at the airport, especially HLP, a military base airport. I did not ask for any specific assistance from Iwan but I just let him know my situation and ask him to be ready with any possible help that I might need. Iwan joked and said he was ready for any instruction from ‘ketua’. For a little background, I was a chief of OSIS when I was in high school and Iwan was one of the staffs.

Before I arrived at the airport, I received a message from Awaludin. I was nervous to check the message for it was a picture. There I saw a brown envelop, exactly like the one described by Asti earlier. I knew, it was my passport. Yes it was my passport and Awaludin confirmed that in his text message. Thank GOD!

As soon as I arrived at the airport I texted Awaludin and waited at the gate as he instructed. While waiting for Awaludin, I saw a familiar face. He was Sigit, my long-time friend when I did my community service (KKN) 18 years ago. We had a small reunion and good conversation for we had not seen each other for years. A good friend and a good conversation can really make us forget any pain in life. It is true. I forgot to pay attention to Awaludin. As soon as Sigit disappeared, I realized something. Awaludin might have been desperate to find me for no result.

I was searching for him for a few minutes. I didn’t know him in person so I could only guess. I saw a man in a distance in uniform and I thought it was him. I called him and it was correct. Thank God! He handed over a sealed brown envelop. Impatiently, I opened the envelope to discover my passport. The world was suddenly a lot brighter than before and I thanked Awaludin for his help.

I know that money is incomparable to what he had done to me but I thought giving him a number of red notes did not hurt. He smiled and thanked me before I was gone with a taxi to CGK. It felt great! My adrenaline was slowly moving down from my body’s surface. I gave myself some sleeps in the taxi.

The flight using Thai Airways was great. Nothing weird happened and I arrived in Taipei at 10.30pm. It was too late but I pushed my luck to catch the last speed train. Initially, a committee member informed me that there was a last train at 11.30pm so I though I still had enough time even though it was tight. I hailed a taxi from the airport and asked the driver to bring me to the Taoyuan train station. I was so nervous and as if I could hear the clock was ticking.

In the middle of drama I received a text message from the same committee member to tell me that she made a mistake about the train schedule. In fact there was no train left and she mixed up with the train schedule of another station. I laughed at myself. No anger at all, no disappointment at all. What I have done regarding my passport was too silly so no one looks worse that that. Committing an extremely silly mistake makes you can easily forgive other people’s mistake. That is the best part. “No worries, I can find a hotel around here or sleep at the station” I said lightly, laughing at myself.

But hang on. There must be a way out. I asked the driver about other possible transportations. A bus was what came across my mind. The drama was perfect because the driver could not speak English and I know no Chinese at all. However the world did not come to an end. The driver was very smart to call his friend who speaks English and in a minute later I was in an engaging conversation with a stranger. The man at the other end of the line told me that I could go to Tainan by bus provided by Ubus, a travel company. GREAT! “Please speak to your friend so he can take me to the nearest pool” I asked with excitement.

In a few minutes later I found myself siting tiredly in a bus that took me to Tainan. It was very comfortable and not many passengers were with me in the bus. Of course, it was too late at night. Along the way I still worked with my presentation and some other stuffs before I fell asleep due to exhaustion. In my dream what happened in the last 24 hours was played back very fast.

It was around 2am when I arrived at the last stop for the bus in Tainan. I checked with my Google Maps, the hotel was not too far. By walk, I could reach it in around 12 minutes. I started to walk by pulling my suitcase. I followed the direction showed by Google Maps. It was easy until a point where I could not see any road to follow. I saw the line on Google Maps but I did not see any road. I started to doubt my plan until I saw a young man.

“Excuse me, Sir. Do you speak English?” I asked politely. I need to ask this because I know that not everybody in Taiwan speaks English well. “Yes, a little bit” the gentleman said and I was so glad. I talked to him for a few minutes and I discovered that he was a new student of NCKU. Great! My hotel was within NCKU so he knew where to go. “Go with me” he said with excitement and took me through a tunnel. Oh that’s why I could not see any road shown by Google Maps. Now I know that the line on the map represents a tunnel instead of an open road.

We walked and had good conversation. He was a polite and smart young man from Taipei and just started his university life. With his limited English, I know that he is a curious young man. He asked a lot of good questions until we arrived in front of Zenda Suites, the hotel I would be staying. “Thank you very much, Man. I really appreciate your kindness” I said while shaking his hand warmly. “You are welcome, Sir” said him with smile.

Almost 3am in the morning, I arrived in my room only to realize that I had yet to finish all of my presentations. I started to work to give a finishing touch to my presentation. I had less than one hour to practice and I did it. It was certainly not optimal for I had only limited time but still I needed to practice. One thing that I had to ensure, I must present it in less than 20 minutes. I did it after two practices and I went to sleep.

NCKU, 3 September 2018 at 11.20am

I stood up in the stage staring at tens of professors and students from Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong. I was just told that the building that we were in is the oldest building in the university. I could feel the energy of long history and struggle. I was a little bit intimidated by the environment but I had to start. I looked at my first slide to see the title of my presentation “Establishing Permeable Borders”.

I greeted everybody and smiled. In around 20 minutes words came out from my mouth accompanied by animations and pictures dancing at the big screen behind me. In the middle of my presentation I also heard laughter from the audience and clap of hands. I hope it was a good sign.

Suddenly I found myself showing my last slide. With confidence I said, “yes we need walls and borders so we know our limit of rights and obligation. But we do not want wall that exclude us from each other. We want walls that promote interaction. We need the borders to be permeable so it is easy for us to exchange and interact. We need a door on our wall. We don’t live in the age of merely competition but also collaboration. Thank you!”

I left the stage with clap of hands from the audience. When I reached my chair, a professor from Kyoto University shook my hand and looked at me in the eyes. “Thank you. A wonderful presentation” he said. I touched my chest, bowed and said “thank you, professor. You are too kind.” If there is one thing I learned from the entire journey, the lesson is very sort: invest kindness. Help people around you for you never know when you re going to need other people’s help. Invest kindness!

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Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

10 thoughts on “Invest Kindness: Lessons learnt from a Passport Tragedy!”

  1. I held my breath a little while reading this story (*worried if you couldn’t make it). It’s totally a drama😁. I think you won’t forget your passport again unless you want to get another amazing experience.

  2. Hahaha..seperti naik roller coaster baca artikel yang satu ini Bli..Happy ending finally..hehe..*Suddenly I found myself showing my last slide. With confidence I said, “yes we need walls and borders so we know our limit of rights and obligation. But we do not want wall that exclude us from each other. We want walls that promote interaction. We need the borders to be permeable so it is easy for us to exchange and interact. We need a door on our wall. We don’t live in the age of merely competition but also collaboration. Thank you!”* Love this statement very much especially the last line..GREAT!

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