Friday, February 17, 2017

Edinburgh: Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen...

Bhai Vijay Singh in Edinburgh
 
Bhai Vijay Singh (Luton) has been in Edinburgh this week. Yesterday he participated in Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen project that is run by the Sikh Sangat of Edinburgh. Bhai Sahib sent the following message about his experience.
 
"Doing Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen in Edinburgh yesterday was an amazing experience. They are doing some amazing work! And people are so appreciative of it. People came again and again to say that you guys are saving lives and giving people hope.
 
They have over 100 people who come every week. They have a link with Starbucks who provide free tea and coffee as well as those green containers which cost hundreds of pounds each. Starbucks also give the sevadaars (volunteers) free hot drinks if they want to drink something.

There is so much Kirpa (Grace), and so much parchaar (educational awareness) is happening. Not necessarily just about helping the homeless, but breaking down community barriers and taking Langar to the streets."
 
Some photos:
Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen Edinburgh

Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen Edinburgh

 
 
 
ਨੀਚਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਨੀਚ ਜਾਤਿ ਨੀਚੀ ਹੂ ਅਤਿ ਨੀਚੁ ॥
ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਸਾਥਿ ਵਡਿਆ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਰੀਸ ॥
ਜਿਥੈ ਨੀਚ ਸਮਾਲੀਅਨਿ ਤਿਥੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਖਸੀਸ ॥੪॥੩॥
"Nanak seeks the company of the lowest of the low class, the very lowest of the low. Why should he try to compete with the great? In that place where the lowly are cared for-there, the Blessings of Your Glance of Grace rain down. ||4||3||"
(Siree Raag M:1, 15)

Monday, February 13, 2017

School presentation on Sikhi...

A few weeks ago I was invited to a local Church of England primary school to do an assembly on Sikhi for Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11 years). The interactive presentation was just over 30 minutes long. I thought I would share what was said with images of the slides used so that others can borrow ideas if they wish to do something similar in a school in their local area. 

Slides should be only used as a visual aid to help the audience, in particular children, to stimulate and interest. The worst thing one could do is a write up a script and read from a piece of paper. Frankly, its is boring and loses the human touch! However, for the purpose of giving ideas to the Sangat on this blog, I have made a transcript what I said to the children at this particular assembly. 

When presenting to young children, the speaker should be full of enthusiasm and really bold and over the top with their body language. Your excitement rubs off on the children. If you value what you say, they will value what you say. 

Wherever, there are questions, I actually asked the children those questions and took 1 to 2 responses from different students. One thing to remember is that young children love to talk, so you cannot give every child with their hand up the chance to say something.

Hopefully, the transcript and slides below will help others. The assembly had a great response from both teachers and students. It would be great if others could share the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji with their communities. Through awareness and education, misunderstandings and ignorance which leads to racism and bullying, can be prevented.




A very short introduction to Sikhi

Good morning everyone! [The children sweetly replied together in a loud voice, "Good morning Mr Singh".]

You may be looking at me and realise that I look different. I have a lovely beard, a neatly wrapped turban on my head, and wearing this dress. Well, by the end of the assembly you should be able to understand why I look this way. Let's make a start...

1. The difference between animal life and human life
What makes a human being special?
Is it sleeping?... But animals also sleep!
Is it eating?... But animals also eat!
Is it talking?... But animals also talk!
Is it having a family?... But animals also have families?
Is it working?... But animals also work!


So, what is the purpose of human life? It must be something special, and something that makes us different to animals!


2. The purpose of human life
Before, we go to our answer, I want to you to show these images, which can help us get to our answer.  

Can you please tell me... 
Do we tell our lungs to work? [The children responded, "No".]... They just work. We just breath. Evening if we want to hold our breath, we cannot totally stop breathing!
Do we tell our heart to pump blood across the body? [The children responded, "No".]... The heart just works. Blood is pumped around the body, without me or you having to think about it.
Do we tell our digestion system to digest food? [The children responded, "No".]... When we eat something, our body automatically digests the food and takes the goodness out of the food to help the body. So it works without us doing anything.
Do we tell the earth to spin around? [The children responded, "No".] It happens without me or you doing anything.

Now, these things don't just happen - there is a hidden one 'Amazing Power' behind all of this -- who made me, you, and the world around us. That Amazing Power is the breath of life inside me and you, the battery that powers the world, and makes everything work! Pretty amazing, don't you think?

So, what is the purpose of human life?

The purpose of human life is to experience and meet that Amazing Power, the One, which some call 'God', some call 'Allah', and Sikhs call 'Vahiguru'. Pretty amazing, don't you think?


3. Connecting with Vahiguru, the Amazing One
So how can we do that?

Everything that we see around us is vibrating. Even the walls are vibrating, although it looks still. But the vibration is so subtle, so quiet, that it cannot be heard with our ears, or seen with our eyes.

So, where does vibration come from? The answer is... Sound!

This 'Amazing Sound' comes from the 'Amazing Power'. Through this sound vibrating, the universe was made, and everything exists. This amazing vibration is called 'Naam'. Can you say 'Naam' for me. [Then I said well done to the children.]

To experience the One-- the Amazing Power--... we have to connect, feel and become in tune with its vibration.

Vibration leads us to the Sound, and the Sound leads us to the Word. If we work backwards, then the Word leads us to the Sound, and that Sounds leads us to the Vibration. That special Word is given to us to by the Guru to meditate and connect with the Amazing Power. The special word is 'Vahiguru'. Can you all say 'Vahiguru'. [Then I said well done to all the students for saying it so nicely.]

'Vahi' means 'Amazing', and 'Guru' means 'Light', but not any ordinary light. What does light get rid of? [The children replied, "darkness".] In the dark people get scared, people can't see, they don't know where to walk, and it gets lonely. But when the light comes on, then you don't need to feel lonely, nor sad, scared or feel lost. This is what happens when the one Amazing Power comes in our life.


4. Simran Practical
Our mind can behave like a monkey sometimes and jump all around. So how can we control the monkey mind and become focused. Well, just like a ship in the sea can get carried away with the waves, it needs something to keep it from moving. Can anyone tell me what that would be? [One child replied, "An anchor."]. Yes, an anchor is needed. Even if the ship is overwhelmed by the waves, the anchor pulls back the ship to where it should be. Similarly, when the mind begins to behave like a monkey, doing meditation -- repeating Vahiguru-- helps to bring back the mind, become calm, and feel peace. [I then got the children to repeat "Vahi Guru" and feel the energy and power of Simran, and asked how they felt doing it. The children gave a positive feedback].


5. The Great Teacher
So, who can teach us about the Amazing Power, which we call 'God' or 'Vahiguru'?

Well, the Amazing Power, showed itself in the world as a 'Guru' --an 'Amazing Teacher'-- through a human body... called Guru Nanak.

Can you all repeat "Guru Nanak" for me.... [Then I said well done to them.]

Now, just to understand who the Guru really is, we are going to try and use an example.

Imagine, that someones grandmother has died. The child looks at his dad and says, "Daddy, grandma's gone!" The dad then points at the grandmother's dead body and says, "Son, grandma is in front of you." The child then says, "No! Grandma's gone!"

Now, does anyone know why the child says "Grandma's gone" when he can clearly see the body? [Some of the children gave some interesting answers, and others went off topic, which can happen with young children.]

Well, the child was looking for the grandma that used to speak to him and give him love. That 'living voice that spoke' has moved on. Similarly, the Guru is not the body, but the 'living and speaking voice' of the Amazing Power, God. 

One day the body will get old and die, but the Amazing One doesn't die. So when the Amazing Power showed itself as Guru Nanak to the world, it then moved to another body when Guru Nanak's human body got old and died. So the living speaking voice of the Guru moved to another body. After ten human bodies the living voice of the Amazing Power came to live in the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs, called 'Guru Granth Sahib Ji'. Can all say 'Guru Granth Sahib Ji' for me. [Then I said well done to the children.]


So now, when we want to talk to the Amazing One, get advice or guidance, we read and sing the holy words in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. So, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, is the Living Guru of the Sikhs, because it speaks. Does that make sense to everyone? [The children responded, "Yes".]


6. The Sikh way of life (4 Kurehats)
Now, to connect with 'Naam', the Amazing Vibration, the Guru has taught us to live a natural way of life which helps us to stay connected with the One who created us. So everything a Sikh should help him or her feel the presence of God and remember the Amazing One.

1. We love ourselves and accept that we have been born beautiful. So we don't cut our hair. This helps us to connect and feel the Amazing Vibration--Naam. Put your hands up if you have long hair!... [Some girls put their hands up.] Now is it odd for someone to choose to not cut their hair because they feel their hair is lovely and they look beautiful? [The children answered "No."]... Some people have their hair tied in a pony tail, others loose, but Sikh boys and girls tie their hair on the top of their head. This helps keep the hair out of their face, and makes you feel awake and alert. Is it strange if someone decides to tie their up hair on the head, and keep it covered? [The children responded, "No".] [The objective was to normalise keeping Kesh and wearing a Patka or Dastaar, because there was one Sikh child in the assembly who used to have cut hair but has now recently kept his Kesh and wears a Patka.]

2. As you can see in these pictures, these lovely animals are being treated horribly. There is a photo of dogs in cage ready to be eaten, a cow crying, pigs squeezed in bars, and two chickens cuddling one another looking scared. Well, Sikhs are against animal cruelty. Put your hands up if you are against being cruel to animals? [All the children put their hands up, even the teachers]. 

Now, what is the worst thing you could do to be cruel to someone? [A child replied, "Kill them."]. Yes, to kill an animal just because you want to eat it and find it tasty, is the cruelest thing you could do to animal. For this reason Sikhs don't kill animals to eat. Kindness and compassion helps us to connect with Naam. Does that sound strange or odd? [All the children responded "No."]

3. As Sikhs we are instructed by the Guru to treat every other woman and man as your sister or brother. We are to live like one big family. So we are nasty to one another, and instead we should stick up for one another, and treat others with the same respect of an elder brother or sister. It is our duty to protect and defend our brothers or sisters. Does that make sense and sound a good idea? [All the children responded "Yes."] Keeping pure thoughts helps us to connect with Naam.

4. We don't eat, drink or do anything which makes (1) our mind sleepy and sluggish so that we forget the Amazing One; (2) make the mind crazy so it does silly things and behaves like a monkey; or (3) which harms or destroys this beautiful body. Does that sound a good idea? [Everyone responded "Yes."]. So do you think it is a good idea to smoke? [The children said, "No."] To drink alcohol? [The children said, "No."] To take drugs? [The children said, "No."

So, Sikhs don't drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. We treat this body like a church, mosque or Gurdwara.


 7. The Sikh dress code
To end with...

Why do I Iook like this?

To help us to connect and feel the Amazing Power, we wear this amazing uniform!

So let's start from the top and work down.

1. So, I have already talked about the hair being special. But I am also wearing a turban on my head. What does a king or queen wear on their head? [The children responded "A crown."] Now, someone who wears a crown sits on a special seat. What is that the special seat called? [The children said "A throne."] Well, my turban is a crown! It reminds me that just like someone who sits on a throne has duties and responsibilities, I have a duty and responsibilty as well. My duty and responsibility is to behave in a beautiful way, and help make the world around me a beautiful place. It also protects my head and keeps my hair nice and tidy.

2. Now, inside my special turban, I have a very special comb. [I showed them a Kangha]. This special comb is made of wood and it is kept nicely tucked in my hair. Why do you think I keep this on me? [The children responded, "To comb your hair."] To keep myself nice and tidy I have been given this special comb. A Sikh should always be clean and ready to represent the Guru.

3. On my arm I am wearing this lovely iron bangle. Christians wear a bracelet which has "WWJD" written on it. Put your hand up if you have seen one of these, or you have worn one of these? [None of the children had]. "WWJD" stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" Similarly, wearing the Kara is a constant reminder to a Sikh of "What would the Guru do?" We do silly things or good things with our hands, so its a lovely reminder to help me stay connected with the Amazing One.

4. Underneath, I am wearing some special shorts. These shorts are really wide [I stretched my arms out]. But I am not that fat. So why are they so big! Well, they have a special cord. When you pull the cord, the shorts become smaller and you get loads of folds. These shorts are really great because you can run, walk, or jump and you are always covered and never need to feel embarrassed because you are naked. They are practical and reminds a Sikh to behave like a saint.

5. Lastly, we wear a small special sword. Police Officers carry a baton-- should we be scared of a Police Officer? [The children said, "No."] Why? Because the Police Officers carry it to protect the community and keep everyone safe. Soldiers in the army carry a gun-- should we be scared of a soldier? [The children said, "No."] Why? Because the soldiers carry a gun to protect us. A doctor in hospital has a knife when doing surgery. Would we be scared of him? [The children said, "No."]. Similarly, a Sikh wears their small special sword to defend and protect others, not to harm others, and therefore there is nothing to feel scared of when you see a Kirpan. It should only be used as a last resort.


8. Any questions


9. Ending
Thank you so much for listening today and behaving so well. You have done your teachers proud! If you ever see a Sikh now, you can always say "hello" now that you know about them. The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara, where the Guru lives and Sikhs get together to pray, learn and eat together. Every Gurdwara has free vegetarian meal served called Langar, which is offered to all visitors. So, next time you see a Gurdwara, you are welcome to come in and have a look around. Bless you all.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Which is the true picture of Guru Nanak Dev Ji?

A child asks his mother, "Maa, which is the true picture of Guru Nanak Dev Ji?"

The mother says, "Son, why do you ask?"

The child says, "Maa, people have made pictures of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, however each picture looks different. If the picture is truly of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, then wouldn't the pictures at least look like the same person physically?"


"You are right, my son," the mother says. "However, people have made these pictures out of devotion. This what people thought Guru Nanak Dev Ji looked like."

The child says, "But Maa, if Guru Nanak Dev Ji truly showed himself to people or had people made pictures of him, wouldn't the pictures at least look like they are showing the same person? Some pictures Guru Ji is wearing a hat, another Guru Ji has a short beard, in another Guru Ji is made to look overweight, in another Guru Ji has a long face, and in another Guru Ji has a round face... Which is the true picture of Guru Nanak Dev Ji?"

The mother says, "Son, looking at pictures it reminds us of the Guru. Whatever the picture looks like, however, someone thinks Guru Nanak Dev Ji looks like that, even though they accept it is not a true image. Seeing it reminds them of the Guru."

The son replies, "But Maa, you said that the Guru is Gurbani. Wouldn't reading and understanding Gurbani not be the best remembrance of the Guru? What better description of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's picture and appearance could you get than His own words that He spoke from His mouth contained in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji?"

The mother thinks and says, "Son, you are right... Putting up these untrue pictures of Guru Sahib will not help us get closer to Sri Guru Guru Granth Sahib Ji- our true Guru." Embracing the child, the mother says, "Son, Guru Gobind Singh Ji told us to accept Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the Guru and see the Guru's physical representation in the Khalsa. From now on, we will put up framed Gurbani pictures around the house. Seeing this we will truly be reminded of the True Guru.... Gurbani."


ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸਾਰੇ || 
"GurBani is the Guru, and the Guru is GurBani. Within GurBani, Amrit (the spiritual-life) is contained." (Natt Naaraayan M:4, 982)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What happens when Gatwick Airport stopped a Sikh?... Story of Bhai Jagmeet Singh

Bhai Jagmeet Singh with his wife and baby meeting Bhai Jagraj Singh and his 2 children. 
 
On 11th January 2017, Bhai Jagmeet Singh was stopped on the way to picking up his wife and baby from inside the terminal of Gatwick Airport. Staff had stopped him after been alerted that a man of his description had a knife.
 
Bhai Jagmeet Singh explained to the staff that he was a Sikh and he was within the law to wear the Kirpan. After a lengthy conversation it appeared that that senior staff of Gatwick Airport wear not familiar with who Sikhs are, and furthermore had been given no diversity training that included knowing about Sikhs.
 
It is quite shocking to know this, as there is a lot of focus on equality and diversity training in all fields of work. Bhai Jagmeet Singh requested to speak to the Senior Supervisor, which he recorded the conversation with the permission of everyone involved. During the conversation, Bhai Sahib learnt that you can take a 3 inch Kirpan through security screening and on the plane if traveling via Gatwick, similar to Heathrow and Luton airports allowing 6cm sharps (2.36 inches) that allows Kirpan blades of that size.
 
Bhai Sahib has urged all the UK Sangat and all concerned individuals to email the management of Gatwick Airport to highlight your concerns and request they amend their official policies and correctly train all staff so incidents like this or worse do not happen in the future. E-mail: customer.services@gatwickairport.com
 
 
Audio of the conversation below. From the audio we can say that handled the situation very well and represented Sikhs in a good light.



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Drama filled journey to New Zealand... (Part 3)

Continued...
 
 
Arriving at Auckland Airport, I headed straight to the arrival gate, as I didn't have any luggage. The customs officer stopped me and questioned why I didn't have any luggage. After showing my "missing report form" to the officer, he said, "This form is incomplete. You need to report it to the luggage help desk here." So I had to go all the way back to luggage area and report my suitcase missing. This time they asked the colour and description of the suitcase (which helps!).
 
Gursikh Pyaare came to collect me and took me to a Gursikh's house. As I didn't have any clothes, Gursikhs kindly arranged a (new) Kachhera so that I could do Ishnaan. As I had no spare clothes, and needed to the Gurdwara straight after I had a shower. I gave my clothes to get washed (on a quick cycle) and asked Mata Ji to put the clothes in the dryer afterwards so that my clothes will be ready to wear by the time I have had a shower and washed my hair.
 
Mata Ji gave me a vest. I have not worn anyone's vest in my life. However, this was a pressing time! Unfortunately the vest was super tight! My clothes were put outside on the clothes line for drying rather than the drying machine, so I had nothing to wear to the Gurdwara. Mata Ji kindly gave me her son's Kurta Pyjama to wear, which she said should fit me. Again, I don't usually wear other people's clothes, but I had no choice.

When I wore the Kurta Pyjama, it was big for me and mega loose. So underneath I am wearing a mega tight vest, and on top I am wearing a mega open and loose Kurta and Pyjama. The Kurta Pyjama was a traditional Punjabi style one, with a very loose and open Pyjama. When I walked the Pyjama moved (I suppose it could have acted like a fan). Going to the Gurdwara Sahib, I walked really slow to do Matha Tekh, hoping my baggy Kurta Pyjama doesn't move side to side too much. After doing Parkarma, I sat down to listen to Keertan. At the end of the programme I met the Gursikh whose house I was staying at. Bhai Sahib said to me, "Your clothes look very loose and baggy. It looks like you are wearing someone's clothes." I awkwardly responded, "Bhai Sahib, these are your clothes. I lost my suitcase and don't have any clothes!"
 
The following day I had my Chola to wear (which had dried by now). The drama and tribulations continued for 3 days. (Thank you to the Gursikhs who took me shopping to buy some vests - sadly couldn't find a Chola to buy. The closest thing an Indian clothes shop had was a red Sherwani suite with embroidery. As expected I thought I would give it a miss!). We must have visited Auckland Airport on three ocassions to find out what was happening with my suitcase. Eventually the Airport located my suitcase in.... Singapore! How on earth, it arrived Singapore I don't know.
 
On the fourth day, the day Khalsa Camp New Zealand was taking place, I got a phonecall at the campsite from Auckland that my suitcase had arrived (after several Ardaas'). The airport luggage worker said I had to speak to the customs officer on the phone. The customers officer said, "Excuse me Sir, your luggage has arrived but we have to ask some questions regarding the contents.... Can you please explain why you have several large knives in your bag." I explained, "I am Sikh, they are Kirpans. They are part of my religious dress." The customers officer then said, "Can you please confirm that you are not intending on using these knives on anyone during your stay in New Zealand." (Who on earth would say they planned to use them on someone!)  I felt like the phonecall was a prank (but it wasn't). Taken aback by his strange comment, I said, "No, I don't plan to use them on anyone." He then said, "That's fine Sir. Well, you are free then to collect your luggage. Thanks."
 
The experience made me appreciate my clothes, and realize to always keep spare clothes in the hand luggage bag. The experience for sure added drama and humour to the trip.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Drama filled journey to New Zealand... (Part 2)

Continued...
 
I had two bags- one with my with my Langar (parothay, home-made sandwiches, fruit etc), and the other was my computer bag. To get to the KLM desk I had to go through arrival customs point. In front of me were about 20 Chinese people, who all casually walked through customs without being stopped or questioned. As soon as they saw me, two or three of the Chinese customs staff started to point at me and signalled for me to come over to them. I thought, "This looks a bit racist. You didn't say anything to 20 Chinese people, and when you see me, all of you signal me to come over." 

When I went over, they said (which sounded like shouting- but that was just their style of speaking), "You have fruit... You have fruit... No fruit... No fruit." I thought how do they know that I have fruit? Then I realised, after looking at my re-usuable plastic bag that had my Langar in that the outside of the bag was covered with a photo of pears. Looking at the bag with the photo of fruit, they thought I had fruit (which was true as well!). 

The Chinese customs guy said that he wanted to check my bag. I told him he couldn't touch my food or go inside the food bag because I follow a special diet. I repeated the second time "No touch... Special diet." The guy smiled back and said, "Spiritual diet?" I replied, "Yes." In broken English he smiled and said, "No touch... but no take... Me keep... you go... come back" I tried to explain that I am just visiting the KLM desk and will be back inside the airport and that I need my food as I won't eat anything else. With Guru Sahib's Kirpaa he got the message somehow and I gave him a sealed bag of fruit which he said he will keep to the side for sake keeping.

So then I got the KLM desk. I told them my problem (this time the lady could speak English). The lady replied, "Don't worry, the luggage is still unloading. Please go downstairs and wait at the luggage belt." I thought Hey Rabba! I have been waiting for an hour. No one is there. The luggage belt was empty! I asked her to please ring the luggage people to confirm that luggage is still being unloaded. When she rang, to no surprise, she confirmed that all the flight luggage had been unloaded and delivered.

So I asked her to ring Amsterdam Airport to see if my luggage was still there. I was shocked to hear the lady say, "Sorry, we can't make international phone calls." Rab Rakha! I eventually persuaded the lady to send an email to Amsterdam. I asked her to help as I couldn't go on holiday for three weeks without any clothes! She said, "Please report the luggage missing at the luggage help desk." I explained that the guy there refused to write a missing report for me. She then rang him and said to me, "Please try now." 

Going back through customs, I went back to the customs (side entrance) who happily gave back my fruit bag. I was taken aback that the officer was so happy with me and showed a lot of respect. I then went back to the missing luggage office. The same man was taken aback to see, and you could tell that he felt embarrassed (after receiving the phonecall from the KLM desk). As the airport worker struggled to speak or understand English, another Chinese man in the queue (who seemed to live in the USA) offered to translate for me (but I think his Chinese was not too good). Eventually the man at the help desk gave me a missing luggage form to fill in. I filled in my name, address and flight details. But no one asked me what my luggage looked like, which is slightly strange if you are trying to locate it. Being unsatisfied with the piece of paper that I was given (which I later discovered to be an incomplete and unprocessed missing report form).

Having filled in the (incomplete) missing luggage report, I then had to go through the security screening to get the next departure gate. At the security gate I wanted to tell the man to wear gloves when patting me down, as he looked like a smoker and his hands were most likely dirty touching people's shoes. However, you may now guess what I am going to say.... the man couldn't speak any English.  Having not had a shower for over a day, I thought what harm would it make if this man's dirty hands touched my clothes, considering I felt dirty anyway. 

Originally I was supposed to leave from Guangzhou (China) to Auckland at 2.30pm on 16th December. However, instead the redirected flight from Shangai was due to leave at 12.50am on 17th December. So I was delayed in China by 12 hours 20 minutes. At this point I had messaged Gursikhs to do Ardaas that I get reunited with my luggage! (Thank you to the Toronto Singhs Camp WhatsApp group!).


To be continued...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drama filled journey to New Zealand... (Part 1)

Setting off from Birmingham airport, I checked-in my luggage. I took my normal size Kirpaan and put it in the suitcase in front of the check-in desk. The lady asked me to check-in my luggage in the special luggage area because she didn't want myluggage stopped anywhere because of the Kirpaan. I explained that its common for Sikhs to put their Kirpaan in their luggage and no one says anything. But the lady was insistent that I should check-in my luggage in the special luggage area (which is really for fragile and over sized luggage) because of the Kirpaan. When I went to the special luggage area to check-in, I explained that I had been sent because I have a few Kirpaans in my luggage. The man didn't seem bothered and seemed puzzled why I had come there.

The security staff at Birmingham were very nice, and I got through to the terminal. Sadly the flight got missed due to bad weather conditions in Amsterdam. My flight was to go from Birmingham to Amsterdam (Holland), then Amsterdam to Guangzhou (China), then from China to Auckland (New Zealand). As I my flight got delayed by one and a half hours at Birmingham, I missed my connection flight at Amsterdam, which was supposed to take off at 12.30pm to China.
 
As I got off the plane at Amsterdam airport there were big queues everywhere. I somehow got in the line for the KLM desk by avoiding the queue. I decided to check my emails whilst in the queue and found that KLM had re-booked my flight. So I called over a member of staff standing nearby and showed my email. She happily got me out of the queue and printed out my boarding pass on the ticket machine. My flight now as going to Shanghai at 7.45pm (which is a delay of 7 hours 15 minutes!). I asked her, "What happens with my luggage?" The lady from KLM said, "Your luggage will automatically go to Auckland." She didn't sound very confident saying this, so I asked her again. She repeated the same thing, and smiled saying, "Don't worry Sir. Your luggage will arrive by itself to the final destination." I thought okay. The lady printed me a voucher of 5 Euros to buy food and refreshments due to the delay. When I got the store in the airport, I realised that one bottle of water is 2.5 Euros. So I bought 2 bottles (as they would also come in handy for the flight because usually they don't give sealed bottled water). I thought, "What about if someone is hungry?" Luckily, I had taken my own food and so sat down in the waiting area.

On the journey from Amsterdam to China I was sitting in between two people who were eating meat balls and drinking alcohol, which had a very overwhelming smell! Arriving in China, we were told to go to the immigration counter. All the passengers on the transfer flight were asked to show their visa. We tried to explain that we don't have a visa because we don't want to stop off in China and we are on a transfer flight instead. The problem was that most of the Chinese staff couldn't speak English. Eventually one woman officer came who could comprehend some basic English. She realised the situation and then got the staff to give us a temporary visa (for staying within the airport!).

When we got through immigration we were told that we have to pick up our luggage. I was surprised but thought O well. Everyone on the flight with me collected their luggage and proceeded on. I was the last man standing at the luggage belt and realised my luggage hadn't arrived (a not so nice feeling!). So I went to the luggage support desk and asked the man for help as my luggage had not arrived. Guess what? The man couldn't speak English! I was trying to use a mix of speaking slowly and hand signals. He realised I couldn't find my luggage but apart from that, nothing else. He said in broken English, "You report in New Zealand... not here." 


Not satisfied with his response. I decided to find the KLM desk in the airport, in hope to get more help. However, the KLM desk was on the other side of arrivals, and meant I would have to leave the internal airport area and walk through customs into the arrival area.


To be continued...