Category Archives: crisis management

Political Unrest

As a continuation of crisis management, here’s the second unforgettable experience living and working as an expat in a foreign land.

Disclaimer:

The aim of sharing the stories below is to portray the importance of crisis management and is not insinuating racial and country discrimination. Thank you.

Political Unrest 

From the country where I am from, politics and revolutions are nothing new. We’re famous for People Power, a revolution to outcast and revamp the government leaders. We had few of coup d’etat, some successful and some failed. If you’re a citizen of the country undergoing political chaos, life moves on the usual phase. However, if you’re a foreigner, political unrest will trigger your fear.

Thailand was already in political chaos since early 2008.

However, it is still business as usual. Product and technology updates to partners are critical in order to ensure proper positioning and sell.

It was the last week of August 2008, few weeks prior my relocation to Singapore when I was sent to conduct a technology workshop to our business partner in Bangkok Thailand.

When I reached Bangkok, everything appears normal. Reaching the Plaza Athenee Bangkok, the hotel was calm and serene. It’s loaded with business travelers, so I thought there’s nothing to be worry about. Business continues and I prepared for the workshop, hopefully there will be opportunities that will come along.

While conducting the workshop, the partner’s office is equipped with television which telecast the news updates about Bangkok and the political challenges it is facing due to the conflicts of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and People’s Power Party (PPP). The said political chaos started since 2005-2006 and continued again on 2008.

I was occupied with the workshop topics and preparations that I missed out watching the evening news. I missed out the news that Thailand is already foreseen to undergo the state of emergency.

In the middle of my workshop, I received a call from my colleague:

Colleague: Where are you?

Me: I’m still in Bangkok, middle of the workshop. Why? Do we need to discuss opportunities?

Colleague: No. Haven’t you watched the news this morning? Thailand government has already issued that Bangkok is going to be under the state of emergency. Get out of the Thailand. NOW. BE SAFE.

Me: What am I gonna do?

Colleague: Get a flight and leave now. You don’t want to get stuck in Bangkok. Protesters will disrupt the air travels and the international airport.

After receiving the news, I immediately requested for a break session from the workshop that I’m conducting and immediately watched the news telecast. After confirming my colleague’s news, I immediately sent a message to my bosses that I will need to fly back to Kuala Lumpur. I seek the assistance of the business partner for me to go back to the hotel immediately. The workshop was discontinued immediately.

Me to the receptionist: I need you to book me a flight this afternoon or evening for Kuala Lumpur.

I gave her the details of my flight for rebooking.

Receptionist: Malaysia Airlines has already cancelled its flight to Bangkok and vice versa. I will need to liaised with Thai Airways for your flight rebooking.

Me: Thank you very much. Here’s the address of Plaza Athenee, can you write the address in Thai? (On my mind: This is for me not to say anything to taxi driver and just hand over the address. I’m avoiding to be noticed as foreigner.)

I received a call from my managing director while in the middle of explanation to my workshop attendees that I need to leave immediately.

Managing Director: Get a flight immediately and leave the country. Get a hotel limo and be safe.

After reaching the hotel, it was very ironic that the hotel is like a cemetery. It was very quiet and all hotel guests have left the vicinity. The area of Plaza Athenee is known to be the place of residences for most of the expats living and working in Bangkok. During that time, as I alighted from the taxi on my way inside the hotel, Thai military men have surrounded the area and protecting it against potential danger.

The hotel immediately prepared a hotel limo that will take me privately and safely to the airport.

After few minutes of packing and checking out, I was on my way to the international airport. The hotel limo took the side streets to avoid the protesters until we reached the highway. Still I can see the people in the street gathering their packs. My mind was empty and all I can think of is to get my flight and leave.

The last thing that I can think of is the fear that I will get stranded in the country if international flights are discontinued due to protesters.

Bangkok International airport was packed with travelers hoping to get a flight and leave. Most of the international flights were already cancelled. Thai Airways accommodated the passengers. I managed to get a flight that night thru Thai Airways.

Thankfully, I reached Kuala Lumpur safe and sound.

The following morning, I was watching the news from Kuala Lumpur. The news announced that Thailand international airport has to disrupt services due to political unstability. Few days later, Bangkok was announced to be under the state of emergency.

Working life continues and my travels were redirected to Indonesia for few opportunities.

While talking to my colleague,

Colleague: Well, if you get stranded in Thailand, you can always seek help from Malaysia embassy.

Me: (Laugh). You must have forgotten that I should be seeking help from Philippine embassy.

All of us were laughing.

After the incident, I learned that life can’t be controlled and crisis can appear out of nowhere without warning though signs are present and it’s up to us to acknowledge it. It is then I developed the habit that every time I travel whether it is business or holidays, I always remind the people that I love, cared, and treasured how much I love them. With constant flying, you will never know what can happen and when you will see them again.


Til next time. Au revoir.

An Indecent Taxi Proposal

Working as an expat in different countries, there are a lot of advantages and privileges at hand. However, these advantages are also reciprocated with challenges which can occur in a pattern or sometimes it can occur abrupt.

One area that expats need to look into is to handle crisis management. Though most of us knows the value of crisis management, implementing it in real life isn’t that easy. Foreigners and immigrants by nature always possess the thinking of being prepared for the worst. There’s always the back up plan when any disaster happens in the location they are currently residing or visiting with.

Though crisis management is often referred and talked about in large corporations, however it too can happen in an individual experience.

The applicability of crisis management can happen frequently or the opposite.

However there are two events that happened where I cannot forget and learned the usage of crisis management.

Being an expat for years and having been relocated couple of times, I have learned to adopt crisis management in everyday living. Here’s the two particular events where I wouldn’t forget as I believe it had involved my own life if I didn’t make a right decision in a short time.

Disclaimer:

The aim of sharing the stories below is to portray the importance of crisis management and is not insinuating racial and country discrimination. Thank you.

An Indecent Taxi Proposal: 

I had a meeting with the technical team of one of our business partners. The partner’s office location is approximately 30 mins. (excluding traffic time) outside of Kuala Lumpur. The meetings and discussions dragged until night time. I wasn’t driving so my only recourse is to get a cab from a taxi stand in a nearby mall – One Utama. The business partner is gracious enough to drop me to One Utama since calling a cab wasn’t easy as well.

Around 8:30PM I managed to get a cab after a long queue. I told the driver of my destination and off we drove. From Bandar Utama, we took the highway approach as it is faster.

While inside the cab I was quiet as I noticed the cab driver was glancing from the rear mirror. I felt uncomfortable.

In the middle of the highway the cab driver started the conversation:

Driver: Hi Miss. You don’t sound from here. Where are you from?

Me: (Hesitant) I’m from Philippines.

Suddenly he gave me the grin which me and my friends call it ‘the dog smile’. It’s that kind of smile which makes you very uncomfortable that you just want to leave.

Driver: So you know how to speak Malay? You cantik cantik yah. (Translation: You’re pretty pretty yah.)

Me: (Still pretend to be gracious) Thank you. I only know few Malay phrases.

Driver: You know I have a lot of Filipino girlfriends from bars, pubs, helpers. I love and support them all.

Me: On my mind -> (Oh crap. Here’s the downgraded outlook to Filipino women. Grrrr… I just remained silent.)

The driver then suddenly talked to himself in the local Malay dialect and I just pretend I didn’t hear or understand what he says. I keep on looking at my watch and is praying that we reached my destination sooner than I expected. In the middle of the highway and without any buildings at sight he suddenly blurted out:

Driver: Can you be my girlfriend? I give you 3000 Ringgits tonight and we go to hotel. Can?

Me: On my mind -> Darn. Never in my life had I been looked in this manner! Damn you!

And my heart suddenly skipped. I couldn’t breathe well. It’s a combination of changed in emotions due to anger yet my brain has to be calm. If I make a wrong move, he can just do anything to me and just dumped me out of nowhere. During that time I was reading a lot of rape cases in the local newspaper headlines. I’m still a foreigner in the country. As I couldn’t breathe I was about to faint and I was fighting. I was fighting for my life. All I can think of is to pray to the God that I know that He will protect me that night. Everything is happening in a matter of seconds.

My will was strong enough.

Me: Uncle, can I drop my things first at my destination?

Driver: Okay. Can.

And he was giving the happy look while my mind was creating the plot to get out of the situation. If I reacted nasty to him, it will be negative and who knows what can happen. I have to think wisely. I’m not in the driver’s seat.

I just close my eyes and think. I leave everything to fate. When I opened my eyes again I saw that we were already in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Now I have hopes.

Almost reaching the condominium, the driver again confirmed:

Driver: So I wait for you downstairs okay?

Me: Sorry uncle I changed my mind. I don’t want to go with you to hotel.

Driver: (Disappointed). How about makan? (Translation: How about we go for dinner?)

We were already entering the condominium gate and there were few security guards on duty that time. 

Me: Sudah makan Uncle. (Translation: Already had my dinner.)

Me: Uncle, my boyfriend is waiting upstairs ( I totally have to lie!!!). It is not good if he hears your offer. Do you want me to call him now? (And another lie!!!)

The driver just accepted my payment and left. Grumpy and disappointed.

I was still trembling when I alighted from the cab. I was still fearful and my legs were shaking.

Good thing is my friends were there to listen and comfort me on what happened.

After that incident I decided to call the taxi companies in Kuala Lumpur during night time and avoid getting a cab from taxi queues or even getting it from the streets. Sometimes even when I get a cab I call my friends and tell them the taxi number where I’m in.

The moral of the story is that crisis happens anytime. Fighting crisis in a head to head basis (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) wouldn’t be a good idea. In situations where you only have seconds to think and react, you have to carefully weigh the options as sometimes it can cause you your life.

The second crisis management story continues in the next article titled ‘Political Unrest’.

Til next time. Au revoir.